M9188.8.131.52-4 | Hat, sailor
1867, 19th century
Gift of Mrs. George B. Dorey
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Hat (75)
Keys to History
This sailor hat was designed for a boy. Although sailor-inspired apparel was popular among the bourgeoisie in the 19th century, the attitude toward real sailors was far from admiring. In fact, in port towns like Montreal and Halifax where sailors were often found in large numbers, the elite viewed sailors with suspicion as heavy drinkers prone to violence and lawlessness. They responded to this potential social problem with a form of benevolent social control, opening Sailors' Institutes to provide recreational facilities other than taverns and bars. Reading rooms equipped with newspapers and magazines, smoking rooms and games rooms provided activities, while writing rooms with stationery, pens and postal services enabled sailors to keep in touch with their families abroad. Inexpensive coffee and bread and butter were always available, and most institutes ran social programmes with concerts and the like. Gospel, prayer and temperance meetings were also held, although sailors tended to prefer the secular activities.
Sailors Institutes were recreational facilities created by the bourgeoisie as a way of controlling the social disruption they associated with uprooted and drunken sailors.
Institutes of this sort were mostly found near the docks. The Montreal Institute stood at Commissioners Street and Customs House Square near the port.
The Montreal Sailors' Institute was opened in 1862 and incorporated in 1869. A Catholic Sailors Club also existed in the city by 1914.
Sailors' Institutes were formed by the moneyed classes. In Montreal the main force behind the Institute and its funding was Sir Hugh Allen (1810-1882), a prominent Scottish-Canadian who owned a large steamship line.