Photo courtesy Stormy Kromer on Facebook

KAUKAUNA — It’s perhaps winter’s most iconic piece of head gear, and it began right here in Kaukauna.

Worn by everyone from the guy down the street to celebrities like comedian Charlie Berens, curiosity about the origins of the cap have been running high following the recent cold snap.

There currently is an exhibit called “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic” running through Feb. 26, 2023 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson art Museum in Wausau.

According to an episode of the radio program, “Wisconsin Life,” The cap was created in 1903 when a cantankerous railroad engineer and semi-pro baseball player named George “Stormy” Kromer began the Kromer Cap Co., in Kaukauna.

After ordering-and selling-1,200 caps out of a factory in Milwaukee, the Kromers decided to set up their own shop in Kaukauna. That “shop” consisted of a run-down brick building and three women. A few more when orders jumped in the fall, according to the Historical Marker Data Base.

By 1918, the ladies could no longer keep up with the desire for Kromer Caps, and Stormy Kromer Mercantile moved back to Milwaukee. Kromer ran the business himself until the 1960s, expanding it more than a few times, and when his health began to fail, he passed the hat, if you will, to the next generation, according to the Historical Marker in Ironwood.

The cap currently is made in Ironwood, Michigan.

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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.