The current owner of this black silk derby hat from the 1930s initially told us that it belonged to her father and he never wore it. It was stored in plastic and in gorgeous condition. When we set it up to photograph, we repeated her story back to her, "so this belonged to your father?" "Yes, he only wore it once, when I was born and he was taking me and my mother on the train back to our hometown."
To us, the story revealed much more and imbued the simple object with much more significance. In the height of the Great Depression, this beautiful hat was bought on the very special occasion of the first child's birth. It was worn once, in a time when one dressed up to take the train, then put carefully away as there were few occasions to dress up. Now we understood the piece not simply as a beautiful item, but as a material piece of history and culture.
What's the story behind an heirloom in your house? Check out our heirloom catalogue for more inspiration!
October is Family History Month here in the US! In honor of the month, we'll attempt to post family stories, short narratives, and photos daily. We know how difficult it can be to get your family history started! We encourage our readers to simply start - even if your stories are out of chronological order, even if you only have 15 minutes a day, and even if the story is at first imperfect, try to capture one moment or story at a time. If you'd like more tailored guidance or assistance developing your snippets into full stories, we would love to help you with our Writing Coaching Service, and Narrative Transcription which can be done in-person, or remotely over email, phone, Skype/FaceTime sessions.