Raymond Hudd (Huddlestun) was born Dec 19, 1924 in Custer, MI, Mason County, and died July 20, 2010, in Muskegon. MI. His parents were Glenn and Vilma Huddlestun. Glenn Sr passed away in 1981 but in 1972 compiled a family history which goes back before Norman the Great in England, of landed gentry. Later early ancestors, in the US, relocated primarily to VA, where there is a town named Huddlestun.
Raymond’s father had moved to Michigan as a child from IL. When he grew up he became a carpenter, and had a farm. Raymond loved to tell the story of his mother’s affection for violets. In spring, when the first of the violets appeared the children were then allowed to go barefoot outside. Vilma passed away in 1946, and of a total of five boys, Raymond focused upon helping his younger brothers, including Ivan. Raymond worked locally, at the Campbell Wyon Cannon Foundry after high school, but moved back to the farm when his mother passed away. The favorite pastime was listening to dance music broadcast from Chicago.
“In a 1988 interview with the Tribune, Mr. Hudd said his first creation was a mud-and-leaves hat for his two mules, Jack and Fanny. It took a while to train them to keep on their hats, but they finally caught on and wouldn’t leave the barn without them,” Mr Hudd said.”
“From barnyard mules, Mr. Hudd advanced to Gold Coast socialites. In 1948, he left Michigan to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After two years creating millinery displays for others, he opened a shop in 1950 and shortened his name to Hudd.”1.
This photo is dated 1950, the photo at top in undated but is likely at least 10 years later.
He had been working on State Street in large department store window display, and came to feel he could make hats at least as good as the ones he was featuring in the windows. His efforts began on a small scale.
Early Professional Years
Inspiration is part of success, and he looked to the works of others, having kept news clippings from as early as an eight page millinery section in the spring of 1949 of the Chicago Tribune. He acknowledged learning as he went along while buying supplies from Fox Millinery on Lake Street, an established wholesale supplier.
The only opening he had a pre-printed announcement paper for was the opening Aug 19, 1950, at 20 E. Chicago. Photos from his personal album from that day.
In 1962 he seems to have moved to 6 E. Division for a short time. Mid 1960’s he was at 22 Elm Street in Chicago. It is unclear when he opened at 40 Oak St, in what is still one of the toniest shopping blocks just west of the famed Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue. Some of the dating of his locations comes from a three inch binder of letters and notes from the comedian Phyllis Diller, including some sent to a box number at Merchandise Mart, tho nothing indicates he sold from there. During the mid to late 70s he sold wholesale at Charles Stevens, and Wieboldts, on State St, and Saks Fifth Avenue on Michigan Ave.
His last shop was opened in 1981 at 2545 N. Clark St, which closed in 2000. This was the only location he had a business card made for his use.
Advertising was not a big part of Raymond’s approach to finding customers. His papers had only one tiny undated newspaper ad from the Division location, tucked between two of his business cards. In one black on cream paper four page booklet Raymond created an invitation to a three day special event Nov 3-5. No year is given, but it is likely 1960s, at 40 E. Oak. His one room, one artist Little Gallery adjoining his millinery section featured Patricia Babcock from Miller, IN.
This booklet is the only indication of a store assistant, Mr. Del, whose last name remains a mystery. For almost all of his creations Raymond did it all. In the mid 2000’s I had the pleasure to meet one gentleman, Mr. Eugene Wright, who had sewn many a pearl on a hat design by Raymond.
He was an active retailer along with several who pushed to create the first Chicago Gold Coast art fair, an outdoor street experience which still continues, 60 years later.
“Seven times, he won the Easter bonnet contest at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, so many times, in fact, he was forbidden to enter an eighth time.”2. In the 1960s there was extensive newspaper coverage of social events of brunch and fashion shows with hat contests on Easter. There were years Raymond hats won at different events across the city. The Drake Hotel was literally down the block from his shop at the corner of Oak and Michigan Ave. Typically the prizes the hotel restaurants provided were modest, such as a cake or bottle of champagne. The news coverage was the icing on the cake for Raymond.
“One of his first high-profile customers was Lee Phillip Bell, a famous Chicago “weather girl” who wore a different hat every day to reflect the weather. All were designed by Hudd.”2. He rented the hats to the studio, and tho they were returned, it is unknown what became of them. Few would recall Lee’s weather girl days, but many are familiar with the TV creations of her and her husband. “After leaving her TV show, Bell joined her husband to co-create the popular CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless in 1973 and its sister show The Bold and the Beautiful in 1987.” 3.
Although hats were owned by Joan Crawford, it was Phyllis Diller, who topped over 500 hats.
“Among the more outrageous objects Mr. Hudd placed on his hats were a burlap sack of potatoes and shredded computer printouts used for the Oliver North 1987-News-in-Review hat.”4. Each year on New Year’s Day Raymond revealed a store window display with a hat inspired from news issues during the previous year. They were not intended for use, although on occasion a brave woman did add these to her wardrobe. They were intended to showcase his windows, and serve as Head Art. Even after his retirement and shop closing were announced in 2000, customers and passersby wrote him notes of appreciation for the eye catching windows, as that was the start of his 50+ year career.
Each hat had a label inside, increasing in size from a black ink rubber stamp in the early 50s to produced labels with his name. In the center of the hat crown he placed a violet, to honor his mother. From 1981 onward he included a hand printed number. It started with the initials of his brothers who had passed away, followed by a number to represent which hat it was of the year. It ended with an initial to represent the year. Thus GMB=527-M indicated his honoring his brothers, the five hundredth and twenty-seventhth hat of 1993. He had a less expensive line of hats called Huddettes for three years, 1958-60.
Photo of Raymond working on a buckram base typical of the Huddette style, and appears to likely be from that 1958 era:
In the 1960s color photos became popular and this 1968 one shows Raymond outside his shop, possibly beaming over the news coverage he posted in the window to draw more attention to the shop:
In 1968 Raymond mailed this flyer to his father Glenn in Muskegon, from the shop address of 22 E. Elm in Chicago:
The ongoing press coverage of events and awards added to a large pile of mementos of acknowledgement.
For a Chicagoan, the name Bill Kurtis is synonymous with TV. In 1969 he MC’d the Easter event at the Camellia Room at the Drake Hotel when Raymond had won for a creation of black edged white ruffle covered hat. This picture shows he wore a matching tie, gaining him his own personal attire award, for most unusual tie.
“And, yes, there was also that olive-size gallstone that Mr. Hudd had surgically removed and made into a hat. That cost me $10,000,” he said of his most expensive ornament, which was painted gold and dangled from a rhinestone-studded wire.”4. The $10K was the cost of his surgery for the gallstone removal. That hat is a part of the collection owned by his remaining brother, Ivan.
The gallstone hat, and many from his annual feature hats were part of an exhibit. In 2001, the Chicago History Museum honored Mr. Hudd with an exhibit called “Raymond Hudd — Hats Over the Edge.”
In 2005 an event was held to primarily honor Raymond by Chapeau: The Milliners Guild in Chicago. It was entitled “Falling Head First” and spanned three days of events at the Chicago Cultural Center, The Chicago Athletic Assoc, and the Fairmont Chicago.
Eia, of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago also established the ongoing Raymond Hudd Millinery Awards to help support aspiring careers of head wear students.
Although Raymond did not do much advertising, he did compile a small booklet of his favorite hat thoughts. The face page of the booklet of fifteen pages, 3″x4″, had a title: “What is a hat….? Some comments about hats….A hat is a flag…a shield…a bit of armor…a badge of femininity. ”
The stylized signature of his name was used in many ways, tho this is the only one where the end of the final letter d looks like thread through a needle.
“By the end of his career, Mr. Hudd estimated that he made 50,000 hats.”4
But what else is there to know about the man, besides making hats? He liked to draw his designs, and to photograph his store windows.
A set of pen drawings on linen stock 3×5 cards reveals dozens of designs. Some are labeled so one knows the year from his code used inside hats, one has the word
Special, which may have been a window piece or custom design. Others have no notation at all, making one wonder if they were ever created.
Raymond loved to write poetry, and explore the popular 1960s focus on extraterrestrial life. “Hudd had served as president of the Space Age Club of Chicago, which he founded in 1959.”5. “The Visitor” was one of his poems. Here are photos of two 1998 hats inspired by his ongoing space interests:
Raymond’s love of nature outpaced all others and that was likely a long held memory of his life on a farm in Michigan in the 1930s-1940s.
Some hats are still in closets, and some are in collections and museums, like the Chicago History Museum, Columbia College fashion collection, School of the Art Institute Fashion Resource Center, Wilmette Historical Society, and The Fashion History Museum of Cambridge, ONT, Canada.
The lack of photos of Raymond’s actual HATS is evident in this overview. More posts will follow to display a wide array of styles and the HEADLINER series.
Other posts on this blog with information about Raymond and his hats: