Wearing Vintage Hats – Blowing the Lid off Katherine Newton





I first entered the millinery business in 1908 in Petrolia, Ontario when I purchased the business from Miss Laura Sharkey. The latest styles from the world’s fashion hot spots such as New York, Paris, Montreal and Vancouver were carried in my shop as well as my own designs.

On December 12, 1948 the following news item appeared in the Petrolia Advertiser-Topic about my business:                           

                                      Millinery Business To Open in Petrolia

Another new business will be open to the public in Petrolia on Saturday next when Miss Kate Newton, of town, opens the Newton Hat Shop in the former Pearson Block. The building has been completely renovated during the past few months with a new front and display windows and is a real improvement to the appearance of this part of the business section. Miss Newton formerly conducted a hat shop in the Parkinson Block here but for several years has operated a store at Sarnia. Being the only store that deals exclusively in ladies’ millinery the venture should be a success in the capable hands of Miss Newton


I owned and operated a hat shop at a time when few other women were in business for themselves. Ultimately, I chose not to marry and lived at 4227 Henry Street in Petrolia for my entire life. I spent my non-working hours caring for my older brother, Roy, sister Ethel, and my mother. It was said that I was a quiet, caring, women who, like my mother, was an active member of the Crescent Circle of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church where I also taught Sunday School.





After my death in 1968, my home and its contents went on the auction block. Left in the attic were more than 500 hats left over from my former millinery stores, most of which were from the 1920s through to the 1940s. Many were Parisian imports with the original prices tags still on them. Their historical significance was not recognized by most at the time, but the late George Smith, a well-known local historian from Sarnia purchased the entire lot and rescued vintage history.

In the 1990s, that entire collection of hats was acquired by the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec and became the center-piece of an extensive exhibit titled “Hold Onto Your Hats.” My story also became the central focus of a thesis written by curator Tina Bates which examined the cultural history of hats and the millinery trade in Ontario.


On May 25, 1968 my life ended at the age of 85 following a lengthy illness and I was interred in the family plot at Hillsdale Cemetery in Petrolia.  I  really enjoyed my life with hats and have no regrets as any place that I hung my hat was home.

Katherine Newton



Author's note: 

Katherine Newton's only surviving relative is a niece, Hughena, the daughter of her older brother Daniel. Her parents, both of her brothers, and her sister predeceased her.





 Thanks to Jennifer Fenwick Irwin


 Don't Forget!!




Blowing the Lid of Vintage Hats series


Wearing Vintage Hats-- Vintage Hats and Bertha Schwerdtfeger's Brim...



Carleton Place Canadian Stories from the Past


Christmas in the 1940's-- The Popularity Contest


Memories of 1950-Christmas and Marilyn Monroe.


You can also read the story in the The Canadian Gazette/Inside Otta...


Hallelujah and a Haircut


12 Days of Gossip

Local Stories

Beer, Newspapers, and Ice Fishing – Canadian League of Legends



Stories About St. James:


The Old Church Hall


Does What Happens in the Church Pews Really Stay in the Church Pews?




Read Linda's latest column in theHumm


Linda Seccaspina was born about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7. After she wrote her own obituary in 2010 when Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died, people told her she should think about a career in writing obituaries.


Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac in Ottawa. The Ottawa Citizen newspaper labeled her "The Maiden of Death" even though they had no clue why and she has had to deal with the rumours for years.


Linda has published three books and blogs most days on Zoomers Canada. She has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she has already published her obituary, most people assume she's already dead.


Books by Linda Seccaspina available on Amazon or at Read's Books 135 Bridge St  Carleton Place, ON   K7C 2V6 

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Comment by Linda Seccaspina on January 13, 2014 at 7:43am

I know... I still love hats

Comment by Shelley Smith on January 12, 2014 at 8:59pm

Hey Linda. Great piece of history on the vintage hats. Too bad Canada doesn't have the enthusiasm for hats that the British still have. 


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