''Coonskin'' Hat

  • American West
  • 3 mins

By Crusader1307

Perhaps no item of Early Americana is more iconic or widely known as The Raccoon Skin Hat. Even before it’s placement on The American West, the nicknamed “Coonskin”, was well known. Designed as Winter Headwear among Native-Americans such as The Cherokee, it became such for 18th Century European Hunters and Trappers. Beaver and Raccoon Pelts became a major Trade commodity. Used for clothing, the adaptation of Raccoon Hats from such skins (as well as Clothing), became all “the Rage” in Europe. In America, The Coonskin Hat became synonymous with “Frontier Life”. Some much so, that as Explorers and Scout went farther West (and Northwest), so did The Coonskin.


Creation of The Coonskin involved the entire fur and skin (or Hide) of the animal. Originally, this included the iconic “Striped Tail” as well as the Head (or rather Face too). Skinned and de-boned, the meat was a flavorful “stew”. The Hide was scraped and dried  (even salted first preservation). This created a type of Tanning. Next The Hide was hand stitched into a cylindrical shape. Some versions were more conical and did not include the Tail or Head. In other cases, several component pieces were sewn in such a fashion as to resemble a flattened top and rounded sides. History is somewhat confused to the actual purpose of The Hat. Although it worn somewhat high on the Head, it did cover it entirely. It could also he pulled down to cover the Ears as well. The “style” was thought to “camouflage” a “hidden Hunter”, head the somewhat comical appearance of a “curled up, sleeping Raccoon”.


History has the Coonskin worn by some of America’s most well known Heroes. Most often than not, these are more “Tall Tales” than actual fact. This then brings us to two of the most memorable, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Boone is noted  (and portrayed by Hollywood), as being a Coonskin Hat wearer. The image of Boone in a hand to “Paw” fight with a Grizzly, Cap on head, is well known throughout The World. Unfortunately, Boone hated Coonskin Hats. It is even unsure if he ever owned one. Boone preferred Felt, broad brimmed Hats. Because of his Frontiersman and Scouting “extraordinaire” Personna, it was only natural to give his “Legend” The Coonskin.


Thus brings us to David Crockett, one time US Senator, Scout, River Pirate and Adventurer. Crockett, who was a Tennessean – was known to wear The Hat. On fact, when he and his Volunteers fought (and died) at The Alamo during The Texas War for Independence, Crockett was wearing one. The next most famous user of The Coonskin were those elusive Hunters and “Shunners of Society”, The Mountain Man. The Coonskin became critical to his survival in the freezing cold of The Northwest Mountains that they inhabited.


The Coonskin would begin to die out towards the end of the 19th Century. A revival of  sorts, hit America and Great Britain with Walt Disney and his “Davy Crockett” Television Series. Soon every young boy wanted a “genuine” Coonskin. For the most part, these were “Made in Japan”. As with Buckskin, The Coonskin still continued to keep The "Vintage" American West forefront, and they can still be found today.