Advert for Smith & Co, milliner 6455
Medium: Print on paper
The origins of millinery are obscure but it is generally thought to have begun with the manufacture of felt in the first century AD. Certain Christian writings even suggest that felt was invented by Saint Clement, the fourth pope, who is the patron saint of hats and hatmaking. Felt remained the main material in which hats were made until the 18th century. The entire manufacturing process - blowing, proofing, blocking and trimming - were done completely by hand. The introduction of machinery to do at least some of this work led to widespread milliners' strikes in the 1850s. Their position in the market - and the popularity of felt as a fabric for hatmaking - was usurped in this period by silk manufacturers.