[KS] Percival Lowell

Robert M Oppenheim rmo at austin.utexas.edu
Thu Apr 16 10:26:49 EDT 2015

Dear Hyung, all,

Hats were also an obsession of the first U.S. National Museum (Smithsonian) exhibition of Korean items, which was up by 1889 and possibly before based on Bernadou's, Jouy's, and possibly Allen's materials.  Indeed Otis Mason, the main curator, quipped to a reporter that "Korea is the land of hats."  Probably the ultimate source of both the trope and the obsession - or at least this is my guess - is in fact Lowell.  Lowell's book and Bernadou's collection basically arrive at the USNM at the same moment and, on Mason's part, there is this dynamic where Bernadou's materials both act as material confirmation of what Lowell had said and overcome Lowell's purplish prose and flights of fancy.  Still, the short answer is even the "professionals" of the era had more time for Lowell than one might expect, given their otherwise materialist/empiricist bent.

And yes, then later there is Fo(r)ster Jenings.  Jenings got a lot of help from So Kwangbom, who had remained a "friend of the museum" from his first sojourn in DC in exile in the late 1880s (So, So Chaep'il, and Pyon Su all assisted Mason and Walter Hough, and it seems clear that So Kwangbom was the most closely associated) through his return in 1896.  No idea if So had a hat thing too.


From: Koreanstudies <koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com> on behalf of Frank Hoffmann <hoffmann at koreanstudies.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2015 12:37 AM
To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
Subject: Re: [KS] Percival Lowell

Dear Hyung Il, and All:

Well,Lowell does not even touch that question, and that would have been
a little too much to expect, given there are not even any new Korean
studies touching this in depth (at least not that I know of). That was
rather thought to be a serious question. ... So, let me explain.

Chapters on Korean hats can be found in many of these early Western
travelogues on Korea. Lowell's might indeed be the first one, not sure,
but it is certainly not a very analytic description -- rather
Bostonian, with some supplementary Latin names for Korean hats,
references to Europeans -- even an sarcastic hint to Hegel ("Professor
Teufelsdruck of Weissnichtwo"), and some stilted but forced elegance
that his middle-class readership could enjoy. What I found interesting
is his description of the military hat shop (pp. 342-343), emphasizing
the colorfulness of the hats there, and other details. All those early
descriptions spend 90% of their ink to describe man's wear -- women's
dresses did not impress anyone really. Once you look at the detailed
and colored sketches many travelers, hoppy artists, and early
ethnologists produced you will understand why so: men were just soooo
much better dressed than women! And here especially the military
officers with their colorful cloth, with so much ornamental detail --
more as if they came from the court of Louis XIV; this was not to be
found in woman's cloth, and while the Confucian scholars kept it to
Lutheran monotonism.

Regardless, the most detailed report about Korean hats from that early
period, although not as early as Lowell's, is probably Foster H.
Jenings illustrated essay from 1904, published by the Smithsonian. I
uploaded a copy for you (will be deleted in a week or so):

Back to my question, and why that was meant to be a serious one: when
and if we would have a BETTER, a precise, DETAILED understanding of the
different Korean hat forms, the shapes, etc., at different periods
(such as the issue of the mentioned complete transparency of the hats
in that photo), then that will make it possible to use that knowledge
as social archaeology of sorts, especially with images of the late
Chosŏn period. Interpretations could then be far more concrete when it
comes to the interpretation of WHAT exactly we see, what classes, what
CHANGES in class mobility did occur, what modernizations happened and
how did these relate to class, how did fashion relate to a changing
economic and political situation, etc. (not in every case, of course,
but often). ... I asked this before, of course.


Frank Hoffmann

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