The top-most photo was taken during
a matinee of Lover's Lane at McVicker's
theater in Chicago on a hot summer day in July,
1901. Looking out at the Iroquois Theater audience
in December, 1903 would have been similar in that it
was also comprised of a high proportion of women,
but winter clothing would have been darker and there
would have been an abundance of children.
Ladies wearing hats
in the theater had become taboo during the late
1890s. In Chicago, the trend was helped along
by Iroquois theater manager Will J. Davis. In 1893,
with help from The Chicago Daily Tribune, who
gave Will's pet peeve seventy column inches and ten line
illustrations, Davis made hat-elimination in theaters a
personal goal. Too bad he wasn't equally
passionate about public safety.
Some women may have
left their hats at home, others held them in their
laps but theaters were expected to
maintain the space, shelves and employees to check a
great many hats.
Assuming a single cubic foot of space for each hat
-- a modest assumption considering the size of some
of those feathered creations, and top hats for the
gents -- hat handling required a
serious commitment by theaters.