Included in this Jellett selection are:
Ployd's Hat factory stood on the south side of Haines St., near Hancock St., where the brick house erected by Richard McCann now stand. Below is a sketch made of it by N.K. Ployd, whose father owned and conducted the factory. Old Mr. Ployd I very well knew."
The sketch shows a log cabin with a shed addition. A brick
chimney rises behind the roof to the right of center. The facade
shows a door and two windows. Two smaller windows appear on the
second floor right side and in the shed addition to the left.
Written in a different hand on the front and back of the sketch
are the following notes:
"Old log house (Revolutionary) (Ployd's Hat factory) Torn down about 1850. Drawn by N.K. Ployd when a boy. Old Revolutionary Log House utilized by Jacob Ployd as a Hat factory. This old building stood on the Ployd farm, Haines St. near Hancock. When demolished a cannon ball, fired at the battle of Germantown, was found embedded in the log chimney. This relic is now the property of N. K. Ployd."
Page 246: a November 24, 1902 Germantown Independent newsclipping about Jacob Ployd with engraved portrait and the following text:
When Francis Daniel Pastorius came to German Town with the original settlers, they brought here one of the best combinations of artisans that ever landed in America. They were a hardy, industrious class, and it was to their skill and indomitable energy and perseverance that made Germantown so prominent in the years gone by and so historical at this time. There were paper makers, type founders, weavers, tanners, coopers, shoemakers, hatmakers and other tradesmen. For many years the Conestoga wagons were to be seen almost daily along Germantown avenue, loading with goods that the tradespeople here exchanged for products of the field that were brought here by people as far west as Pittsburgh before the days of the railroads, which began to be built around 1832.
About the year 1825 hat making was a flourishing industry in Germantown. There were at that time four hat shops, which employed jointly about one hundred hands, quite a good number for nearly eighty years ago. Jacob Green s shop was on Main street, opposite what is now called Collom street. Joseph Green had a shop on Main street, below Armat. John Schaeffer had a shop in the buildings now standing on Main street, opposite the Young Men s Christian Association, and John Bowman...on Main street, where George Weiss coal office is located.
The majority of the hats had what were known as wool bodies. They were shipped to every part of the country...Rich Virginia slave owners often visited Germantown, and quite a large number of sales were made with that section, for Germantown hats were famous in Dixie in the winter months.
About 1835 brush hats were quite a fad in Germantown. They were made of the skin of a Russian rabbit, which cost from $3 to $6 a pound. Beaver fur was worth from $16 to $20 a pound in the early days of hat making in Germantown, but as it became scarce it advanced in price to $70 a pound. Each hat required about three ounces of fur to complete it. One style of hat was worn in those early days almost the entire year. Sometimes the fastidious ones wore a light fur in summer time and heavy dark fur in winter. There were a few straw hats worn in summer, but it was seldom that they were seen.
Strikes were of frequent occurrence in those early days between the foul hatters and the men who combined together for good wages. Pitched battles were of frequent occurrence, generally at the hotels, where the hatters congregated. The borough authorities were often called A hatters organization was continued here for several years, and officers were chosen regularly. At a public meeting of journeymen hatters 1836, to form an association, Jacob Ployd was called to the chair
The process of felting was thus described by the late Jacob Ployd to the writer a few years before his death: The fur of beavers, rabbits and other animals was mixed with wool, used for the production of felt hats. The first operation was to remove the fur from the skin of the animals. The wool and fur fibres were agitated and tossed into the air, which caused them to fall with the greatest irregularity upon a table. The fur was interlaced in this way in every possible manner. The combination was then covered with a cloth, and reduced in thickness by pressure. Layer after layer was laid one upon the other, until the fabric of the hat had attained the proper thickness. This was called bowing, great skill being required on the part of the workmen. Competent bowers could make five or six bodies a day
Owing to strikes, the introduction of labor-saving machinery, wild cat currency, the hat business began to decline in 1840. With the panic of 1842, the hat shops of Germantown closed, to open no more, after occupying a prominent place here since 1683. Of course, the early hat makers used the skins of animals exclusively.
The silk hat industry superseded the fur hat making in Philadelphia in 1843, and as this branch of the business was entirely foreign to the hat makers of Germantown, the hat makers gradually took up other vocations.
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