The History of Crofut & Knapp, Dobbs, and Cavanagh Hat Manufacturing
Dobbs changed the Roundel by moving the Dobbs name and curving it along the top. It became more elegant and ornate by prominently featuring the lions. It was offered in several color schemes. This is also when the first oilskin tip protectors show up.
Hat Corporation of America standardized their factory labels across all of the lines right around 1940. This standardized label continued for the rest of the decade until about 1950. One difference on some 1940s labels is the inclusion of the patent number for a new finishing process, patented October 25, 1938, by John Garvan Cavanagh, son of John J. Cavanagh. They also feature the descriptors for each number, unlike the previous examples. The descriptors may mark a distinction in time and be used for dating purposes, but I need to collect more data. Both examples are show below.
Typical 1940s Label and 1940s Label with Patent Number and Descriptors
Hat Corporation of America did their part in the war effort by manufacturing uniforms caps for the U.S. military. Evidence suggests the possibility that at some point during World War II Dobbs changed from the Roundel and went back to the standard Dobbs crest. Officer caps from this period feature both crests. There may be some overlap, though 1945 seems a reasonable point to give to the end of the Roundel. Here are two U.S. Army officer caps with different crests.
WWII Officer's Caps with Roundel and Standard Crest
Office of Price Administration labels can be used to date a hat to the World War II period. The OPA used the General Maximum Price Regulation from May 18, 1942, when the GMPR took effect, until May 29, 1947, when the Office of Price Administration was abolished. It was designed to create price ceilings for similar products among various manufacturers within an industry. So, Hat Corporation of America, Stetson, Lee, and other hat manufacturers would agree on which hats among their various lines were similar, and abide by a fixed-price ceiling for these hats. The label reads “O.P.A. RETAIL CEILING PRICE $XX.XX (Sec. 13. M.P.R 580),” and was affixed inside the sweatband for the customer to see. Many manufacturers declined to followed the OPA recommendations, and dropped the use of the label by 1945.
Here are two examples, one a label from a Dobbs Boater (note the standard crest) and the other the remnants of a label from a 1940s Dobbs Derby (with a Roundel tip sticker) that has the Price Ceiling listed. There appears to have once been a consumer-removable portion with the pertinent OPA information, and was removed long ago. Kind of like mattress tags, in a way.
OPA Price Tag and Interior Tag Remnant
Here are some liners from the 1940s that I believe to be post-war.
Various Post-War Liners
By the late 1940s the Dobbs name could be debossed in gold, typically on a textured sweatband, and this lasted until the early 1950s. It was usually associated with a hat model with some longevity, and thus featured the model name below the Dobbs imprint.
1950s Dobbs Gold Debossment
The debossed Dobbs Coach made its sweatband debut right around the late-1940s. Originally it was a plain debossing, like most Dobbs hats. This example is from a Game Bird model (though marked Fifteen, as in the price, $15.00), dated to 1949. Also note the Guild Edge debossment. Guild Edge was the name Dobbs eventually settled on for a Cavanagh Edge, and was first used on hats in 1944.
1949 Coach Debossment. Photo by and Courtesy of Purplesage.
By the time of the Korean War in the early-1950s, Dobbs debossed the Coach in gold.
1950s Dobbs Fifteen in Gold
The later logos do not feature as deep of a debossment as the earlier ones, nor the crisp gold edges. This example is from 1970.
1970 Dobbs Coach Debossment
The decade of the 1950s saw the standardized factory labels change again as new printing equipment was put into use. These labels were used across all of the lines of Hat Corporation of America until sometime after 1960, when the label changed slightly. Exactly when these were first used is unknown, but they used on OPS marked hats (see below for OPS information), and thus circa-1950 is a reasonable estimate.
Because of rising inflation in the first months of the Korean War, a presidential executive order created the Office of Price Stabilization (OPS), which, much like the OPA during World War II, created price ceilings on competing products. It was in effect from January 24, 1951, until April 30, 1953. Labels were affixed to hats just as they had been a decade earlier. Again, not all hats from this time period may have had these labels.
OPS Tag and Inside OPS Price Tag
Liner tips show distinctions based on model and price. Models like the Game Bird and Rainbow would continue to feature custom liners.
1953 Dobbs Rainbow and 1949 Dobbs Game Bird
Models for lower-tier hats revived the earlier half-color crest as seen on this 1950s Hanover Square. Colors could be blue, green, red, or brown, and all seem to feature a plastic tip protector.
1950s Split-Color Crests with Plastic Tip Protector
Dobbs hats costing $20 or higher featured a different liner tip with the Dobbs crest sitting below the large Lions and Dobbs "D" emblem. These usually had oilskin tip protectors instead of plastic, even into the 1960s. These perhaps showed up in the late-1940s.
1950s-1960s Twenty and Up Liners
The key difference between the 1950s labels and the 1960s labels is the removal of the block depth from the label. With most hats having short crowns by that point, and fewer men being fashion savvy when it came to subtle distinctions in crown height and brim width, it was apparently deemed unnecessary.
1960s Label and Interior Price Tag
Lower-priced hats revived the all solid color crest from the 1940s, only with a plastic tip protector. As before, red, blue, green, and brown were offered. Others used a simplified standard crest, sometimes with a plastic or oilskin tip protector, sometimes without.
Various 1960s Standard Crests
This is another crest borrowed from the 1940s, though with an oilskin protector.
A Different Style 1960s Liner Tip
One offering from the 1960s that carried over into post-HCA, Garland, Texas-based production was the Golden Coach model.
1960s Golden Coach
If, indeed, the slanted Dobbs name had disappeared by the mid-1950s, it had reappeared by the mid- to late-1960s. This example is from 1968.
The gold Dobbs name embossment, along with the Dobbs Coach, has also lasted to the present day with the successors of HCA in Garland, Texas, though the Dobbs name is straight instead of slanted, and sports a Registered Trademark symbol after the name. The Coach also sports a Registered Trademark symbol. Modern offerings will also say "Made in the U.S.A." below the imprint.
Post-1972 Dobbs Coach
As mentioned before, size tags are not an easy tool to accurately pinpoint a decade because there is so much overlap between decades, but for reference purposes, most will be shown here.
The black size tag probably dates earlier than the 1920s, but examples carried into the 1930s.
Typical 1920s Size Black Tag
The white tag could be found from the 1920s to the early-1940s.
Late-1920s White Size Tag
The gold tag has quite the longevity, though there are changes in the typeface used and the type of gold on the paper. Early gold tags feature a serif typeface, and tend to exhibit a greenish patina today; much of the gold often looks to be coming off. Tags from the 1950s onward do not exhibit this issue.
Left: 1940s Gold Size Tag, and Right: 1960s Gold Size Tag
The brown oval size tag appeared in the early-1950s, and lasted at least until the early-1960s.
1950s Brown Oval Size Tag
~The Hatted Professor
© 2016 J. Bradford Bowers