Born near the seaside of Providence, Rhode Island in 1786, Betsey became fascinated with the straw hat after seeing an expensive English straw bonnet in a shop window. Although Betsey lived well as the daughter of town solicitor Joel Metcalf, she could not afford the bonnet. She recreated one for herself in 1798, using simple tools and straw from the family barn. Betsey designed and executed her straw hat so successfully that other people began requesting bonnets, too. She shared her new talent with her family and friends at her school, Day’s Academy. Betsey’s new hat style had great commercial appeal because it could be easily manufactured at very little cost.
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