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

Read more here CLICK


Advertisement for the Newton Hat Shop.

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.


Sorry this is long overdue. Went to kates auction 1968. Boughtv a vase but my cat knocked over and broke it, l was told george smith sold hats to someone else.

I enjoyed the story about Kate Newton. She was my mothers cousin.Florence Chambers Young. Her mother was Kathrine Willhemina Georgina (Morrison) Chambers.Kate Newtons mother Annie (Morrison)Newton.There is a grandaughter that Kate bought first store from – Her name was Sharkey she married Dan Newton, and had 1 child. Huwena. Huwena married a Howlett. They had looks like 5 children.one of which is Roberta Howlett that is doing geneology. I try to do a little too.but will be 89yrs this Sept. so i am a little pokey.I remember 👍



Blowing the Lid of Vintage Hats series

Hat LoreTreasure in the Attic: Miss Newton’s Hat Shop
Woman’s Cloche
From Miss Newton’s Hat Shop

Petrolia, Ontario
late 1920s
CMC D-6876
Miss Katherine Newton created hats for the women of Sarnia and Petrolia, Ontario for over thirty years, starting around 1915. In her shops, Miss Newton herself would cut and sew, steam and shape, trim and decorate ladies’ hats, as well as importing the latest ready-made fashions from Toronto and New York.When Miss Newton died in 1968 at the age of 85, a cache of some 500 hats was discovered in the attic of her home in Petrolia. This was old stock from her store, and some of the hats still had their price tags. The Canadian Museum of Civilization purchased these hats, the majority of which date from the 1920s. This extensive collection provides important information about the millinery trade in Ontario, as well as a visual and tactile impression of the kinds of hats that were popular in Ontario in the first half of this century.

Throughout Lambton County’s history some businesses have ignited the public imagination and left an interesting legacy. The Newton Hat Shop is one example, a local business first established in Sarnia and eventually moved to Petrolia, owned by Katherine N. Newton. The Lambton Room is fortunate to have some interesting documentation from Newton’s business.

Newton was a milliner (maker or seller of hats) who opened her first shop in Petrolia in 1918 and continued in business for over thirty years. She created and decorated her own hats but also ordered the latest hat fashions from hotspots like Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Paris. Newton operated two different hat shops, one in Sarnia and one in Petrolia. A newspaper advertisement in the Sarnia Canadian Observer announced the arrival of a store on March 14, 1919 at 129 Front Street (see scan from paper). The stores have been referred to variably as “The Newton Hat Shop” and “Miss Newton’s Hat Shop.” By 1946 the Sarnia location had closed and the Petrolia location was changing locations again, as announced in the Petrolia Advertiser-Topic on December 12: “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.” Read More here.. CLICK

Round crown Spanish boneto click

Blowing the Lid of Vintage Hats series:

Bertha Schwerdtfeger — Mother of the Carleton Place Schwerdtfeger Sisters

Mad as a Hatter — Wearing Vintage Hats

Hats, Ogilvy’s and Gaudy Teenage Years — Noreen Tyers

Local Women Wearing Hats– Photos Chica Boom Chica Boom

Mad For Hats!! Doris Blackburn’s Hat

Millinery 1909 — The Merry Widow The Mushroom

Effie McCallum —– Missing Milliner

Mrs. James Prentice Hatmaker Milliner of Lanark

Miss Clement’s Hat Studio Almonte

Mrs. James Prentice Hatmaker Milliner of Lanark

How Miss Miller the Milliner on Bridge Street Turned into a Stanzel Story

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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