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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.

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.

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


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