US Military Academy at West Point/USMA Full Dress Hat (Tar Bucket)
QUESTION: I have a friend who runs a hattery restoration business. My friend shared with me that a customer brought in a tar bucket to be restored which had belonged to his father or grandfather who had attended West Point during the 50's; however, the crown was blue rather than black. I notified a friend from the class of '53 who says that all USMA tar buckets were black throughout; the blue had to have belonged to a prep school, perhaps. Can you offer any clarification? The tar bucket in for restoration looks identical to the one worn at WP (a retired military history prof shared with me that it was modeled after a dress hat worn by the French Foreign Legion).
ANSWER: It's good to hear from you Tom. Thanks for your interest in West Point.
The "Tar Bucket" in the picture has all the appearance of a West Point "Tar Bucket" EXCEPT for the color of the crown that is definitely NOT black. I have examined my "Tar Bucket", vintage 1966 to 1970 and can confirm this. I would agree with your Class of 1953 friend that it is NOT from West Point.
As to a possible Prep School connection, I cannot comment, other than to say that I am pretty sure that the USMA Prep School did not have "Tar Buckets" of any color.
I'm sorry this isn't more helpful. You might learn more contacting the Special Archives and Collections Branch of the Academy Library. They may have some additional history regarding "Tar Buckets" and can be reached at (845) 938-3259.
Good luck in your quest.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Bill, I appreciate your recent reply. I went back to the Hatter to share the news that the Tar Bucket in question was not from West Point. We pulled out the actual TB and - lo and behold - the crown was covered in sold black felt. Evidently, my iPhone 4s camera has a pixellation issue and showed blue instead of black on the felt portion only (the black bill and top - both leather - remained solid black in the picture I sent). So, guess the mystery is settled.
I used lots of Kiwi Glossy Black liquid shoe polish and a black Sharpie pen and restored the hat to its original shape (I hope!). The felt didn't need much attention. Took most of today, but I think the widow of the West Point graduate (Bill Wafer, '58) will be pleased. She plans to place it inside a pedestal she's having designed and built as a tribute to her late husband. There'll be a spotlight shining down on it.
Again, thanks for your reply. Best wishes.
It's good to hear from you again, Tom.
Mystery solved! Those darn digital cameras just can't get it right!! The blue tint is unusual, as I have an iPhone 4 and except when using the flash I haven't had any complaints about color correctness.
I will note that except for that blue tint, the hat in the picture DID fit the details of mine perfectly. You just never know. It's good that you were persistent.
I also believe that the widow will be pleased. Thanks for letting me know.