The Deutsche Hutmuseum (German Hat Museum) located in a former hat factory in Lindenberg im Allgäu, a small city in the South of Germany, opened its doors on December 13, 2014. It documents 300 years of history of millinery in the context of the towns history.
The German Hat Museum celebrates the history, styles and craftsmanship of hats.
History of the Factory
Lindenberg's largest hat factory—the Ottmar Reich company—was declared bankrupt in 1997, and the town inherited the factory site. The boiler house and just one of the factory buildings were preserved, while all other buildings were demolished. The industrial monument is regarded as an important contemporary example of industrial hat production in Lindenberg. Almost 1,200 people worked there at its peak, making the building itself the first and largest exhibit.
The business can be traced back to brothers Konrad (1802–80) and Ottmar (1822–72) Reich. Konrad worked for many years as a speculator, buying the cheapest woven straws available and having them made into hats, which he then sold at markets for a profit. Later, his sister-in-law, Theresia Reich (1826–94), took over the business and ran it successfully, and in 1838 her sons founded the Ottmar Reich straw-hat factory.
The Decline of the Lindenberg Hat Industry
In the 1920s, the straw-hat industry was in crisis. Companies tried to counteract this in the following decades using felt, leather, acrylic fibers, and fur, and they achieved this with some success. Nevertheless, hats were much less involved in the fashion of the '60s and '70s, which forced long-established businesses to halt their production. The hat industry lost its key status in the Lindenberg economy. Today, only one famous hat factory remains in Lindenberg, belonging to the company Mayser GmbH & Co. KG.
The Cultural History of Hats
An art installation by Anja Luithle, "Der Huttornado" (The Hat Tornado), greets visitors on the 5th floor. Six dark steel rods twirl white hats around in sweeping ellipses from the floor up to the ceiling. The different replicas of distinctive hat types draw the viewer into the rich and varied cultural history of the hat over the last 300 years. Large-scale photographs and images face the hat tornado, providing historical context and shaping the spatial image. They give second life to these changing fashion trends and complement the products and exhibits in the display cases. This installation, therefore, connects the development of the hat in fashion to both regional trends and international fashion events of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Depending on the position and viewing angle, different focal points and surprising insights emerge.