Pardon Mawney Whipple’s Cocked Hat
This cocked hat was worn by Pardon Mawney Whipple after his promotion to lieutenant in 1820. At that time, the hat was resplendent with a binding of gold lace and a knap of shiny silk. Stripped of its decoration and worn thin over time, the hat remains a relic of a U.S. Navy officer who witnessed his fair share of sea fights and stormy weather.
Whipple received his midshipman’s warrant in 1812, and the following year was ordered to USS Constitution. In a letter to a friend, he expressed his joy at the appointment: “After having been kept so long in suspense, it is like emancipation from slavery to have my name enrolled on the list of this gallant crew and be permitted to serve my country in a ship which has already so eminently distinguished herself as Old Ironsides.” He served with honor during the rest of the War of 1812 and saw action during Constitution’s battle with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant in 1815. Deeply affected by the scenes of gore on the defeated ships, he recalled that “it was a long time before I could familiarize myself to these and if possible more horrid scenes that I had witnessed.”
Whipple’s career did not end with the coming of peace. After the war, he sailed for the Mediterranean, where he distinguished himself by saving a handful of drowning sailors, and later served in the West Indies. The rigors of active duty weakened his body, though, and he succumbed to tuberculosis in May 1827. He was barely 37 years old.
The hat’s journey did not end with Whipple’s death. In his will, Whipple bequeathed all his “wearing apparel” to his brother-in-law, but it is possible that his married sister, Susan Beverly, kept the hat as a memorial token of her departed brother. In 1935, Walter Beverly, Whipple’s grandnephew, donated the hat to the McLean County Historical Society in Illinois. The USS Constitution Museum acquired it in 2005.