hat (masks)

Creation date
leather, sequins, plastic gems, netting
9 x 11 1/2 x 2 3/4 in.
Credit line
Purchased with funds provided by Benjamin B. Green-Field Foundation
Accession number
Not Currently On View

Benjamin Green-Field, "Chicago's Mad Hatter," and his sister Bessie opened a millinery store in Chicago in 1920. They combined their first names to create the famous Bes-Ben logo. Within eight years the duo had expanded their business to include five shops, and their hats had become a necessary adornment for Chicago's socialites.

Bes-Ben's hats were generally sensible and traditional until 1941, when Green-Field's creativity and sense of humor began to surface in his designs. Among the unusual items that began to appear in his hats were firecrackers, skyscrapers, animals, bugs, fruit, doll furniture, palm trees, cigarette packages, and even Folies-Bergère dancers.

The prices for Green-Field's creations, which originally ranged from $37.75 to $1,000, tended to exclude women on a tight budget. Every summer, however, he would clean out his inventory for the new season at a midnight sale, marking down the hats to as little as $5. Then, at two in the morning, he would toss the rest out of the front door to waiting bargain hunters.

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