The ABCs of Lowell History: M is for Millinery Shop

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff tell us about the history of Lowell’s millinery shops, where residents could purchase hats of all kinds. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.

Lowell has had many Millinery shops throughout the years. Some of which included: Mrs. Milo Hiler’s Millinery Shop in the Old Wooden Row (1865-1901), Miss Bosworth’s Millinery shop on the Bridge, Mrs. J. O’Heron, Millinery, (1884-1900) and her daughter, Mrs. R.D. Stocking who had a Millinery shop in her husband’s store at 217 E. Main, (1900-1924). The the last known millinery store was Hazel’s Hat Shop (1937-1972).

An advertisement from April 12, 1900 read: “To the ladies of Lowell …we wish to announce our opening of Easter hats and bonnets will occur on Friday and Saturday of this week, when we will show all the latest novelties in spring and summer millinery. You are cordially invited to inspect the same. Mrs. J. O’Heron and Mrs. Lillie Stocking”

Hazel A. Hoag was born in Vergennes Township and attended the Boynton school before she moved to Lowell. At the age of 16 she became an apprentice milliner in the shop operated by Mrs. R. D. Stocking. She recalls working nine hours a day, six days a week for a year during her apprenticeship without receiving any pay at all. After the first year, she was hired for $3 a week. Following the death of Mrs. Lilly Mae Stocking in 1924 and Mr. Stocking in 1934, Hazel purchased the millinery shop in 1937. During the time she worked for Mrs. Stocking, Hazel remembered the hat styles and the work involved for making them for customers. “Most hats were made by covering purchased forms and trimming with velvet, ribbons, net and artificial flowers, according to the customer’s wishes,” she recalled. Prices for a handmade hat varied from $2.98 to $16.50.

At her shop on West Main Street, Hazel carried hats, plus a complete selection of children’s and ladies clothing. She was such an honest person that she never marked her goods beyond a certain margin of profit, and always carefully figured out the sales tax. Hazel wasted no electricity because that was expensive. Her shop always seemed dark. She turned on the lights when customers came in. In 1955 she was honored by the Business and Professional Women’s Club and was given a Recognition Evening.

Hazel’s Hat Shop was at 215 W. Main Street, and she lived at 118 N. Hudson, always walking to work until her older age, when she rode in an automobile. In her 65 years on Main Street she saw many changes. She saw businesses and buildings come and go. She even attended the laying of the cornerstone for City Hall in 1909. She only retired in 1972 because of ill health, and the need to move to Cherry Creek Nursing Home. She died in 1974 and is buried at Oakwood cemetery.

The featured image, viewable on the website, shows Hazel at the 16 yr birthday party of Bea VanDyke; notice all of the hats.

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