Sunday, October 13, 2013

Answer: Why is she wearing that kind of hat?

Sorry about the delay--as I mentioned, I'm traveling, and it's tough being on the road, teaching, moving from point A to point B and finding both a decent internet connection and time to write.  Especially in places where my cell provider doesn't have service.  (Yes, I'm deep in the backwoods of New Hampshire...)  

Back our regularly scheduled program... 

Our challenge was to figure out the hat.  The woman on the right in the above image is wearing a fairly peculiar kind of hat.  I mentioned that I recognized that hat from a totally different context, and was curious why the artist would portray her as wearing this particular kind of hat.

First, quick answers for insatiably curious.  

1.  What's the name of that style of hat?  
     A:  A Phyrgian cap.  

2.  Who is she?  (Or, more precisely, what does she represent?)  
A:  She is Columbia (aka Pallas Columbia), the female personification of the United States.  
3.  Can you find another artistic portrayal of someone else wearing a hat like this?  
     A:  Yes, see below.  

First, kudos to everyone who solved this challenge.  It's a fairly good problem that starts with a vaguely defined information goal, but one that's recognizably correct (when you find it).  I try to set up all of our challenges that way--intrinsically interesting, but clearly correct when you solve it.  (Not always, but mostly.) 

I solved this challenge (as did Fred and many others) by using "Search by Image."  I dragged the image into the Image search bar and found that it appeared on many sites.  I first looked at the Smithsonian site, thinking that they most likely would have a good attribution and some context for the picture.  Sure enough, from the Smithsonian page I found it was called, "The Teddyssey" and it was by "Otto Cushing."  The next query is obvious: 

     [ Teddyssey Otto Cushing ] 

Knowing that it was a book, I went to Google Books and searched for "Teddyssey," which took me to the book

If you scroll through the book, you'll find it came from the Harvard library (ah, the Massachusetts connection mentioned earlier), and you'll quickly find that the woman is named "Pallas Athena," and that she's seated next to the male personification of the US, "Uncle Sam."  

Now, how about that hat?  How can we find that?  

A search like: 

     [ Columbia hat ] 

gives a lot of commercial, obviously incorrect results.  (Turns out that Columbia is a sportswear brand name.)  Now what? 

Well, I knew that Columbia was personifying the United States, so I tried that as a query to find out more--who is she?  What's the background story?  (I need to know a bit more to focus my next query.) 

     [ Columbia personification ] 

The first result here was for the Columbia (name) entry on Wikipedia, which not only told me that the name "Columbia" is a recent word coinage (combining a stem Columb- based on the surname of the explorer Christopher Columbus combined with the ending -ia, common in Latin names of countries (e.g. Britannia "Britain", Gallia "Gaul").

BUT on that same page, there's a picture with a caption saying "Personified Columbia in American flag gown and Phrygian cap."  If you do the obvious checks, you'll find that Phrygian caps come from (surprise!) the Phrygian region of Turkey, and have been worn since antiquity.  It's a little unclear HOW they came to signify freedom and liberty, but by the time of the Roman empire, they came to be worn by freed slaves, and the association was made. 

It's then been worn by revolutionaries throughout time and around the world.  Popular in the French Revolution, it was adopted by the US as a symbol of freedom and liberty.  

Finding other artistic representations of the Phrygian cap is easy.  Just search for it in Images: 

     [ Phrygian cap artwork ] 

Here're a few images I grabbed (from Wikipedia's commons area).  

Phrygian Caps: US, Attic Greece, French Revolution, US Department of the Army

And the Seal of the US Senate, the herald of Haiti, etc etc.  

Now you know. 

Search on! 


  1. internet connections, service providers, finding time — it all leaves one wondering when the present will catch up to the future and the proposed match the reality…
    anyway, since you are in the NH hinterlands, thought you might be interested in this relative of Columbia & Sam… a progenitor of sorts hailing from New England (wasn't familiar with him until this search - you may even cross paths as you travel that area.)
    Brother Jonathan
    another type of Phrygian (⌘F search phrygian cap)
    asymptomatic gallbladder
    suppose to be great color this year -
    NH Foliage
    Travel on!

    1. I didn't know about Brother Jonathan. THAT's a find. Thanks! (Esp. interesting that it's _still_ in use at Yale. I'll have to ask some of my Yalie friends about it.)

      And the foliage IS good!

  2. I thought about it some more and figured the 'tuque' might have some historical reference. I did find a Canadian reference on Wikipedia. Wikipedia- Canadian tuque
    "The tuque is similar to the Phrygian cap, and, as such, during the 1837 Patriotes Rebellion, a red tuque became a symbol of French-Canadian nationalism. The symbol was revived briefly by the Front de libération du Québec in the 1960’s"

    I have worn tuques in winter never thinking they may have some meaning besides keeping my ears from freezing. No snow yet but the mountains seen from my house have snow-caps. Now where are my tuques?

    1. You HAVE to send me a pic. Rosemary wearing a politically-charged symbol... of Canada!!

    2. Hello Dr. Russell, Remmij and Rosemary. It is very interstening what you post. I'll read more about it.

      I thought Canada had more relationship with phrygian hat because of the French connection. After reading your post I tried [Phrygian cap AROUND(3) Canada].

      Found 2 pages that I will read to learn more, plus the one of the Brother Jonathan,

      The tuque
      What Is a Canadian Toque?

      Then same query in books:

      Found :

      "The Bank of Montreal tokens of 1837 show a view of the front of the Bank, a half-penny of the same date having a curious device on the obverse a native of the country wearing a Phrygian cap, the legend being "Providence Du Canada"..."

      [ 1837 Montreal Tokens] Image
      Coins and Canada

      Dr. Russell, do you know why USA changed Columbia to Uncle Sam? or maybe the question is why Uncle Sam is better known, at least outside USA, than Columbia?

      Have a great week!

    3. 'tuque' is interesting, eh - the Urban Dictionary has a couple variants; e.g., "Attache ta tuque avec de la broche!"
      Ramón - this is just wild speculation, but U Sam may toast better than the fair Columbia? -
      Uncle Sam, well done
      fwiw: it is my understanding Bro Jon is largely incombustible anywhere in New England, with the possible exception of Salem, MA.. He might be subject to "pressing" though?
      Giles Corey
      (it is a more accepted New England method by the current EPA)
      Dan, hope you found time for a bowl of "chowdah" and some "cider".
      Dr. Wilbur Larch: "Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England."

  3. I look through my photos found an interesting image. Unfortunately, I don't have any red tuques (I wouldn't be wearing red- probably blue if I had one). I hope the caption comes through as it will explain the photo. I am leading a group snowshoeing on a typical winter day. Good searching on the Canadian tuque. You know as much as me and I wear them frequently when doing outdoor sports.

  4. some additional personification: BroJon, John Bull, Marianne & Sam…
    Brother Jonathan schooling John Bull
    John Bull (left): "O! don't force me to take it, Brother Jonathan - Give me Holland Gin, French Brandy - any thing but this D-d Yankee Perry - it has already fuddled me."

    Brother Jonathan (right): "Take it, Johnny - take it I say - why cant you take it? - It will mend your morals & your manners too, friend Johnny. - Plague on you, you shall swallow it.

    T.I.L.: Perry

    J. Bull with Marianne
    Marianne with a Phrygian cap
    meanwhile, Sam in the Caribbean -
    Island Sam
    Princeton, Mudd Manuscript Library, includes Otho Cushing

    is Rosemary saying she wouldn't wear a red Goggle tuque or röte TCS tee like Dr.D's? ;)
    Noogler phrygian, kinda