Past Treasure of the Month – July 2019

Baxter & Wilson
Straw boater from Baxter & Wilson, Galveston.

Straw boater from Baxter & Wilson, Galveston.

During the month of July, Rosenberg Library exhibited a straw boater hat sold by Galveston retailers Baxter & Wilson during the early 20th century. The hat was donated to the Library by Mrs. W.B. Book.

A boater is a type of straw hat popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Boaters are made of stiff straw with a flat crown and brim and typically feature a grosgrain ribbon around the crown. Hats of this style were preferred by recreational sailors, hence the name “boaters.” The hats were worn by both men and women during the summer months as these were much cooler and lighter weight than felt hats.

Baxter & Wilson retail label inside hat.

Baxter & Wilson retail label inside hat.

Baxter & Wilson was a men’s clothing and hat shop established in Galveston in 1898. It was operated by Scottish immigrants Robert Baxter, John Wilson, and Stewart Parker Wilson. The firm was originally located at 2206 Market Street, but in 1934, the store moved to 2211 Market Street on the ground floor of the Trube Building.

In November 1945, a fire destroyed most of the historic Trube Building. Baxter & Wilson lost $15,000 worth of merchandise and suffered an additional $17,500 in structural damage. Other displaced tenants along the 2200 block of Market included Luby’s Cafeteria, Levin’s Army & Navy Store, Morris Photography Studio, and Henry’s Bookstore.

In January 1946, Baxter & Wilson advertised a “Fire Sale” from their temporary location at 2117 Strand and offered all remaining inventory at half price. The Trube Building was demolished in March 1946, and Baxter & Wilson ceased operations after nearly 50 years in the men’s clothing business.