Sunday, 25 March 2012

Thousand Dollar Chinchilla Hat

Thousand Dollar Chinchilla Hat
By Dorothy Verrill
The Hartford Courant; Jan 8, 1950; pg. SM14

California is fortunate in many respects, among them the fact that its efficient Governor, Earl Warren, has an extraordinarily pretty wife, who is not only a charming and attractive person face-to-face, but very easy on a camera lens, despite the fact that she has raised a large family and is twice a grandmother. Other interesting and unique aspects of California's advantages over other states include the scope of its successful crops, which range from fish to furs, from palms to potatoes, from movies to minerals and from chickens to chinchillas. As a matter of rather surprising fact, the balmy climate of Southern California yields a bumper crop of luxuriously furred creatures, including not only mink in all its mutations, but the precious fur of the Peruvian chinchillas, transplanted from the lofty altitudes of their native Andes to the wide open spaces of Gardena, outside of Los Angeles, and doing so well, under modern scientific care, that the tiny animals, once faced with extinction, now yield enough peltry to make chinchilla again available as a fashion item.
At Gardena a group of fur farmers, pooling their resources and know-how under the name of the Allied Distributors, have what they consider the largest fur farm in the world, devoted exclusively to mutation and ranch minks and the fabulous chinchillas. Their ranch covers 10 acres and is as spic and span as a New England kitchen, each little cage of fur yielding animals tended as carefully as a millionaire's child, and each creature given the utmost in modern scientific diet and other treatments calculated to promote rich, beautifully colored and lustrous pelts of the most luxurious type. There are literally thousands of these pampered creatures at Gardena, but the chinchillas are the acknowledged aristocrats of the ranch, the leaders and the pride of their owners. Consequently it was the fur of chinchillas that the fur farmers chose as a Christmas gift to the beautiful Mrs. Warren, and after selecting their prize skins, carefully matched by their own expert, Andre de Vajda of Beverly Hills, (who has been furrier to European royalty and knows what chinchillas should be) the "chinchilla men" of Allied Distributors commissioned Keneth Hopkins of Beverly Hills to design a hat for Mrs. Warren, using their furs.
Keneth Hopkins, famous California millinery stylist had never made a hat for Mrs. Warren before, although his clients include top movie, radio and theater stars as well as Los Angeles society, but he studied portraits of Mrs. Warren and the current Christmas card sent out by the Governor and his family, which shows the entire group and their pets, beautifully drawn by the eldest son, and depicting Mrs. Warren in a fur hat —purely imaginary. Mr. Hopkins then went to work, and designed a modified chechia, to be worn, side tilted in profile style, its brim entirely of the silvers-gray chinchillas, a crown of gray velvet, and for adornment a great cluster of crimson roses with rich green foliage, posed to fall against the cheek. The roses were suggested by the fact that the chinchilla farmers, in sending their Christmas gift to the First Lady of California, expressed the hope that she would wear it to the Tournament of Roses at Pasadena “and on many other occasions in a Happy New Year”. Roses also, combined with chinchilla, typify the varied crops of California. The hat reached Mrs. Warren by air and special messenger on Christmas day—she tried it on and found it completely becoming, wondered how Keneth Hopkins had done it without seeing her, decided to wear it to the Rose Bowl festivities with a black costume and short black Persian lamb coat. The hat is valued at $1000, for a chinchilla coat costs close to $100,000 still. It is one gift that had no duplicate in any stocking or under any tree this holiday season.

1 comment:

Murray Hill Vets said...

Great blog, informative and up to date. Bookmarking your page. Thanks and more power!

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.