Although the campaign hat is occasionally referred to as a Stetson, this is from its common manufacture in the late 19th century by that company. It should not be confused with the quite different Stetson hat type with a different brim and crease, commonly known as the cowboy hat, and which is more commonly meant by the term "Stetson" today. The campaign hat also should not be confused with a slouch hat.
The origins of the hat can be traced to the 1840s when U.S. Army mounted troops posted to the far-west sometimes wore wide-brimmed civilian hats, which were more practical than the regulation shakos and forage caps then issued.The crease was influenced by the designs of the sombreros worn by the Mexican Vaqueros. The name started to be used after the 1872–1876 regulations which introduced a black felt hat — which could be drab after 1883 — for fatigue use derived from the types popularized during the American Civil War. Some were worn with campaign cords, mainly as a form of decoration.
At least as early as 1893, hats of this type were being re-creased into pointed tops, in order to keep off rain, by British South Africa Company (BSAC) scouts in Africa (see photo of Maurice Gifford at left). When designing the iconic uniform for Boy Scouts, Baden-Powell drew on the hat worn by Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated American scout, during his service as Chief of Scouts in the BSAC and the British Army in the 1890s. The 1,200 Canadian troops serving under Baden-Powell were the first to wear the campaign hat as a part of their official uniform, and this very likely influenced Baden-Powell's decision to order 10,000 of the hats for the British troops.
A few years later, during the Spanish–American War the standard central crease on the crown was again found to be impractical as it tended to hold the rainwater from the frequent tropical downpours. Many soldiers again reshaped the crown to form a pinched "Montana peak." The army officially adopted the peaked design on 8 September 1911 as the "Hat, Service"
Through the World War I era, the campaign hat worn by American soldiers was fairly soft. Those worn by the United States Army's general officers had a golden cord around it, whereas other commissioned officers had a golden-and-black campaign cord around their hat. Field clerks, as well as their post-war successors the warrant officers, had a silver-and-black cord, while other ranks had cords in their branch-of-service colors. The United States Marine Corps had the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor badge in black at the front of their campaign hats; its officers had an additional golden-and-scarlet cord around their hat, whereas its other ranks had none.
By the 1930s the felt was made very stiff with a permanently flat brim. Due to the frequent wearing of helmets in France in World War I, most troops received a copy of the French bonnet du police that became known as the overseas cap. In 1942 the campaign hat ceased to be issued generally, but it was still commonly found in the Pacific theatre for much of the war, and was the trademark of General Joseph Stilwell.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
In Canada the campaign hat was the official dress hat of the North-West Mounted Police (later Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who retain it as part of the full dress uniform) as well as Canadian cavalry units in the Boer War and First World War. In the Boer War (South Africa 1899 to 1902) all Canadian military units with the exception of the Royal Canadian Regiment wore campaign hats. The campaign hat was also the hat of the Canadian Scouts and the South African Constabulary, which was led by a Canadian Colonel Sam Steele (formerly North-West Mounted Police), both of these units having many Canadians enlisted. The hat was phased out of military use by the service dress cap following the First World War. It was also used by members of the Ontario Provincial Police, but it was phased out in 2009 due to problems wearing them in police cruisers. Though similar to the U.S. campaign hat, the indentations of the Canadian style hat are somewhat deeper and appear above the face of the wearer whilst the American hats have the indentations to the side so a regimental badge can be worn in the middle of the hat.
New Zealand Army
The New Zealand Army, whose uniforms have historically followed the British pattern, retain the felt campaign hat (known as the "lemon squeezer" hat) as their most visible national distinction. This headdress is distinguished by a high crown and deep indentations on all four sides. It was adopted by the Wellington Regiment about 1912 (as proposed by William Malone) and became general issue for all New Zealand units during the latter stages of World War I. In addition to badge insignia, the different branches of service were differentiated by coloured puggarees or wide bands around the base of the crown (blue and red for artillery, khaki and green for mounted rifles, khaki and red for infantry, blue for engineers, yellow for Pay Corps, khaki and white for Army Service Corps, cherry-red for the Medical Corps and maroon for the Veterinary Corps.). The "lemon squeezer" was worn to a certain extent during World War II, although often replaced by more convenient forage caps or berets. After being in abeyance since 1960, the "lemon squeezer" was reintroduced in 1977 for ceremonial dress, where it was usually worn with a version of the khaki "no 2" service dress of the British Army. Officer cadets and the New Zealand Army Band wear this headdress with a scarlet and blue full dress uniform.
In 2012 it was announced that the "lemon squeezer" was to be replaced for ceremonial wear by the "Mounted Rifles Hat"; a headdress resembling that of the Australian Army but without the turned-up side rim. The "lemon squeezer" will be retained only by colour guards and other limited categories.
United States armed forces
The hat worn by male United States Army drill sergeants is olive drab in color with a golden Great Seal of the United States on a disc centered on the front (infantry drill sergeants have a blue disc behind the seal); this is the same insignia as traditionally worn on the Service Cap and the Dress Cap.
Male and female United States Marine Corps drill instructors and Primary Marksmanship Instructors wear similar campaign covers with a matte black Eagle, Globe, and Anchor centered on the front; the same insignia is worn on their olive drab combination covers. Enlisted soldiers and Marines no longer wear cords around the covers, but U.S. Marine Corps officers who are eligible to wear the campaign cover wear a scarlet and gold cord, with generals wearing a solid gold cord. The U.S. Marine Corps had their hats authorized in 1956 by Commandant General Randolph M. Pate. The cover was issued on 20 July 1956.
Male United States Air Force military training instructors (MTIs) wear navy blue hats with the Great Seal of the United States within a ring, in silver color, again centered on the front; this is the same insignia as worn on their service cap. Female MTIs wear an Aussie Style hat. Air Force MTIs who are qualified to teach new recruits are identified by a black cord around the hat. MTIs in the top ten percent of their career field wear a light blue cord and are more likely to be referred to as "Blue Ropes" than MTIs.
U.S. Coast Guard recruit training company commanders (USCG-USN counterpart to drill instructors) wear a navy blue version with a black cord; the insignia worn is the same as worn with the combination cover.
The United States Navy is the only U.S. armed force not to use the campaign hat. Their recruit division commanders wear normal prescribed covers for their uniforms, with a red aiguillette on their shoulder to show their status.
ROTC cadets of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets can wear dark green campaign covers in place of garrison caps or BDU/ACU covers. (The lone exception to this is the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, as the hats' broad brims could make carrying and playing certain instruments difficult.) The campaign cover is adorned with the gold "Corps Stack" insignia and a colored cord (dark blue, light blue, red or green) indicating which graduating class the cadet is part of. Senior-year cadet officers wear a gold cord with their campaign cover.
Park Rangers and Smokey Bear
Campaign hats are worn by US park rangers of the National Park Service. Since the federal troops sent to protect the resources of the first national parks were cavalry troopers, including the 9th Cavalry's Black "Buffalo Soldiers," it was natural that the park system and its rangers would adopt the cavalry soldier's campaign hat as a symbol of authority.
The evolution of the campaign hat can be seen in a 1905 photo of Buffalo Soldiers in Yosemite. Although the hat would not become Army standard until six years later, some in the photo have re-creased their hats into the Montana Peak, probably during their service in Cuba or the Philippines during the 1898 Spanish–American War.
Following the national park ranger style, many states' fish and game wardens and state park police wear campaign hats. Rangers of many local parks departments also wear the campaign hat, such as the New York City Urban Park Rangers.
The animal logo-mascot of the U.S. Forest Service, Smokey Bear, wears the campaign hat. Smokey's debut poster was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his birthday. Overseen by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign, the first poster was illustrated by Albert Staehle. In it, Smokey was depicted wearing jeans and a "forest ranger's hat"  (a campaign hat), pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. The message underneath reads, "Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!" (An official real-animal-mascot, a black bear cub named Smokey, was saved from a forest fire in 1950, but of course is not associated with a hat. The cartoon Smokey character precedes him.)
The emblem of the National Park Foundation was, until December 2013, a stylized campaign hat.
Several U.S. state police services (for example, the Kentucky State Police), and federal agencies (for example, the United States Border Patrol) wear campaign hats. These state troopers are responsible for state and interstate highway safety, and in this capacity are variously referred to in different states as State Police, Highway Patrol, State Patrol, and State Highway Patrol. So common is use of the campaign hat among state highway police that they are sometimes referred to as "smokey bears" or "smokeys," after Smokey Bear the famous logo-character of the U.S. Forest Service. The only State Police agencies that do not employ the "smokey bear hat", are the New York State Police, Connecticut State Police, New Jersey State Police, Texas Highway Patrol, Maryland State Police, New Mexico State Police, and the Michigan State Police. There is no direct association between the cartoon bear and the Highway Patrol; they both derive their hat styles ultimately from the U.S. Cavalry.
Campaign hats are also worn by "PROVIAL"[clarification needed] traffic officers employed by the Guatemalan Ministry of Communications, Infrastructure, and Housing.
Many other police agencies, including numerous county sheriffs' services, use campaign hats. Some local police use it for particular duties or divisions; for example, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department's and Chicago Police Department's mounted units employ the hat, and deputy sheriffs assigned as cadre of the Cook County Sheriff's Boot Camp wear campaign hats.
The campaign hat was worn by and associated with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, and is still available for wear by Scouts of the Boy Scouts of America and Scout organizations in several countries. Because this style of hat is also so traditionally associated with Scouting, campaign hats are often used as presentation items by troops and local councils for adult Scouters and community and business leaders being honored for their service to the Scouting movement.
Baden-Powell was British, but picked up the habit of wearing a Stetson campaign hat and neckerchief for the first time in 1896 in Africa during the Second Matabele War. It was during this time that Baden-Powell, already a cavalryman, was befriended by the celebrated American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, who favored the campaign hat. In the African hills it was Burnham who first introduced Baden-Powell to the ways and methods of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and taught him woodcraft (better known today as Scoutcraft). After Baden-Powell became famous as the victor of the Siege of Mafeking in 1899, his hat became something of a trademark. In 1900, Baden-Powell was appointed to raise and command the South African Constabulary and he included the campaign hat as part of their uniform. He may have been influenced by the fact that the trade name of the hats, Boss of the Plains, was sometimes abbreviated to B-P, Baden-Powell's own initials. When Baden-Powell re-wrote his Army handbook Aids to Scouting into Scouting For Boys in 1908, he included sketches of Boy Scouts wearing the campaign hat. He prescribed a campaign hat as part of the Scout uniform, which he stated was "very like the uniform worn by my men when I commanded the South African Constabulary". He continued; "...The broad brimmed khaki hat is a good protection from sun and rain." Scouting for Boys and the Scout Movement itself quickly spread through the British Empire and then to other countries, such as the United States and Russia where in both cases, Scouting started in 1909. Baden-Powell's uniform was widely imitated by Scout associations in many countries, but eventually began to be discarded in favor of cheaper and more practical headgear; the British Scout Association introduced the uniform beret as an alternative to the hat after World War II and finally abolished its use altogether in 1967. The campaign hat remains an option for members of the Boy Scouts of America.
In "traditional Scouting" organizations such as the Baden-Powell Scouts' Association in the United Kingdom, BP Service Association in Canada and the Baden-Powell Service Association in the United States, campaign hats are worn by both male and female Scouts and leaders.
Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement for boys, wearing a British Scout uniform and American Stetson campaign hat
A Rover Scout of the independent Baden-Powell Scouts' Association which is based in the United Kingdom. Although campaign hats have been discarded in many Scout associations, they are sometimes retained by those who wish to emphasise a traditional approach to Scouting.
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- "Canada & The South African War, 1899-1902 - The Stetson Hat". Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation.
- National Geographic Magazine, October 1917
- "New Zealand Military Uniforms - Lemon Squeezer Hat". National Army Museum.
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- Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord, page 129 - Part One "New Zealand Army Distinguishing Patches 1911-1991, ISBN 0-473-03288-0
- Fairfax NZ News 3 May 2012
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- Accessed March 13, 2010. The story of the creation of Smokey Bear, told by the late Albert Staehle's wife
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- Jeal, Tim (1989). Baden-Powell. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-170670-X.
- Baden-Powell, Robert (1908). Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship. London: H. Cox. xxiv. ISBN 0-486-45719-2.
B.-P.'s early mentor the professional scout Frederick Burnham, too, learned life-preserving tracking skills or woodcraft in North America, specifically the United States frontier, later transferring them to the 'last' colonial frontier of Rhodesia, where he taught Baden-Powell
- Jeal (1989), (Chapter 7, part 2),
- "Scouting for Boys (Campfire Yarn No 3)" (PDF). oldsoutbooks.com.
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- "Guide to Awards and Insignia" (PDF). www.scouting.org. Boy Scouts of America. 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2014. (p. 8)
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- "Rover". www.bpsa-us.org. Baden-Powell Service Association. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
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