#ChapmansHat and why it should matter to Arsenal’s billionaire owner

Herbert Chapman

How do you place value on history?

The Arsenal is more than a club. It is a living, breathing monument to the men and women who carefully and passionately carried it through times of great prosperity and incredible hardship. Rightfully proud of its history, its traditions and its deep connection to the generations of loyal supporters who helped bring it to prominence and kept it there – Arsenal has a duty to cherish and preserve the physical artifacts – treasures – that survive the slings and arrows of time.

It is said that those who write the stories of the past have power over the future. Entire civilizations have been lost because their past was neglected or unprotected – or worse, purposefully erased.

In 2001 the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in an attempt to erase any sign of pre-Islamic culture in Afghanistan. As the awful current events unfold in Ukraine, we see a desperate attempt by those who cherish Ukrainian culture to save it from Russian destruction. Towns and cities can be rebuilt – but unique objects of cultural significance, once destroyed, are lost forever.

Forgive the comparisons to actual tragedies above – I am fully aware of the fallacy of false equivalence at play… I’m merely attempting to give context to why I believe the Club’s owners have a duty to preserve the history of the 136-year-old institution they acquired a mere decade and a half ago.

There are so many things of value when taking stock of The Arsenal’s storied past: the buildings they occupied, the fields on which they trained and competed, the shirts, the crests, the matchday programmes and the ticket stubs. There are photographs and newspaper clippings, film clips and rare footage – all of which have been lovingly preserved and archived by ardent fans and collector/supporters.

While a lot of those items aren’t unique –  for example there may be multiple copies of ticket stubs or programmes in existence – there are, of course some things that are singularly irreplaceable: pieces of Arsenal history that, once lost, are gone forever.

Occasionally, but rarely, significant objects that were lost, concealed or forgotten, surface into the public arena and are made available to the custodians of an institution’s culture. These fleeting, once-in-a-lifetime appearances present a vital opportunity to acquire and protect the objects from unscrupulous, opportunistic collectors – whose interests are not aligned with those of the Club or its supporters.

Two such items recently became available on auction – and their availability for purchase has been made known to the Club.

Chapman’s Hat

The first is Herbert Chapman’s original bowler hat – purchased by the current seller from a Mr. John Smerton, whose mother ran the St. Enoch Hotel in Glasgow, where Arsenal’s greatest manager left it (in Room 114) in 1933.

Estimated final price: £3 000 – £5 000

The second is an archive of correspondences between Herbert Chapman and Cliftonville FC, which record Chapman’s attempts to sign a player. These letters offer amazing insight into the mind of Chapman, and also into the nature of transfer negotiations in Arsenal’s golden pre-War era.

Estimated final price: £1 500 – £2 000

Chapman Player Transfer

When KSE acquired the Club, they vowed to protect its legacy and preserve its traditions, and it is our belief that this should include acquiring objects of historical significance to the Arsenal, preserving them, and presenting them to present and future fans.

For a billionaire owner whose estimated net worth is $10.6 billion, who obviously likes collecting (sports franchises) and who has an extensive art and sculpture collection of his own, raising £5 000 to purchase these remarkable and significant pieces of Arsenal history should be a no-brainer. They are valuable investments in their own right, as part of the history of one of football’s most important historical figures – but they are invaluable to Arsenal Football Club and Gooners everywhere, who are interested in how we became the greatest club the world has ever seen.

We believe that Kroenke has a duty to purchase these and other future items, and we would like to see him instruct the Club to do so.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below – but also, please let @Arsenal know on Twitter using the hashtag #ChapmansHat.


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4 Responses to #ChapmansHat and why it should matter to Arsenal’s billionaire owner

  1. Flashman71 May 9, 2022 at 9:46 pm #

    Yes, absolutely spot on, it’s a “no-brainer”. As you say both items are part of our history. As we all know (as gooners) in direct opposition to the rise of the financially doped Man City and Chelsea, who have spent the last 15yrs trying to create an artificial version of history (1 championship each in 100 odd years before their takeovers) aided and abetted by the likes of sky sports – Newcastle will become their new “babies” wrongly cited and described as a massive club (with all this great history), which they plainly are not or have ever been, a biggish club like city and chelsea. I digress but you know what I am getting at not one of those clubs have ever had a football legend or icon on the level of Mr Chapman and this to me makes it even more important that KSE realise this too through their corporate haze. I can’t believe the club hasn’t secured them already and they are going to open auction. Surely they must have been offered the chance to secure both before auction?
    Anyway, good article and glad you highlighted it.

  2. The Dever May 10, 2022 at 10:42 am #

    Tweeted him the link cheers

  3. CapeTown gooner May 11, 2022 at 10:53 am #

    An interesting article but I disagree with the write….to an extent.
    The bowler hat could have belonged to Herbert Chapman, and also could not unless the seller has proof positive provided by HC himself. I rally don’t see the need to purchase it, for £3 or £3000…..the cost is immaterial.
    On the other hand if the correspondence has genuine provenance, I agree that Arsenal should make every attempt to buy it…..I don’t know when the Auction is and Arsenal may have every intention of purchasing the correspondence with Cliftonvill FC. They are unlikely to say so as that would immediately increase the sum they need to bid……if they do bid it will not be in their name but by someone acting for them without the club being identified as the bidder.
    The really lame excuse given to the writer of the article might suggest that the club is interested, maybe in both items, and the writer should have considered that before publishing in the first place.

    • invinciblog May 11, 2022 at 7:12 pm #

      The provenance of the bowler hat has been confirmed: HC stayed at the hotel, he left the hat there, it has his personal embroidered in it, the landlady of the hotel kept it etc. etc. I do believe that while it may not be a magic hat (like Wenger’s) – it is still something that has a place in a museum celebrating Arsenal’s cultural heritage.

      Regarding the ‘lame excuse’ and my consideration before writing the piece – there was genuine regret from the representative who made that comment, to the point where I was approached to see if I could help stir some interest from the higher ups.

      If you are interested, this matter – and imho the more important matter regarding the museum – is being raised with Vinai and the Arsenal Advisory Board as we speak. Hopefully we can get KSE behind the idea that Arsenal’s history is worth preserving.

      Thanks for your comment.

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