It seems that it was the hat rather than the costume which became an icon of Wales within a decade of the hat’s adoption by Welsh women in the 1830s. The hat appears in many cartoons from the middle of the 19th century, in early 20th century comic postcards and in later cartoons published in newspapers. The women depicted wearing Welsh hats in cartoons are either young and pretty or old and and either grumpy or happy and are normally well dressed. They generally represent Wales as a nation, not just one class of people.
There are a few cartoons of men dressed in Welsh Hats.
Cartoons in Punch Magazine (published 1841-2002)
Several early cartoons include people in Welsh hats. If it appeared on men, it represented Puritanism or Protestantism; if on women it represented Wales.
St David’s Day, or the Prince and his Patron (1843).
The Prime Minister, George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, wearing a Welsh hat, being replaced by Palmerston (1855)
These were published in Briggs, Susan and Asa (editors), Cap and Bell, Punch’s chronicle of English history in the making, 1841-1861, (1972) pp. xix and 37 along with cartoons of men in very tall Welsh hats (p. 61 (1853); p. 62 (1856)); plus a cartoon published in 1844 on the birth on Queen Victoria’s 4th child entitled ‘Royal Nursery Rhyme for 1860. There was a Royal Lady that lived in a Shoe’ showing a young woman in a Welsh hat with many children by a large shoe. It is possible that the young woman in the Welsh hat was Queen Victoria’s children’s nurse who is said to have been called Jane Jones but was known as Jenny Jones.
Gladstone was depicted as a Welsh bard, playing a small harp in a Punch cartoon of 1873, (Punch, LXV, August 30, 1873, p .85) published in The Political Life of the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone: Illustrated with Cartoons and Sketches from Punch, vol. 1
But who on earth has ever seen a caricature of a Welshman? In Punch and such papers we never see anything but pictures of a Welshwoman — as if there were no males in that peculiar country with the rocks. Even the woman is only marked as Welsh by wearing an extraordinary costume, rather like that of Cinderella’s supernatural godmother. Without the artist suggesting any costume at all, one would recognize the very silly portraits of Irishmen with long upper lips, in the style of apes. Without any plaid trousers to assist the mind, one could spot the stiff beards and rocky cheek-bones of the Scotchmen of Charles Keene. But if you took away the Welshwoman’s extraordinary hat, there would be nothing whatever to show that she was a Welshwoman. We have not in our minds a Welsh type to make fun of.
Chesterton, G. K., The Uses of Diversity, (1920)
Y Punch Cymraeg (published 1858-1864)
The cover of Y Punch Cymraeg includes dairy-maids in Welsh hats, and a few of the cartoons in the magazine include older women in Welsh hats, again representing Wales, but these are rare.
J.M. Staniforth (1863-1921)
Cartoons by J.M. Staniforth were published in the News of the World and the Western Mail (Cardiff). They include many representations of a well-fed, happy, confident ‘Dame (or Mam) Wales’ normally with a tall, almost pointed Welsh hat, white frilled cap, short-sleeved gown, striped skirt, shawl and apron, long after these were worn for anything but special events. She was presumably meant to represent the country of Wales, or at least, all the people of Wales.
One cartoon, ‘The Two Mothers‘ includes both a boy and a man in Welsh hats because it is such a distinctive, simple and unique shape to symbolise Wales.
During the First World War many Welsh women were left behind while their husbands served and died during the First World War, but how many Welsh women identified with Dame Wales?
Album of Staniforth’s original drawings in the National Library of Wales. Of about 109 cartoons in the collection, only three have women in Welsh hats
103 South Wales coal trades, Lock out (Welsh woman standing by Bulldog man)