When you’re born in the hills of Tennessee and you can kill a b’ar (‘bear’ for the city folks) at the wee age of three, you’re allowed to wear a raccoon on your head.
Thanks to Walt Disney and his Disneyland TV series, the pioneer spirit of frontiersman Davy Crockett came into the family rooms across America in 1954, spawning a coonskin cap craze among children. Davy’s courage and honor led him to be a national hero, and kids everywhere wanted a piece of the action. Even though the closest they ever came to a bear was watching one on TV, kids scrambled for a cap just like Davy’s.
Davy’s coonskin cap, complete with dangling striped tail off the back, became the biggest fad merchandise of the 50’s. Raccoon fur, which had previously sold for 25 cents a pound, reached its pinnacle at $8.00 pound. Manufacturers were so desperate to cash in on the Crocket mania that they turned rabbit and muskrat into raccoon, or bought old dusty coonskin coats from the closets of grandmas to turn them into the caps. One furrier, saddled with piles of musty old coonskin coats after the fad from the 20’s died, dusted off the coats and made a fortune by transforming them into authentic coon caps. Over 100 million dollars’ worth of coonskin caps were sold in the short year of the fad's frenzy.
Parents who were late to join the bandwagon discovered an empty market and a very distraught child. But kids are smart, and they knew that an inferior artificial cap just wouldn’t do. Parents placated them by purchasing all sorts of other ‘official’ Davy Crockett merchandise while they frantically searched for a cap. Davy spawned merchandise like watches, clothes, underwear, moccasins, wallets, and other household items like plates, lunch boxes and even miniature log cabins.
The Davy Crockett fad fell apart as quickly as the imitation coonskin caps did (that’s fickle kids for you). But during the short time of Davy's reign, there was nothing more important in a boy’s life than joining all of his friends in proudly wearing a tribute to the ultimate wilderness wunderkind.