Coonskin cap

Coonskin cap

A coonskin cap is a cap fashioned from the skin and fur of a raccoon. The original coonskin cap consisted of the entire skin of the raccoon including its head and tail. The caps were originally a traditional Native American article of clothing, but when European pioneers began settling the Tennessee and Kentucky areas, they made it their own, evolving its use and wearing them as hunting caps.

The coonskin cap eventually became a part of the iconic image associated with American frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Boone did not actually wear coonskin caps, which he disliked, and instead wore felt hats.

An account of actor Noah Ludlow introducing the popular song The Hunters of Kentucky while wearing a coonskin cap is shown to be spurious in Ludlow's autobiography. Ludlow recounts that initial performance of 1822: "As soon as the comedy of the night was over, I dressed myself in a buckskin hunting-shirt and leggins, which I borrowed of a river man, and with moccasins on my feet and an old slouched hat on my head, and a rifle on my shoulder, I presented myself before the audience.

In the 20th century, the iconic association was in large part due to Disney's 1954 television show Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter and its sequels, starring Fess Parker. In the show, which once again made Crockett into one of the most popular men in the country, he was portrayed wearing a coonskin cap. The show spawned other similar Davy Crockett shows and movies, with many of them featuring Parker as the lead actor. Parker went on to star in a Daniel Boone television series, again wearing a coonskin cap.

Crockett's new popularity initiated a fad among boys all over the United States as well as a Davy Crockett craze in the UK; the coonskin was the thing to wear. The look of the cap that was marketed to young boys was typically simplified; it was usually a faux fur lined skull cap with a raccoon tail attached. A variation was also marketed to young girls as the Polly Crockett hat. It was similar in style to the boys' cap, including the long tail, but was made of all-white fur (faux or possibly rabbit). Thousands of hats were sold through the end of the 1950s, when Crockett's popularity waned and the fad slowly died out.

References

  • Ludlow, Noah (1880). Dramatic Life As I Found It. St. Louis: G. I. Jones and Co.. Endnotes

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