This photograph, which probably dates from the early 1960s, was taken by Margaret (Peg) Joyce, a teacher at the Montauk School. The fabulous headgear designed by her students utilized paper cups, cardboard, and other paper throwaways. The extremes of these innovative headpieces distantly recall traditional or “folk” headwear, discoverable on historic-costume sites that make us open our eyes in amazement. For example, Conehead-style lace caps balanced on the crowns of women in Brittany are distant cousins of these Montauk creations. So, too, is the horizontal headgear with sides that fold out, known as “cornettes,” popular with Parisian women in the year 1800.
Ann Joyce donated a large collection of material related to her mother’s career to the archives at the Montauk Library. Ann says, “A version of the picture you have was taken by my mom and was actually published in a kid’s newspaper that many classrooms used (like Weekly Reader). I think I have a few copies of the newspaper. My mom continually had kids making things from what others might regard as junk, before recycling was fashionable. I believe the headgear was meant to be [used by] space travel-astronauts.”
Space flight was still in its infancy in 1960, but it was an exciting time, filled with possibility. In 1961, as NASA’s website relates, “Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space. On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn’s historic flight made him the first American to orbit Earth.” Glenn instantly became an American hero and household name after circling the earth three times. His success instilled a fascination with outer space that continues to spark our collective imagination today.
Peg Joyce’s students designed ingenious space-travel hats, but could they really help an astronaut fly? It is well-known that the Flying Nun (Actor Sally Field, starring in the 1960s series of the same name) achieved airborne status thanks to her creative headgear (a starched cornette). So, do we have liftoff?