TAFT – Usually when an item is donated or loaned to a museum, it is enough to know generalities about the item — what era, general purpose, etc. And then sometimes, an item will spark special interest.
While going through artifacts to ready a new military display, Irma Cantu, director of the Taft Blackland Museum, ran across a military hat.
“We are moving the military display downstairs to the first floor,” Cantu said. “One of the boxes was a Stetson hat box which seemed out of place with the other military artifacts. Inside the box was a hat from World War I. I thought the hat had been placed in the box for storage and was not the original box as it was in very good condition for being from the World War I era. Also, I knew Stetson made good quality cowboy hats but didn’t think they made military hats. So, I contacted Kay (Sites) and asked her if she was interested in solving a little mystery for the Blackland Museum.”
This mystery had more to go on than one might think. It can be easy to go off on tangents while doing research because it is so fascinating. In this case, the obvious starting point was with the hat itself.
The hat is called a campaign hat and was not worn during combat but for casual dress or special occasions. The color of the cord around the hat denoted the rank of the person wearing it. This cord was gold signifying a commissioned officer would have worn it.
John B. Stetson Co. in Philadelphia mass produced these hats for American soldiers beginning in 1917. The style was adapted from their popular “Boss of the Plains” model.
The hat had an inventory tag which indicated that Alan Miller made the donation.
It only took one phone call to determine who the owner had been; however, that phone call opened up a whole new interest in the history surrounding it.
Miller, of Taft, donated the hat to the museum on behalf of a relative of Arthur Crafton Tutt — the owner.
According to Miller, “A relative of Arthur Tutt felt that the museum would make better use of the hat as a display item.”
Tutt grew up in Missouri. He was a member of Company B of the National Guard of Missouri and studied engineering at William Jewell College in Missouri.
On May 2, 1918, then Sgt. Tutt, as a member of the 110th Engineer Regiment Company E, was a passenger on the Great Northern departing Hoboken, New Jersey headed to Europe.
Barely 11 months later he was on a return voyage from Brest, France, aboard the USS Von Steuben as First Lieutenant, 110th Engineering Regiment Company F. Exactly what he did while there is unknown at this time, and the circumstances for his promotion from “non-com” to commissioned officer are vague.
Perhaps another trip to the museum is warranted. At least part of the “mystery” is solved ... now onto the next chapter.
“I was very excited about the research results and glad that we now have the story behind the hat. A story we can share with our visitors,” said Cantu.
There are many artifacts in the museum commemorating this period of history — several belonging to Tutt and many belonging to other natives of Taft and San Patricio County. There is nothing like the experience of seeing these items in person, reading the information provided and even the possibility of conversing with other patrons who may have first-hand knowledge of the period and items of interest.
Are you a collector of early farm implements? Interested in studying military history? Are you studying early period clothing? Did you know the museum has an awesome collection of Boy Scout uniforms? How did the museum get it’s name? Discover an infinite wealth of local knowledge at the museum and maybe even solve your own mystery.
The Taft Blackland Museum is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.