John Batterson Stetson, known as the inventor of hats, was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1830. John B. Stetsonís father, Stephen Stetson, taught him how to make hats and of the hat trade. After his
fatherís death, John B. Stetson decided to open his own business, but befell ill with tuberculosis. So before he could open his business, he had moved out to St. Joseph, MO landing a job in moulding
bricks. Stetson soon became a partner in the brickyard. Soon, nature struck with heavy rain and flooding before Stetson could secure a future at the brickyard. It destroyed nearly all the non-baked
bricks. This caused Stetson to lose his job. Afterwards, Stetson in need of financial stability, set out on foot, with some companions, to the Rocky Mountains ( Pikeís Peak), in search of gold. In
the summer of 1862, during a gold trek, Stetson demonstrated the process of felting to his companions. He shaved off the fur from the hides they had taken to use during the trek and began pounding
the fur together. Occasionally adding water and dipping in into boiling water, he turned the fur into a felt hat. He then explained how wearing a hat can shelter the person from rain, snow, sun, and
cold temperatures. After reaching Pikeís Peak, a horseman saw Stetsonís hat and purchased it from him for a five-dollar gold piece. Thus, began the all encompassing image of the western cattleman and
the cowboy hat.
By the mid-1880's, Stetson had employed nearly 4,000 employees and was operating the world's
largest hat manufacturing company in Philadelphia. Stetson introduced iron cutting and pressing machines which greatly improved the quality and speed of production. Turning a
manual labor intensive hat making industry into a mechanized industry, Stetson enabled his company to produce some 2 million hats a year by 1906. Stetson, an industrialist and
philanthropist, saw a need to offer internal and external benefits to his employees. He set up a free health care system and began offering shares of his company to his employees.
Stetson also set up a hospital in Philadelphia and was a founding trustee of the Stetson University in Deland, Florida. John B. Stetson not only
turned his hat making skill into a multimillion dollar company, but into a legend.
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