The Hat That Killed a Billion Birds

The Decimation of World Avian Populations for Women’s Fashion


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About the Book

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was common practice for milliners to decorate women’s hats with birds’ feathers and plumes—and sometimes with the birds themselves. As many as 300 million birds per year were killed for this fashionable enterprise, causing the extinction of some entire species and the endangerment of others. Lawmakers and bird aficionados were slow to react to the effects of this practice, which went on almost unabated for a quarter of a century. Then, noted naturalists like George Bird Grinnell, William T. Hornaday, and President Theodore Roosevelt, who recognized the economic benefits birds provided, banded together to pass meaningful legislation to protect them and to curb the production of murderous millinery.
This book explores the troubled history of millinery and its complicated relationship to birds and conservation. It explores why it took so long for the slaughter to end and how the efforts of individuals and groups brought about change.

About the Author(s)

Arthur G. Sharp is a Sun City Center, Florida, based writer/editor whose publications include 25 books and more than 2,500 articles on a variety of topics.

Bibliographic Details

Arthur G. Sharp
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 267
Bibliographic Info: 32 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9328-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5170-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1. The Birds Start Slipping Away 7
2. How Did It Happen? 12
3. Follow the Money 17
4. Bird Murder and Women’s Hats 22
5. Bicycles, Tricycles, and Fashion Cycles 26
6. But Did the Ladies Listen? 35
7. Which Birds Is It Okay to Kill? 42
8. Who Was to Blame? 48
9. Fashion Writers Play a Key Role 53
10. Another Skirmish in the War Between the Sexes 58
11. Editorial License 64
12. Blow Guns, Knives, and Other Cruel Weapons 68
13. There’s an Endless Supply of Birds—Isn’t There? 74
14. Save the Birds 79
15. The Audubon Society Picks Up the Cudgel 86
16. “Arbird” Day 90
17. Laws Are Literally for the Birds 98
18. Who Owns the Birds? 102
19. The Turning Point Arrives 111
20. Embarrassment Knows No Boundaries 115
21. Regional Rivalries 119
22. The Audubonists’ Antithesis 125
23. Reading the Signs 129
24. Silz Courts the Supremes 133
25. Welcome to Finley’s World 138
26. Meet Max Schlemmer 143
27. Looking at the Moon Without ­Rose-Colored Glasses 147
28. Delaware Thanks the Milliners 152
29. The Law of Fashion Prevails 155
30. From Missouri to Massachusetts 162
31. Milliners and Hats Are on Top 167
32. The Milliners Fight Back 172
33. Two Sides to the Story 179
34. The Business of Business 186
35. Calling All Ladies 191
36. White Herons and Birds of Paradise 197
37. The Ostrich 202
38. Game Wardens 208
39. The Hunters 212
40. Birds Don’t Have to Die When They Can Be Dyed 216
41. Those Who Refuse to See the Birds for the Trees 219
42. The Campaign Goes International 223
Epilogue: One Good “Tern” Deserves Another 227
Appendix A: Confusing Bird Protection Laws 231
Appendix B: Expansion of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 233
Notes 235
Bibliography 247
Index 254