Hatteras’s unlikely flotsam: 10,000 stovepipe hats

“[In March 1867] the steamer Flambeau drove ashore on Hatteras Island near New Inlet….No lives were lost, but the ship was destroyed [and] her cargo floated out and washed ashore.

“She was laden with 10,000 stovepipe hats! They were beaver hats, no longer stylish, having been replaced by silk high hats, and they were practically unsaleable. Two promoters had bought up all they could find and shipped them to South America, whee they were still in fashion.

“Cape Hatteras wrecked their plans. The promoters, unwilling to give up their sartorial coup, turned to political influence. Every man, woman and child on Hatteras had one or more of those hats until the officers of the Military Government, on orders from Washington, began a house to house search, intent on returning the hats to their rightful owners. One Hatteraser was quoted as saying that even the porpoises wore stovepipe hats that spring.

“The final accounting of the promoters’ hat venture is not known.”

– From “The Civil War on the Outer Banks” by Fred M. Mallison (1997)