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Boss of the Plains


     In the 1840s, John Stetson was a hat maker.  His family had been making hats for years.  John lived in New Jersey.  He dreamed of going west.  The life in the West seemed exciting to him. 


    One day, he did go west.  He went across the country with a group of 

people.  They went to Colorado and looked for gold.  Life was not 

easy.  John decided to make a new hat.  He needed a new hat because 

he wanted protection from the weather. 


    The new hat he made was very big and had a large brim.  This hat 

protected him from the sun and the rain.  Some people laughed at 

John’s hat.  But one day, a man came up to John and said he wanted to 

buy John’s hat.  He paid a lot of money for it. 


    John didn’t have any luck looking for gold.  So he went back East.  

He started to make hats again.  He decided to make a lot of big hats like 

the one he had made out West.  He would send them west and see if 

people would buy them.  He called his hat the “Boss of the Plains.” 


    People didn’t buy his hat at first.  But then, everyone bought the hats 

and John had to make many more.  Soon, everyone in the West was 

wearing John’s hat.  It was the perfect hat for them.



A true story of the life of a real person.

Think About the Selection

1.  How did John Stetson's poor health change his life?

2.  What character traits made John Stetson a good inventor?  What made him a good businessman?  Give examples.

3.  What were some of john Stetson's failures?  What do you think he learned from them?

4.  Why do you think john Stetson named his hat Boss of the Plains?  What would you have named it?

5.  The boss of the Plains hat is still being made today.  Why do you think it was a success in the Old West?  Why do you think it's still popular?

6.  John Stetson and Tomas Rivera used their imaginations in different ways.  How is imagination important to each of them?


Stetson History

In Search of the Real Cowboy Hat

How Felt Hats are Made


Write an Advertisement

What made Westerners of the 1860s want to buy the Boss of the Plains hat?  Create an advertisement for the hat.  Describe it and tell why it is the best in the West.  Use illustrations to help make the sale.


Make a Mineral Chart

When John Stetson went west, he hoped to strike it rich mining for gold.  There are many other valuable minerals that can be found underground.  Make a chart of the minerals gold, silver, copper, and diamonds.  Use a dictionary ore the encyclopedia to find information about them.  Create a chart that has the following column headings; Mineral, Physical Properties, Where Found, Uses.  Name the rows; gold, silver, copper, diamonds.  Fill in the details.

Comprehension Strategy


Rags to Riches Game

Comprehension Skill

Making Generalizations

Making a generalization involves stating something that is true most of the time, such as, "I usually run faster than my brother."  A generalization is based on facts or supporting details that can be verified.