Western New York Heritage

The Hats of Anna Schnitter

It was with great delight that I read your summer edition article on hats at the turn of the century, “Hats Off to the Milliners.”  My grandmother, Anna Schnitter, was one of those milliners in Buffalo from around the 1890s through the 1920s.  She and her husband, Henry, opened a successful dry goods store on the corner of Clinton and Smith streets in the early 1890s.  When Henry injured his leg in an accident and couldn't run the store, Anna took over and saw her chance to do what she always wanted to and was quite skilled at: create beautiful hats.

Anna’s millinery shop on the right of the dry goods store at Clinton and Smith streets.

All images courtesy Mary Ann Schnitter Madden

The dry goods store was literally divided in half with the rear half occupied by Anna and the thirteen girls who worked for her around a large walnut drop leaf table that is still in the family.  There was a center front door and two display windows on either side. One window was for dry goods and the other was filled with my grandmother's wonderful hats.  You can see in the storefront picture that there were signs over each window designating what could be found within.

Anna herself, looking quite elegant, in one of her own hats.

After Henry's recovery, Anna could really devote her time and energy to her millinery business.  Her hats were well received and family lore has it that soon she was making hats for many Delaware Ave. ladies.  She took her business seriously, going on buying trips to New York to purchase the latest and best quality supplies and attending many hat shows in New York while she was there. She was quite proud of having won several competitions for the design and craftsmanship of her hats.

The following images illustrate hats designed by Anna and made in her shop.

Harriet Steinfeldt


This hat was designed and made by Anna for her daughter, Ida.

Anna's business card.

In the midst of all this, she raised five children.  I remember her well growing up for she lived into her nineties.  She still serves as a family model, especially for the women, for determination, creativity, and self-fulfillment.

Anna standing in front of her shop.