A hatpin is a very long pin used for securing a hat. Hatpins became very fashionable in the 1880s when people started to prefer hats to bonnets. Hatpins stayed in favor through the 1920s, although with the advent of WW1 metals became scarce and they began to fall out of fashion and hats became smaller. Hatpins had been in existence since at least the 1850s when they were more likely to be simpler and used for straw hats only. In the 1880s, most hat pins were about 6 to 9 inches long. By the 1910s, hatpins had reached a height of ornateness and had also reached their full length of sometimes over 12 inches. One way of evaluating the age of a hatpin is by looking at the fashions for hats in a given year; the bigger the hats, the more likely that the hatpins would be big. Hatpins could also often be worn in combination with aigrettes.
Lily Langtree (1853 – 1929) was one of the fashionable actress of the time responsible for popularizing large hats and therefore hatpins.
Hatpins are very similar to a stickpin but are usually much longer, sometimes as much as thirteen inches long. Like a stickpin, a hatpin has an ornamental end whilst the opposite end is sharp. They can be very simple, with only a single black or white bead at the end or they can be extremely ornate and made with very valuable materials.
Hatpins were created in all the styles of the day, including Arts & Crafts, Naturalistic, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Gothic Revival and Archeological Revival styles. Insects, birds and butterflies were popular motifs. Materials used were a wide variety of all the popular jewelry materials of the days, including pearls, amethyst, enamel, glass, micro mosaic, rhinestones, porcelain, coral, gemstones, tortoise shell and amber. Metals used were gold, silver, brass and copper or gilded silver or gold. Designers such as Tiffany, William Codman, Charles Horner, James T. Wooley, Barton Jenks and George Gebelein made many beautiful examples. Notable manufacturers were R. Blackington and Company, Lincoln, Day and Clarke, Unger Brothers, William Kerr, Alvin Manufacturing and The Sterling Company. Satsuma was a Japanese manufacturer who manufactured hatpins for the Western market.
Today, original hatpins are considered to be very collectible and they can be extremely sought after, particularly if they have a designer’s mark from one of the above mentioned designers. (Hatpin stands are also considered to be collector’s items).
Hatpins also were quite effective weapons, and there are a number of references in literature as well as in the newspapers of the day of them being used in that way. Perhaps this was one of the things which lead to their popularity with women.
“You can’t kill that kind of a snake with a hat-pin; you have to stamp on its head. But I rather believe it will be some time before Mr. Craig will again make the mistake of insulting a woman because she appears to be defenseless.” Elsa’s chin was in the air. The choking sensation in her throat began to subside. “The deadly hat-pin; can’t you see the story in the newspapers? Well, I for one am not afraid to use it.”
From Harold MacGrath’s novel “Parrot & Co”, 1914.
Collection of Edwardian hat pins.