UMES: Where these historic hats hang out now

  • Vintage Millinery Collection Preserved By Donation

    Wednesday, February 6, 2019

    The University of Maryland Eastern Shore and history are no strangers.  UMES recently received a gift exemplifying the richness of local history - and the evolution of women's headwear in the 20th century. 

    Over 100 hats were donated to UMES by David McQueen of Westover, who was close to the collection's original owner, the late Madelyn East Bunting. 

    Bunting, a Tasley, Va. native, lived in Pocomoke City and was known for her love of needlework, cooking and gardening.  She served as a Sunday school teacher at Salem Methodist Church in Pocomoke, and accumulated a collection stylish headwear. 

    According to her obituary, Bunting was an “active member of American Legion Post 93 Auxiliary, and … a great source of information to the community regarding (its) past history.” 

    “She vividly recalled walking across the first drawbridge, attending the launching of ships from the Pocomoke City shipyards and the great fire of 1922.” 

    Bunting, who was 102 when she died in 2008, now rests in the church's cemetery on Second Street not far from the Pocomoke River. 

    Alissa Carr, UMES' Associate Vice President and Director of Marketing, described the experience of seeing the collection of ornate hats for the first time as “like digging into buried treasure.” 

    “Each one is more unique than the last, and has a story to tell,” Carr said. 

    Indeed, Bunting's extensive collection is a time capsule of a bygone fashion era -- and her family's history.

    A purple satin hat was hand woven. Two handwritten notes give more background; one reads “Aunt Maggie Bloxom made this hat -1965.”  A second notes Bunting's older sister Edna E. Denston wore the hat, and that Aunt Maggie died at age 91 later that same year. 

    The Bunting collection includes a whimsical array of pillbox designs, floral pattern hats, and feather hats meticulously preserved in multiple hats boxes, round and square.  Some of the headwear outlasted the retailers in nearby Salisbury where the hats apparently were purchased; Hess Apparel and Leeds & Twilley. 

    Dr. Dean Cooledge, chairman of the Department of English and Modern Languages, was excited and grateful for the generous donation. 

    “I have hopes of (possibly) using the hats for costuming purposes in the theater program,” he said. 

    Once the hats are appraised for value as an in-kind gift, university leaders will have a better idea on how they can best benefit education, including possible hands-on relics for fashion merchandising students to study.


     -- By Tahja Cropper