Barnum Blake, Bonnetteer

Barnum Blake
Or “bonnetter?” Either way. In 1844, Barnum Blake made bonnets, Florence straw and silk and velvet bonnets. He had French and American artificial flowers, ribbons, etc. He was located nearly opposite the new Delavan House hotel and the Eastern and Western railroad depots (for a “union” station was still a long way off). I’m a little confused by his claim to employ “in the business season One Hundred hands.” It’s hard to comprehend an America in which every season was not the business season, but we have to presume that Blake’s audiences knew what he meant. More confusing is the 100 hands – is that 50 two-handed people, or 100 railroad casualties, or something in-between?

Country milliners and merchants were invited to stop in on their way to the big city, which his location across from the train stations and not far from the wharves must have made enticing. In those days, there was very little you could get in New York that you couldn’t get in Albany, good, bad or somewhere in the middle.

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