By Dorothy Dean Holman
The Shoreliner Magazine, September 1951
ORISA POTTER looks over part of her collection of hat pins. Being one of those persons who dislikes wearing hats, she laughingly says, "Imagine having over 200 hat pins and only one hat." The statuette in the left foreground, the work of the famous sculptor, Cyrus Dallin, is another prized possession. [Photo by Dorothy Dean Holman]
The hat pin, which once adorned Milady's hat, and was her chief weapon of defense, is now a thing of the past, and an object only of the collector's search.
Orisa Potter of Hampton, New Hampshire is one such collector, and a most ardent one. She first became interested in collecting hat pins as a hobby about twelve years ago, when a close friend died, leaving three very old ones to her. Since that time her collection has increased to over two hundred.
The materials comprise gold, silver, pewter, mother-of-pearl and porcelain, as well as less precious metals. Genuine stones adorn some, while others are set with excellent imitations. Except for a few matched pairs no two are alike. They range in size from the smallest single-set opal about a quarter inch in diameter, to the oval hand-painted floral-on-porcelain, measuring one and a half by two inches, The longest, from the tip of its genuine amber head to the point reaches a good thirteen inches, while the shortest is a mere six.
The rhinestones perhaps, comprise the largest percentage of the collection, and tire of all imaginable shapes, some interspersed with colored stones, though many are of the brilliants alone. The largest one in this group contains two hundred and twenty-one stones by actual count.
Other groups are the jet and dull blacks, presumably worn by women in mourning, the gold and silver enamelled in bright colors, a golf club set, undoubtedly for sport wear, and an intricately caved metal group. Then there is the crystal group of prismatic design. some clear glass and others in colors, and the group of sterling silver, on which are carved heads of beautiful women.
One outstanding pin, and one of the original three, is fashioned of a real rose and preserved by bronzing. Another is a framed photograph of a young French woman, possibly Marie Antoinette, about the size of a five-cent 52 piece. It is encircled by French paste jewels which present different colors, depending on the angle from which they are viewed, in this respect resembling the alexandrite.
Asked which is her favorite, Miss Porter hesitates before replying that she guesses she hasn't any, that she likes them all.
It is difficult to tell which is the oldest, but Miss Potter, through a little research has established the dates of some of them. For instance, in the military group is one made from a button from an officer's coat worn in 1815, another from the uniform of a cavalry officer around 1870, and still another from a regular army uniform, year 1875. No doubt there are many which date further back than these, but definite dates have not yet been established.
Some of the pins are gifts from friends who know of her hobby, some come from auctions, and a great many she obtains from antique and curiosity shops in which she enjoys browsing around. One pin was picked up in a curio shop as far away as Wisconsin, another comes from Canada, but the farthest one has travelled, is from Paris, which a friend, Mrs. Herbert Gurney, brought to her. Mrs. Gurney was a widely known lecturer of Wollaston, and one time President of the Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs. The head of this pin is in the form of a little silver gargoyle about an inch long.
Besides her hat pins, 'Miss Potter collects old buttons, old-fashioned paper weights and buckles. Of the latter, she has some fifty or sixty, including one from a man's shoe when silver buckles were the fashion. But her main interest is her hat pin collection, and beside the thrill of a new "find" now and then, she also takes pleasure in showing them to any one as interested as she.
If the rumor is true that hat pins will again be in vogue, Miss Potter surely has a head start, -- a hat pin for any occasion, and a large and varied assortment from which to choose.