Museum Object File Information:
Accession Number: JM76.075
Collection: Laurence Gouverneur Hoes Collection
Category: Personal Artifacts
Subcategory: Clothing — Headwear
Description: Made of black felt covered with beaver fur, trimmed with woven silk ribbon and a wide, flat double bow of silk-like material on the front. The crown of the hat was at one time decorated with a plume of ostrich feathers, as noted by their remnants.
Monroe purchased his bicorne in Paris, possibly at one of the exclusive millinery shops in the city. “Au Temple du Gout,” “Despaux,” or “Toulet” were among the many boutiques in the St. Honore and Verdome areas in Paris that catered to the Directoire elite.
The bicorne design, a style first made popular by General Napoleon, was a fashion “must” after 1801 when the top hat of the 18th century gave way to the bicorne of the Directoire and Empire regimes. Napoleon’s “little hat” was his official headgear and has become part of the legend surrounding the French leader. He was rarely portrayed without his hat, either worn on his head or carried in his right arm, held tightly to his side. The General’s headgear differed somewhat from the high-ranking officers in his army in that his bicornes were simply adorned, no plume of trim, only a plain cockade held by a black braid. Napoleon wore his famous hat with the corners parallel to his shoulders, while others wore theirs front to back. Like Napoleon’s famous headgear, most bicornes were sized to the individual’s head, though some may have been made a bit larger to allow for a removable winter lining of wool or fur.
Provenance: Laurence G. Hoes-JMMF-State of Virginia
Collector: James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library
Originally Owned By: James Monroe
Place of Origin: France
Material: Beaver/Silk/Ostrich feathers
Citation: “Bicorne Hat.” JM76.075. James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library.