north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     In May 1795, Guilford County Quaker and haberdasher William Beard bequeathed to his son David “all the interests in his hatter’s trade, also the hatter’s tools.” The younger Beard, a farmer who owned land roughly a mile north of present-day Jamestown, subsequently opened a fairly successful hat shop on land purchased from Phineus Mendenhall.

     Near Beard’s home, a “commodious brick dwelling,” stood the brick shop, as well as nearly 25 vats for tanning the hides of cows for use in the hatmaking process, as well as storage areas for the furs and pelts of beavers and rabbits. With the assistance of his wife Rebecca, David Beard made a substantial fortune from the development and marketing of his hats, considered the finest made within the local Quaker communities.

     Beard’s success came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the War of 1812. Just prior to the declaration of war, the hatter had purchased a large stock of items from Philadelphia, banking that the increasing tensions between the two countries would result in trade embargoes and thus higher prices. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened. The resulting economic depression caused by the war sent prices crashing, making his new bought stock of supplies nearly worthless.

     Beard never recovered from the financial distress caused by the war. He continued making hats until his death in 1849, when the business passed to his apprentice and business partner, Isaac Lilly. Little is known of the business operation after 1850. Eventually the farm and shops were sold, and the buildings razed. Only two hats that can positively be identified as made by Beard are known to exist, one in the Guilford College Friends Collection and the other in private hands.


References:
Sallie W. Stockard, History of Guilford County, North Carolina (1902)Alexander R. Stoesen, Guilford County: A Brief History (1993)
High Point Enterprise, March 18, 1996
Greensboro Daily News, September 17, 1933
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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