This hat was sold by Morton D. Barker's mining supply company in Springfield and was likely used in a Sangamon County coal mine.
Mining hats provided some protection from soot and dust, but their main function was to serve as a place to mount a lamp, which was essential for working underground. This hat would have had a carbide lamp attached to the metal piece over the bill. Carbide lamps burned more cleanly and brightly than oil lamps, although the open flames still posed a danger with the potential of igniting methane gas underground.
Coal underlies almost two-thirds of the surface area of Illinois. Coal has been mined out of more than 4,500 mines in 73 counties since the first coal mining operation began in 1810. The expansion of railroads after the Civil War turned coal mining into a major industry in Illinois. Today, surface mining has replaced shaft mining, but Illinois still produces more than 50 million tons of coal each year.