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