Feather Imports Banned

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, July 5, 1914:  Our new preacher took up his charge today. Am glad that one is secured at last.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1914)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The McEwensville Baptist Church had a few difficult months. It hadn’t had a minister since January—and it must be have been a relief to finally have a new pastor.

Did Grandma wear a hat to church? . . . with feathers? Did she know that some bird species were endangered because of the demand for feathers?

Our Girls’ Hats

The new feather law prohibits the importation into this country of feathers of wild birds, and it is being rigidly enforced.

We hope that our girls, everywhere, will realize what it means to wear the plumage of song-birds in their hats. Beautiful and becoming hats can now be made without the sacrifice of our feathered friends.

The appalling destruction of birds for milady’s hat is proved by figures from the last six feather sales in London this year: Crowned pigeons, 21,318; macaw wings, 5,794 pairs; quills of the white crane, 20715; hummingbirds, 4112; birds of paradise, 17,711; Of the kingfisher, one of the birds of bright plumage to be found on the English and Irish lakes, the skins of no less than 215,500 were on sale.

Isn’t that a terrible arraignment against the vanity of women who adorn themselves with the plumage of the birds?

Farm Journal (June, 1914)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1913)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1913)

25 thoughts on “Feather Imports Banned

    1. I’m also glad they got a pastor. It probably was difficult for small rural churches to recruit a pastor, since I doubt if they could pay much.

    1. I also was surprised by it–but then I remembered that I’d heard that passenger pigeons became extinct a long time ago. I googled it and was surprised to discover that the last passenger pigeon died in 1914. According to Wikipedia:

      “Martha, thought to be the world’s last Passenger Pigeon, died on September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo.”

      So apparently people were developing an awareness of the dangers of over-hunting.

    1. When I look at pictures of hats back then, ostrich feathers (which were sometimes dyed) seemed to be particularly popular. I’m not sure whether ostriches were wild birds or whether they were raised on farms in other countries (Africa?).

  1. The feathers were lovely on hats but I don’t think I could have worn one if I had know a bird had been killed for just the feathers. Reminds me of fur coats Good post.

    1. Yes, it seemed like things were quite disorganized when they didn’t have a pastor. There was at least one Sunday (and I’m thinking it was actually 2 or 3 Sundays) when Grandma wrote that the church service wasn’t held because there was no pastor to preach the sermon.

  2. Happy to hear that they were aware of this cruelty to birds back then. I have a pillbox hat that belonged to my grandmother from the early 1960s and while it is lovely, I am dismayed at what the feathers represent. They may not be from endangered species, but still, a life (or many) may have been sacrificed.

    1. I can also remember women wearing hats covered with feathers when I was a small child. I think that they typically were made of Ringneck Pheasant feathers that their husbands shot during hunting season. It’s an interesting ethical question. In any case, thank goodness those hats have gone out of style.

  3. It’s good to Grandma’s church has resident preacher now. I know it’ll make Sunday’s much more joyful.
    In the 60s/70s, I was raised going to a church that didn’t have it’s own preacher. Once a month a preacher would come in from several hundreds of miles away. He did that for decades, he had a wonderful heart to do that.

    1. Wow, it’s amazing that he was willing to travel hundreds of miles to serve as a supply pastor. He sounds like a really special person.

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