Roots Down, Branches Out

Hats off to John B. Stetson!

Born on this day in 1830 as the seventh of twelve children of Stephen Stetson in New Jersey, John trained as a hatter with his father until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in his twenties and advised that he did not have long to live. He promptly decided to stop making hats and explore the American West, as he might otherwise never get to see it. John eventually settled 1200 miles away in the trading post of St Joseph, Missouri. After a while he decided to embark upon a challenging expedition of another 600 miles to Pike’s Peak, one of the highest mountains in Colorado. When his party was unable to find adequate shelter during the journey, John managed to fashion a waterproof felt tent created mainly out of fur shavings from rabbits, coyote and beavers. Using the same felting techniques, he then made himself a hat for protection against the elements, with a tall crown for insulation and a broad brim to keep off the sun and the rain – and thus the Stetson was born. John’s health was vastly improved after a year in Pike’s Peak, so in 1865 he returned east and founded a hatmaking company in Philadelphia, selling hats to cowboys and other western settlers, who immediately realised that the Stetson was far more practical than their usual flimsy straw hats or flea-infested raccoon-skin caps. Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley and the Lone Ranger all wore Stetsons. The new cowboy hat was light, durable and waterproof: the crown could even serve as a water bucket. John also specified that each hat would contain a small decorative bow in the lining, as a memorial to the many early hatters who died or developed brain damage from the toxic mercury previously used in treating felt (hence the expression “mad as a hatter”). John Stetson, a Baptist, was no one-track businessman: as his company grew, he encouraged a stable, healthy workforce by building them homes, schools, a park and a hospital. He sponsored universities, co-founded the YMCA in Philadelphia and helped set up soup kitchens and homeless shelters, which are still running today. He survived his initial dire prognosis to make a lasting and positive contribution not only to his 5,000 employees, but also to heads all over the world, before he died aged 75 in 1906. So yes indeed, raise your hat to John B. Stetson – and also to this week’s news from Christ Church!
** 9am and 6.30pm: Holy Communion
** 11am: All-age family worship

** Saturday, May 14, 9.30-11am: Prayer walk around Highbury, bookended by coffee. Meet in the Fellowship Room, then head off at 10, walking for an hour, praying for local concerns as you go. Sign-up sheet at the welcome desk, or just drop in.
** Saturday, May 14, 7.30pm: Fundraising Auction for the Spire project. Tickets at the welcome desk for £7/£3 conc, includes meal and guaranteed good fun!
** Monday, May 16, 7.15pm: Listening and Storytelling Workshop, to help us share our stories and listen to others. See Sam Yung for details.
** Saturday, May 21: Quiet day at St Saviour’s Priory; sign up at the welcome desk.
** Saturday, June 4, 7.30pm: Peacebuilding and Bach. The brilliant Rev Donald Reeves will talk about his experiences as a peacebuilder in Serbia and Kosovo, interspersed with some organ pieces by Bach which have sustained him during his exhausting efforts. Free; retiring collection for his work. “Inspired and inspiring – true food for the soul.” See Janet for further details.
** June is Credit Union Month. Details in the noticesheet, or see Sam Yung for more information.
** Non-perishable or cash donations for Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants always welcome: see Christine O’Brien.