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3. Biography

  November 4th, 2015
Portrait of Mary Dixon Kies

Portrait of Mary Dixon Kies

Mary Dixon Kies was born in Killingly, Connecticut on March 21, 1752 to two immigrant Irish farmers. Not much is known about her childhood and early life. She was married to Isaac Pike and had a son with him. Pike died and Mary Dixon Kies married John Kies and had a son with him as well (MacLean 2011). In the early 1800s, Europe was a war and the United States cut off all ties with them. It was important that the US economy started making goods at home. This is how Kies got the idea to weave hats. The first lady at the time, Dolly Madison, was so impressed with Kies for applying for a patent and boosting the hat industry that she wrote a personal not to her. It is not known today what that note said. Kies’ processes was so successful that “straw bonnets manufactured in Massachusetts alone in 1810 had an estimated value of more than $500,000 or over $4.7 million in today’s money” (MacLean 2011).

After Kies’ husband died in 1813, she went on to live with her son Daniel until her death in 1837. Even though Kies’ process was extremely successful, she was unsuccessful at making a profit from the process. She “died penniless” (MacLean 2011).

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