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Cabbage-tree hat

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Title: Cabbage-tree hat  
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Cabbage-tree hat

Cabbage tree hats (also known as cabbage palm hats) is a kind of straw hat made from the leaves of the Australian cabbage tree. It thus originates from Australia seemingly just before or around 1800. The journals of explorers such as Matthew Flinders and later Ludwig Leichhardt, and numerous early squatters used various forms of cabbage tree hats for the protection against the sun. The describes the hat as "a broad-brimmed hat made from cabbage-tree leaves."[1] The Powerhouse Museum describes a cabbage-tree hat thus: "Finely woven natural straw coloured hat; high tapering domed crown, wide flat brim; applied layered hat band of coarser plaiting with zig-zag border edges.[2] But there are seemingly numerous more or less primitive versions of this type of head gear which is the earliest specifically Australian hat in use.

After discovering that the leaves of the cabbage tree (the Cordyline australis) and the cabbage-tree palm (the Livistona australis) could be woven into hats, early settlers in Australia started to make hats out of them, which soon became popular in towns and in the country.[3] The process involved boiling, then drying, and finally bleaching the leaves.[2]

We have no records but a mixture of European needs and Aboriginal people seem the most likely real life inventor of the method later used to produce this particular type of hat.

Mentions of the hat

There are many mentions of the hat in Australian documents.[4]

  • In Volume 2 of Collins, David: An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales from its first settlement, in January 1877, to August 1801, London 1802, Chapter XIX Flinders voyage to Moreton Bay in 1799.
  • In Volume 6 of the Historical Records of Victoria, published after the address by Police Historian Gary Presland at the Annual General Meeting in March 2005, it states:
    "Police Troopers wore a distinctive dress uniform, consisting of a blue jacket with red facings, black trousers with red stripe, Wellington boots, and pill-box cap. While on duty in the bush they usually wore patrol jacket and trousers, and wide brimmed cabbage tree hat."
  • In Edward Micklethwaite Curr's Recollections of Squatting in Victoria, it says:
    "Of the gentlemen one saw, a good sprinkling were squatters...Many of them, I noticed, indulged also in blue serge shirts in lieu of coats, cabbage tree hats, belt supporting leather tobacco pouches, and in some cases a pistol..."
  • In Margaret Maynard's Fashioned from Penury, it states:
    "... In the country, cabbage palm hats, as large as an umbrella, tied under the throat and sometimes burnt black by the sun, were especially common. Practical and cool, they were plaited from the plant Livistonia australia that grows in semi-coastal rainforest areas ...Later the making of these hats from cabbage palm became a form of cottage industry..."
  • On page 53 of Men of Yesterday, Margaret Kiddle refers to the cabbage tree hat as 'ubiquitous' in the 1840s.


  1. ^ "Cabbage-tree hat".  
  2. ^ a b "Cabbage tree hat, 1880s, Cambewarra, NSW". Collection.  
  3. ^ "Miniature Australian Shepherds For Sale". Aussie Hair Care Products. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Cabbage Tree Hats".  

External links

  • Life on the goldfields : living there PDF (285 KB)
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