A short piece on panama hats from an issue of The Rotarian in 1956:

The next time you put on that crisp, cool “Panama” hat, remember to thank the Ecuadorians – they made it! This year their South American country will produce 4 million hats, 90 percent of which will be exported to the United States. And, as it has every year, Panama will get the credit. One story has it that Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Panama Canal, bought Ecuadorian straws in Panama marketplaces; others engaged on that project followed suit – and the vogue was born. The toquilla straw of Ecuador became known as the “Panama” – and the name has stuck.

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