Submitted by jays on 28 January 2014 - 2:07pm

Along with the cat-o’-nine tails and leg irons, the leather convict cap is one of the most recognizable symbols of convictism in Australia. Folded double and secured into position with tied tapes near the base, the cap had a brim on either side that could be turned down to protect the wearer from both sun and rain. But it didn’t always meet with convict approval. in 1819 Major George Druitt of the 48th Regiment of Foot told Commissioner John Thomas Bigge that they were ‘quite useless, and afford no protection to the head from the sun’. Convicts were said to prefer woollen caps in winter and broad brimmed straw hats in summer and resorted to stealing them when they could not be acquired by other means. Hat theft came with harsh consequences: in 1833 Irishman Robert Reilly received a flogging of 25 lashes at Hyde Park Barracks for stealing a hat from another prisoner; Yorkshireman John Harty received 6 months in leg irons for the same crime. Despite being impractical and unpopular, the leather caps remained part of the convict uniform at least into the 1850s.

Photograph: Paolo Busato, 2007
Cap Cap Cap Cap
Portrait
Hyde Park Barracks
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HPB2007/9