The cabbage tree hat is characteristic of Australian men's fashion in the nineteenth century. Woven from the fibre of the native cabbage tree palm (Livistona australis), the hats are historically significant as an early example of Australian dress made entirely from Australian materials. Furthemore, the date and origin of this hat are documented given that it was one of the museum's earliest purchases.
Cabbage tree fibre is produced by weaving the fronds of the cabbage tree palm instead of straw, it is typical of those made and worn by early settlers in Australia during the nineteenth century. At this time colonists adapted the farming, building and manufacturing techniques learnt in Europe to local materials and conditions. To manufacture even simple products, substitute materials and new fabrication processes had to be devised. Lime, for example, was needed for building with mortar. It came from oyster shells collected from local beaches. Burned to produce a low-grade lime, the oyster shells were used until good quality limestone was found some time later. Also, a substantial leather goods industry only became possible after the introduction of a new process for extracting wattle bark the tannin needed for leather tanning.
Renew, Robert, "Making it: innovation and success in Australia's industries", Powerhouse Publishing, 1993