Plume hunters decimated bird populations not only in the United States but overseas as well. This satin hat, from about 1910, sports a greater bird of paradise from Papua New Guinea.
Large Black Plush Hat with Bird of Paradise, ca. 1900. Photograph by Cary Horton, 2004. Missouri History Museum, Museum Collections. Acc.# 1953 077 0001. N28866. Photograph © 2004, Missouri History Museum.
Published in the Syracuse, NY daily journal, 1898.
The Pennsylvania Audubon society for the Protection of Birds has just held,
in Philadelphia, an exhibition of bonnets which were trimmed without
the use of birds' plumage. The Philadelphia Record,which says that
the bonnets were very beautiful, calls them Audubonnets.
Women's hats of the late 1800s and early 1900's were decorated with not just feathers of birds, but often the entire bird was used and mounted on wires to make it move in a 'natural way'. It was an important fashion and social status symbol, not taking into account the destruction of wildlife.
Naturally, (and thankfully) Theodore Roosevelt was a great proponent of wildlife conservation. Along with the Audubon Society, he realized they needed to set limits in order to protect rapidly disappearing wildlife. They pushed for hunting regulations and established conservation groups to protect habitat. He was the backbone of the National Wildlife Conservation Model in the USA.
And good thing too. This resulted in the realization that wildlife was not needed for fashion. Many of us can get a little squeamish while looking at the above photos. Those are real, dead, stuffed birds. Not something we would value today. As well as knowing this is unethical, we have chosen alternatives to using living things for vanity. Feathers are still used today in millinery practice, but the animals are not killed for their plumes.
I would rather wear these 'Audubonnets', thank you.