How Tall Was Abraham Lincoln’s Hat?

The president’s most recognizable accessory: How tall was Abraham Lincoln’s signature hat?

How tall was Abraham Lincoln’s hat? The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is remembered for many things, including his towering top hat, his role in maintaining the Union, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was often photographed wearing this distinctive stovepipe hat, which has come to symbolize him and his legacy. However, how tall was Lincoln’s hat, exactly? There has been a lot of discussion and guesswork about this, with most historians estimating the hat’s height as 7 or 8 inches (18 or 20.3 cm). Let’s take a look at Lincoln’s hat in all its physical glory, compare the many sizes that have been given, and settle the debate once and for all.

The Height of Lincoln’s Hat

How Tall Was Abraham Lincoln’s Hat

Until his death in 1865, Lincoln wore a big top hat that became instantly recognizable by everyone else. The tall top hats were invented at the end of the 1700s, and in the middle of the 1800s, they became so tall that they were called “stovepipe hats. Top hats of the past were originally fashioned from felted fur. Next, a fur-like silk fabric was utilized, and this was bonded to a cardboard hat form. On April 14th, 1865, he wore it for the final time on the way to Ford’s Theatre.

While no one knows for certain, Lincoln’s hat is said to have been around 7 inches in height (18 cm). This can be confirmed using historical records and photographs taken at the time. One of Lincoln’s hats, likewise 7 inches in height, is said to be on display in the National Museum of American History. Lincoln purchased this silk stovepipe from J. Y. Davis, a hat maker in Washington.

This is one of Abraham Lincoln's many top hats, all measuring 7 to 8 inches tall.
This is one of Abraham Lincoln’s many top hats, all measuring 7 to 8 inches tall. Smithsonian Institution.

The only recorded measurement of Lincoln’s original top hat was a head circumference of 7-1/8 or 57 centimeters. Lincoln wore a black silk top hat with stiffened felt, beaver fur, and a wide brim. When worn, the hat always leaned vertically, giving Abraham Lincoln an even more elongated profile.

The standard top hat height during the Victorian period (1837–1901) was 6.3–6.7 inches (16–17 cm). This era corresponds with Lincoln’s 7-inch-tall hat. In fact, wearing seven or even eight-inch-tall hats was the norm at the beginning of the 19th century. So, Lincoln’s tall hat was not that extraordinary. The top hat’s crown was expanded in about 1890 to provide a more elegant and fitted appearance. By the 1920s, the top hat’s height had been lowered to 4.7–5.0 inches (12–13 cm).

Why Did Lincoln Wear a Tall Top Hat?

The towering top hat Abraham Lincoln wore was more than simply a fashion statement. Ironically, the height of the hat made Lincoln, who stood at 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm), seem even taller. Lincoln’s 7-inch-tall hat helped portray an image of confidence and strength in a period when height was still considered a symbol of power and authority.

abraham lincoln with hat

Abraham Lincoln’s tall top hat served more than just aesthetic or functional objectives. Lincoln’s preference for the tall hat, which was often worn by abolitionists, could be seen as a sign of his dedication to the abolitionist cause. Lincoln’s tall hat was also a mark of his place in the growing 19th-century middle class, since wearing tall hats was a common accessory at the time.

How Tall Was Abraham Lincoln With His Hat?

Abraham Lincoln was already tall at 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) without his hat, and he appeared even taller with the height of his 7-inch-tall stovepipe hat. With the hat, his overall height was 6 feet 11 inches (211 cm), which means he was almost 7 feet tall!

When Did Lincoln Begin to Wear Top Hats?

The origins of Lincoln’s affinity for top hats remain a mystery. It is believed that during his early days in politics, he simply favored the style without any specific motivation. The trend persisted well after his passing. Lincoln had a preference for top hats that appeared well-worn rather than pristine. However, the height of his hat always made him stand out and appear taller than those around him.

The Risk of Wearing a Tall Hat

Lincoln’s tall stovepipe hats made him easily recognizable and a target for assassins. In 1864, while on horseback to a summer cottage (“Soldiers’ Home”) a few miles from the White House, a sniper shot at him and hit his hat, piercing through the crown. People believed that the hat saved Lincoln’s life.

Because of his towering stovepipe, Lincoln was once again in danger of being murdered: In July 1864, when surveying Union lines, Lincoln was a prime target for Confederate fire during the Battle of Fort Stevens because of the hat he was wearing. “Get down, you damn fool!” captain Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., yelled as he pulled Lincoln to safety.

Since the death of his son, Willie, Lincoln had also added a black mourning band to his hats. Though the hat was said to have saved his life, it was again with him during his tragic end, as he wore it the night of his assassination. Abraham Lincoln remains the only president closely associated with a specific item of clothing.

In conclusion, most historians agree that Abraham Lincoln’s top hat was around 7 inches (18 cm) in height. The hat’s functional aim was to make Lincoln seem taller, but it also had a deeper symbolic meaning. Lincoln’s tall hat remained one of his most recognizable and memorable features.

By Bertie Atkinson

Bertie Atkinson is a history writer at Malevus. He writes about diverse subjects in history, from ancient civilizations to world wars. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.