Caps off for history

Photo courtesy of Daryl Petersen of Brookings: A group of well-capped Brookings hunters on a 1930s community coyote hunt near Oakwood.

Brookings County Now & Then

The Brookings County Museum is uncapping a unique new project this summer.

It’s called “Capping History.”

You can help flesh out a cap display.

The museum seeks colorful Brookings County-related printed or embroidered baseball-style caps promoting past and present businesses as well as Brookings County entities such as schools, churches, communities, and other county organizations. 

The caps should in good condition and have printing or logos on them that have a Brookings County connection. Only Brookings County-related caps will be used. 

While many caps are embroidered with print and logos, some of the older ones were screen printed. The museum hopes there are some of those “antique” caps are still around.

Interestingly, logo caps have become a part of this area’s sartorial history.  

The style didn’t enter the scene until the early 1960s when the popularity of screen-printed or embroidered baseball-style caps replaced the traditional straw hats and other styles of the pre-World War II era.

In the 1930s and 1940s, men also wore what were called “flat hats”, stocking caps and a flannel, billed cap with earmuffs that could be folded down and tied in place under the chin.

After WWII, the baseball-style, billed cap began to surface. Methods to print letters on the caps were developed followed by the ability to embroider printing and logos on caps. 

Those baseball-style caps had a practical and functional design, were inexpensive and ideal for working long hours in windy, hot conditions. They soon also became stylish and popular as everyday attire for both men and women. 

A fashion trend was born. 

Also called trucker hats, “gimmie” hats or Dad hats, they are often handed out free as advertising and promotional pieces by agricultural equipment dealers and seed and supply company representatives.

The John Deere Company is credited with the first printed caps advertising its name, providing their hats to customers. Other firms followed, and the caps now compete with the traditional printed yardsticks, pens and pencils embossed with logos and the newest handout, koosies that are designed to help keep drinks in cans and glasses cooler.

If you have a cap with a Brookings-related genealogy that you’d like to donate for the project, drop it off at the museum in Volga from 1-4 p.m. or leave it at the Threads of Memories Antique Mall at 411 Fourth St. in Brookings. 

To accompany this cap column, I’d planned to include a picture illustrating the changing hat and cap traditions. My friend and retired Brookings painter Daryl Petersen loaned me just the thing and here is his 1930s picture of hunters and their hats after a coyote hunt in the Oakwood area. 


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