The normal picture we have of America in the 1800s is cowboys wearing Stetson hats, driving herds of cattle.

Lawmen wearing Stetson hats in shootouts with bank robbers.

Settlers wearing Stetson hats circling their wagons against the Indians.

And some of that is true, but the part about the Stetson hats isn’t.

You see the Stetson hat didn’t even exist until nearly the end of the nineteenth century.

Before that, people just grabbed whatever hat was around and, one that wouldn’t matter if it got beat up.

So cattle workers would wear old peaked caps, or sombreros, or hats made from animal skins, or battered straw boaters, or homburgs, or pork pie hats, or derby (bowler) hats, the same hats as people everywhere.

Which is what John B. Stetson did when he was panning for gold in Colorado.

That’s when he noticed none of these hats was really suited to the work outdoors.

The searing hot sun, or the icy rain, none of them gave much protection.

So he started from scratch and made a head-covering from the dried skin of some beavers.

He didn’t care what it looked like, just how well it did the job.

So he gave it a big wide brim to keep the sun and rain off.

He made it taller inside than head height, so the trapped air would act as insulation.

When he first wore it, everyone laughed.

But one of the workers tried it, and liked it so much he paid Stetson five dollars for it.

Pretty soon more workers tried it and decided they wanted hats like that, too.

So Stetson made and sold a few more hats, then a few more.

And pretty soon he realised he was making more money from hats than panning for gold.

So he went back to Philadelphia and began manufacturing these unusual hats.

He called his design “The Boss of the Plains”.

He sent sample hats to merchants throughout the Southwest asking them for a minimum order of a dozen hats.

It was an immediate success, and within a year he set up a factory.

The name “Boss of the Plains” got shortened to Stetson, and an entirely new style of hat was created.

By the turn of the century, Stetson was making 3.5 million hats a year.

Around that time, they began making moving pictures in Hollywood.

The equipment and technique were crude, they needed simple stories and simple images.

Cowboy stories were simple (good guys v bad guys) and cowboys could easily be shown by putting them all in big, distinctive Stetson hats.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, it was adopted by Hollywood as the symbol of the Wild West, shorthand for a cowboy.

And from that time, the image was born that all cowboys wore Stetson hats.

So the history that exists is not the fact, but the image.

And today, every film star cowboy, and every superstar country singer, must wear a Stetson for credibility.

Every foreign politician visiting America must be given an authentic Stetson as a treasured symbol of America’s tough self-made past.

The lesson for us is that reality is irrelevant.

What the mind believes is reality, becomes reality.

So our job is to create reality, which means our media is the mind.

When Roosevelt asked Churchill how he thought history would remember them, Churchill said “History will be kind to us, because I will write the history”.


And he did, and it was.