Brockville Museum Insider's Look

Mountie Hat

Curator/Director, Natalie Wood shares the story of one of the Brockville Museum's most Canadian objects: a 1965 Royal Canadian Mounted Police hat made in Brockville at the John B. Stetson Company (Canada) Limited factory. 

Object Details:

Canada150 Connection:

The Mountie is a Canadian symbol, and their brown felt hat is iconic.  For many years the John B. Stetson Co. (Canada) Ltd. factory in Brockville was the exclusive manufacturer of the RCMP uniform hat.

The Brockville Stetson factory was the first established outside of Philadelphia (back in 1936).  At the time, Stetson bought the old Wolthausen Hat Company, which had been manufacturing hats in Brockville since 1904.  The Stetson factory was one of the largest employers in Brockville while it was in operation between 1936 and 1971.  Like communities across the country, Brockville was home to a large and varied number of manufactures during the twentieth century.  In addition to hats, factories in Brockville made carriages, cars, boats, agricultural implements, cast iron products, telephones, hosieries, patent medicines, fishing lures, and even fire extinguishers (just to name a few).

This particular hat was made in Brockville in 1965 (there is a stamp inside the brim).  It was given to Alex W. Stillwell in 1966 when he was in training in Regina.  Stillwell wore the hat while serving in Newfoundland, the Yukon, and Alberta.  Fifty years later, the Brockville hat returned home when Stillwell donated it to the Brockville Museum.

As we celebrate Canada150, we have the opportunity to reflect on our history and the industry that once flourished in so many Canadian communities.  Towns of all sizes once manufactured products that were shipped across the country (and even, sometimes, around the world). Canada150 gives us a chance to celebrate these stories; like the story of a hat, made in a small town, that travelled the country before returning home.  And while we recall those industries that have long closed, we can be inspired for the future- what mark can our community have on tomorrow’s Canada?