I was never a total fan of DEATH VALLEY DAYS, most of which episodes were on television in the period when I was growing up. By the time of this episode in 1962 I was eight, and I watched it for a reason unconnected to liking westerns. The star of the episode was Alan Young, the comedian who was currently appearing on television as "Wilbur Post" on MR. ED. Here he was playing the central figure of a biographical episode, Mr. John Stetson. He does a good job, assisted by Lee Van Cleef.
The name is familiar to this day. Stetson was an easterner involved in the fur and pelt trade, who went to Colorado for his health. He had a lung problem, and was told the climate out west would help him out. The episode told how the tenderfoot was trying to find what he could do in the west, and accidentally stumbled into wealth and immortality. He knew (from his work as a furrier) how to make a hat. Usually a complex series of steps requiring various metal blocking devices are required. Stetson figured out a way of speeding it out and making the crown of the cowboy hat far more soft and flexible than the corresponding crowns in "civilized" area hats. We see him demonstrate to the cowboy who is with him (Lee Van Cleef) what can be done for a quick, useful, range hat. And he is soon convinced to make other cowboys similar hats. And the rest is history. To this day, ask for the name associated with hats, and "Stetson" comes up. Of course the firm eventually went into other styles of hats as well, but the romance of the name in hat lore remains what the old prospector says at the end - that a cowboy is known by his "Stetson" hat.
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