A collection of vintage branded hat boxes of varying sizes
A boy carrying an assortment of hat boxes in New York City c. 1912

A hat box (also commonly hatbox and sometimes hat bucket, hat tin or bandbox) is a container for storing and transporting headgear, protecting it from damage and dust. A more generic term for a box used to carry garments, including headgear, is a bandbox. Typically, a hat box is deep and round in shape, although it may also be boxlike and used as an item of luggage for transporting a variety of hats.[1]

Hat boxes may be made of a range of materials, including cardboard, leather or metal.[2] They may include straps or a carrying handle for transportation. More luxurious models may be padded and lined in materials such as silk in order to protect the headgear.[3]


Hat boxes may be made of a variety of materials, including metal.

The hat box became a popular item in the 19th century – matching the popularity of hats for both day and evening wear – and accessories were produced to assist with both storage and cleaning.[4] While milliners often packaged designs they sold in cardboard hat boxes, more robust designs were produced for travelling. Some designs were made to store more than one hat – including designs that could store both a daytime top hat and a collapsible version for evenings, known as a gibus.[3] They might also include storage space for items such as a hat brush.[4]

Designs became quite large during the Edwardian era. A letter to The Times in 1844 warned travellers that Blackwall Railway's porters had charged a 1d to carry a hat box onto the train and a further 6d for transporting it to the London terminus, with the traveller himself paying only 4d for the journey. He recommended that travellers with luggage should go by steamboat.[5]

Design variations

While traditionally hat boxes are circular or square in shape, some versions may follow the shape of the hat. New York Historical Society archives include a crescent shaped cardboard design thought to be from the early to mid 19th century and attributed to the New York City hatmaker Elisha Bloomer; Canadian archives include a tin design curved to match the tricorne-style military hat worn by Isaac Brock and dating from 1812.[2][6]


  1. ^ Brooks Picken, Mary (2010). A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern (1999 ed.). United States: Dover Publications. p. 170. ISBN 978-0486402949. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Sir Isaac Brock Hat Box". ourontario.ca. 1812 History. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Victorian Hat Box and Top Hats". bbc.co.uk/historyoftheworld. BBC. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Top hat". vam.ac.uk. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Blackwall Railway: To the Editor of The Times". The Times. No. 18720. 20 September 1844.
  6. ^ "Museum collections: Luce Center". nyhistory.org. Retrieved 13 July 2015.

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