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The Pressman's Hat

In newspaper print shops around the United States, workers commonly wore paper hats throughout the work day. Pressmen, the operators responsible for maintaining and monitoring the giant printing machines, used these hats to protect themselves from the dust, grease, and ink of the Press Room.

Below, retired Deaf printer, Dick Moore explains the use of hats at The Washington Post.

Video Time: 31 seconds. Click to enable captions. Transcription below and here

Now, us pressmen always made these hats and wore them at work. When the presses were running with paper, it rolled across the workspace, overhead, passing over multiple ink rollers, which dripped down on us, and newspaper dust flew around on us, getting us dirty. After a full day of work, you could pull the hat off and just throw it away. The next day, you'd do the same again. Make another hat to wear while working. That's what you did everyday.

At the beginning of each shift, the workers in the Press Room carefully folded and fitted a newspaper hat to their heads. As they worked under and around the presses, often replacing paper and ink or aligning and repairing the machines, the hat covered their heads. If the hat was damaged or dirty during the work day, it was easily discarded and remade. At the end of the work day, pressmen would dispose of these hats and begin the next shift with a newly folded hat.

The Press Room

A color photograph of a large room with several large, red machines lined up along the side. Each machine has a panel of buttons along with a massive roll of paper being fed into the topmost part of the machine.

At the last stage of the printing process, the various components of the paper come together in the Press Room. In this room, large printing presses process the print and create the newspaper pages. In these machines, heavy reels of paper are drawn across inked aluminum plates, which transfer the text and images to the paper and create thousands of pages of newspaper. A pressman maintains the press and checks printed pages for alignment and clarity of ink.

A Pressman's Hat

A photograph of a hat made of folded newspaper. The cap has a square top and slightly rounded, folded band.

A pressman's hat made from the front page of the Washington Post newspaper. These were used as protection for workers in the pressroom, shielding their heads from the ink and dust which fell from the presses overhead. Pressman's hats were temporary and discarded by workers at the end of their shifts each day.

How to Make a Pressman's Hat:

Below, Moore gives instructions in American Sign Language on the process of folding and wearing a printers hat.

Video Time: 3:21. Click to enable captions. Transcription below and here

I'm Dick Moore. I used to work for The Washington Post as a printer. Now, I want to show you a Pressman's hat. I will make a hat, here. Take one sheet, on the backside. Ready, fold in the corners. Then fold up the bottom forming a band to hold it together. After you finish the band, now you turn it over. After you fold over the top and the sides, now, you'll fold the band to hold it. Be sure to fold that in tightly to hold it well. When you fold that, you tuck it into the band.

The Washington Post also distributed paper instructions on the creation of Pressman's Hats. See an example below:

A pamphlet with line drawings and diagrams giving the multiple steps required to fold a newspaper sheet into a hat.

The pamphlet reads: How to Make a Pressman's Hat
It's Easy! Just Follow My Directions
First... we lay a four-page section of your daily newspaper down with fold at the top.
2. Locate the centerline and fold top left corner down to it.
3. Do the same with the right top corner.
4. Fold up edge of top sheet to base of triangle and crease.
5. now fold up again to form hat band and turn hat over.
6. fold right edge 1/2 inch past centerline for average head size. For larger size only 1/4 inch over or to the line. Fold the left side in the same manner to the right edge.
7. Fold lower right and left corners to the bottom of your hat band.
8. Fold entire lower flap above hat band.
9. Now fold top of flap down and tuck into hat band.
10. Fold the peak down to the bottom of hat band and tuck under the band.
11. Pick up the hat. Open wide and flatten out the top, fold the peaks down to bottom of hat, crease top edge and tuck ends into band.
.... And there you have a genuine pressman's hat! Learn more about this item here.