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Wizard of Oz Hat

Can You Spot the Bonnet? 

If you look very, very closely when Dorothy encounters the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, you’ll see a green straw bonnet on one of the Munchkin ladies. Well, maybe you won’t. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure that the next time I watch the movie (or the next or the next) that I will see it. It’s a lovely hat—light green with a wide brim and tall crown, trimmed with striped satin ribbon, a spray of flowers, and a plume. The lady who wore it must have been quite important and prominent in Munchkinland. 

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Fellow fans of the 1939 classic movie will understand why I was excited when the bonnet was donated to Minnetrista. Watching The Wizard of Oz while trimming the Christmas tree was a family tradition when I was a child. I was entranced by Dorothy’s beautiful voice, delighted by the Scarecrow’s agility, and scared silly by the flying monkeys. Years later, I continued the annual tradition of watching the movie with my children. Even though they are now grown, my husband and I still enjoy watching the movie. 

How did the bonnet get from Munchkinland to Minnetrista?

In the late 1960s, Frances Petty Sargent and her late husband, Ed Petty, were in San Francisco shortly after MGM held an auction of stored properties. While shopping in a store on Ghiradelli Square, they purchased the Munchkin hat from that auction and, thus, began a hobby of collecting hats and other headgear that continued into the 1980s. Some, like the Munchkin hat, were purchased, while others were given to Frances. Still others were worn by family members.

In 1996, Mrs. Sargent donated her very eclectic collection of more than seventy hats to Minnetrista. Included in the collection are the blue and gold Cub Scout cap worn by her son Frank Petty in the 1970s, a multi-colored crocheted skull cap decorated with the Star of David, a Civil War forage cap worn by a member of the Union Army III Corps, and a World War II era nurse’s aid cap. The World War I doughboy helmet and the silk-lined top hat from the 1880s are two of the older hats in the collection. Another particularly interesting item is a black leather fireman’s helmet from the early 1900s. 

Mrs. Sargent didn’t confine her collecting to hats and headgear. A U.S. Navy issue gas mask used during World War I is included in the collection!

Learning From Hats

Hats tell many stories—how a living was made and how leisure time was spent, among others. Hats from this collection have been displayed in several exhibits and have been used in educational programs at Minnetrista.

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What hat displays have you seen in the past at Minnetrista? Do you have any hats with history at home?