Why the Tophat?

Men and women have been practicing the chimney sweep trade for hundreds of years. The job was dirty, but necessary, and anything but glamorous! So in order to raise their status in the community, it is said that the sweeps would get discarded clothing from the local funeral director. These clothes consisted of a black top hat, and a coat with tails, which was very fashionable for the times. They were also black which meant they were very practical. This gave the sweeps the status and self-esteem they wanted.

Chimney sweeps have always been considered good luck, especially if you shake his hand, or are kissed by him. Not so lucky were the young boys and girls who were chimney sweeps in training in the 1700s and 1800s. Many were orphans who were bought by a master chimney sweep to learn the trade. They were often neglected, abused and treated more like slaves than an apprentice chimney sweep. They were forced to climb up inside the chimney flue, sweeping the soot from the chimney walls as they climbed their way to the top. Many of the children became sick and died from constant inhalation of soot. Some chimney sweeps would use geese. They would tie a rope around the goose's neck and force him up the chimney. As the goose started to fly up towards the chimney opening the sweep would pull the goose back down using his flapping wings to brush the soot from the flue. Later a combination of brushes, ropes, and rods were used.

Today's chimney sweeps are a combination of the old and the new. Chimneys are still swept with brushes, and rods to some extent. Powerful vacuums are now used to control the dust allowing the sweep to clean the chimney flue from inside the home, without any fear of a mess. The modern day chimney sweep is protected from soot by using a face respirator, and protective clothing, which keeps his exposure to the soot to a minimum.

Our job today, is just as important and necessary as it was centuries ago, and that job is to care for the safety of families and their homes. So select a chimney sweep, use him regularly, and when he's done, don't forget to shake his hand for luck!