Gonzales man collects thousands of caps
Robert “Brown” Philippe is a serious collector.
Inside his building at 2029 South Philippe Avenue in Gonzales, thousands of hats hang from the ceiling, blanketing the whole of it. Walk anywhere in the building and various baseball-style caps can be found overhead.
Philippe, 82, has some 14,500 hats in all, recently adding a thousand new ones. He has more than 100 LSU hats and some 50 New Orleans Saints hats.
He keeps all of the hats organized, and maintains meticulously detailed notes on his collection.
The hats are grouped together by the location of origin, such as by cities like Gonzales, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, by states and by countries.
Many of the hats were obatined while traveling, Philippe said. He has been to all 50 states and several foreign countries. He noted that Australia, New Zealand and Italy are among his favorites to visit. While on vacations, he keeps his eyes peeled for new hats to add to his collection.
He laughed when he recalled how many times he would go hunting or fishing and forget to bring a hat.
He personally bought more than half of the hats. Aside from buying new additions, a large portion of his collection came as gifts.
“If anyone wants to give, I’m glad to accept,” he said.
Philippe has been featured on EATEL television in the past, where he showed off his unique display.
His collection has grown so large that he has begun to take down any duplicate hats.
While the hat collection is the most visible upon walking into the building, Philippe has several other collections that he maintains.
He also collects coins, knives, stamps, business cards and Jambalaya Festival posters.
“I’ve always been a collector,” he said.
Philippe has most of the Jambalaya Festival posters since the first was made in 1980. He said he would like to add the missing posters from 1981 and 1994-98. He also wants to frame photos of the previous champion cooks from the years before posters were made.
Philippe is a native of Carville. He graduated in a 10-person class in St. Gabriel. He volunteered for the Navy and served in San Diego and San Francisco in the 1940s after World War II.
He has lived in several different states, but calls Gonzales home. Some 50 years ago he built the house he currently lives in on Coontrap Road.
His father started an auto parts store in 1947. Though he lacked in education, he was a “wiz with figures,” Philippe said. After the flood of 1927, his father worked on the rebuilding of the levees.
Over the years, Philippe said his collections grew from the relationships he built through business ventures. At one point he owned 10 buildings. He currently has two.
Under former Gov. Dave Treen, Philippe was on the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission.
“If I died tomorrow, I know I had a good life,” he said.