The Late History of John B. Stetson Company, et al Suitors

Discussion in 'Hats' started by Hurricane Jack, Nov 19, 2020.

  1. I've been working on this for a while so I feel it is pretty accurate, but if you have differing information, dates, etc please post it. This concerns only the hat manufacturing. If you have history of the Stetson felting plant, please post it.

    I trust if this needs to be merged into an existing thread the Bartenders will find one.


    By the late 1960's the Stetson Philadelphia plant was outdated & experiencing labor union problems. The Stetson St. Joseph, MO plant was down to just making a few Western hats. For several yrs Stetson had been under the control of two New York financiers, Ira Guilden and Phillip A. Roth (Ramco Enterprises, Inc). By Dec 1970 Stetson's President Phillip A. Roth had started looking for someone to license the manufacturing rights & the Stetson name to. He came to terms with the Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co in St. Joseph, MO (~1971, exact date unknown?). Stetson already had licensing agreements with companies in 14 other countries starting in 1968 after signing a 3 yr union labor agreement.

    The Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co. was a 3rd generation 2-family owned company manufacturing hats, caps and gloves. It was started as The St. Joseph Hat & Cap Co by 2 cousins of John B. Stetson, Hyman Rosenthal and Simon Pitluck in 1917, changing the name a few yrs later. All of the equipment & a few manufacturing employees were moved from Philadelphia to St. Joseph.

    The Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co. purchased the Paisano Hat Co, a manufacturer of Western straw hats in Laredo Texas & moved it to St. Joseph (exact yr unknown?).

    In 1983 the Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co purchased all the Stetson stock outstanding to control the company. The John B.Stetson Hat Div of Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co goes into bankruptcy on June 22, 1986.

    Mr. Irving Joel (1928-1994) founded the AJD Cap Corp in 1960. It was renamed to Hat Brands Inc in 1973. Hat Brands Inc was sold to Colgate-Palmolive in 1978 & Irving Joel remained on as President. He was able to buy back Hat Brands Inc from Colgate-Palmolive in 1981. Hat Brands Inc was able to acquire Miller Bros Hats in April 1984, Resistol Hats from Levi Strauss in Oct 1985, acquires the Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co in the 1980's (exact date unknown), & the John B. Stetson Hat Div out of bankruptcy in March 1990. The assumption must be then that Hat Brands Inc did not yet own Stevens Hat Manufacturing Co. on June 22, 1986 at the time of the bankruptcy filing of John B. Stetson Hat Div.

    Nov 1985, as President of Hat Brands Inc, Resistol Hats & AJD Cap Company Irving Joel sends Mikhail Gorbachev several white & black Western hats similar to the one President Reagan wore at his ranch, a fedora like the one Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry wore, & several Chicago Bears caps after seeing Gorbachev on TV, & thought "his hats looked like hell."

    1992 Hicks, Muse & Co, a leverage buyout firm bought 80% interest in Hat Brands & signed Irving Joel (64) to a 5 yr contract to stay with Hat Brands Inc as Chairman & CEO. Irving Joel was forced to resign in 1993 due to health reasons (cancer) but Joel retains 20% ownership.

    1994 Hicks, Muse & Tate bought Irving Joel's interest in Hat Brands Inc after his death, & moved full operations from St. Joseph, MO to Garland, TX within a couple of yrs.

    After relocation to Garland, TX, Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst renamed the company to Hat Co. The umbrella company remained Hat Brands Inc to include eight recreational headgear and Western jewelry manufacturing companies.

    By 1996 Hat Co was $100M in debt. From Lucchese Boot Co they hired John Tillotson as CEO. Tillotson consolidated the company's eight subsidiaries into three groups and renamed the parent company Arena Brands Inc. He grouped Stetson and Resistol with Charlie One Horse hats under the Hat Co. name, and based that company in Garland. He grouped the Denver-based Imperial Hat Co., AJD Hat Co. and Corsicana companies under the Imperial name, and based that subsidiary in Denver. His last group was the company's Montana-based Western jewelry manufacturer, Montana Silversmith. Each group has a President. That's how things stood as of 1998.

    St. Joseph, MO plant stops all manufacturing in June 2004.
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  2. Frunobulax


    Funkytown, USA
    Good stuff, Jack. Thanks for the research.
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  3. Bamaboots

    Bamaboots I'll Lock Up

    ^ What he said.
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  4. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    To take this to now....

    June 25th 2009

    RHE Hatco Inc., a maker of Cowboy and dress hats, was acquired by an affliate of the Pro Equine Group.

    Garland-based Hatco, formerly a subsidiary of Arena Brands Inc., designs, manufactures and markets Stetson, Resistol, Wrangler, Charlie 1 Horse and Dobbs hats in addition to Resistol apparel.

    There will be no internal changes at the Garland office, and the company will retain its name, said Stan Redding, general manager of RHE Hatco.

    The only changes, Redding said, will be in marketing strategy.

    "You're going to see a vast increase in marketing media blitz," he said. "There'll be a much larger focus on our core grassroots customer as well as a customer that is outside the western industry."

    There will be a new emphasis on dress headwear from the Stetson dress and Dobbs brands, he said.

    The Pro Equine Group affiliate carries products such as ropes, protective equine legwear and saddles for the rodeo and ranching industries. Their holdings include Cactus Ropes, Heel-O-Matic Training Systems, Fast Back Ropes, Pro Equine Products and Cactus Saddlery.

    The company is based out of Pleasanton.

    Direct copied from the article located here:

    I DO believe the whole Hatco thing is derived from the original "Hat Corporation of America" founded by John Cavanaugh in the early 30's which contained several hat "brands" by the 1940's.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
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  5. Interesting Mark! Thank you.

    Bringing things a bit further based on this new info I found that Arena Brands bought the Lucchese Boot Co. in 1998.

    In 2004 Arena Brands sold Montana Silversmiths.

    In 2006 Arena Brands main business remained the renamed RHE Hatco Div, & Luchesse Boot Co. So we don't know what yr it was renamed or why.

    So in 2009 RHE Hatco was sold.
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  6. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    I think much of this name change is to be found in the Resistol History I think.......when either Resistol bought Hat Corporation of America or HCOA Bought Resistol.

    Apparently Pro Equine Group still owns RHE Hatco as can be seen at the company profile here:

    Also here is some fun information on Stetsons 150, which the whole company claims:

    I copied the pertainant information but their site also has a nice video...

    Garland, TX (PRWEB) May 13, 2015

    On May 21 2015, Hatco will celebrate 150 years of continuous manufacture of Stetson hats within the United States and accept honors extended by the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC) and the city of Garland during an event beginning at 12 p.m. Thursday, May 21, at its headquarters, 601 Marion Drive, Garland, TX.

    “We are honored to be part of the long storied history of the Stetson brand and to celebrate 150 years of iconic history”, states Hatco’s General Manager Ricky Bolin. “The Stetson brand is well known throughout the world. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to see hats bearing the Stetson name go through our factory crafted by American hands shipped to our retailers and customers.”

    In addition to the celebration of Stetson's 150 years, Hatco will accept the award for Manufacturing Excellence from TMAC. Hatco has been working closely with TMAC over the last few years in an effort to blend the historically unchanged process of making felt hats with 21st century lean manufacturing methods. “In contrast to most manufacturing processes today, new is not always better. We embrace processes of the past 100 years with 21st century lean processes”, states VP of Operations Dan Brown.

    In recognition of Hatco's recent renovation efforts on its nearly 80 year old campus, the city of Garland will conduct a ceremonial ribbon cutting to acknowledge the many favorable impacts the Company has made in the community over the years.

    Highlights of the day include:

    • Ceremonial ribbon cutting by City of Garland.
    • Award presentation by TMAC
    • Afternoon picnic and activities for employees and appreciation for the contributions by ownership.

    About RHE Hatco
    Hatco is the leading manufacturer and distributor of well known western headwear brands Stetson, Resistol, Charlie 1 Horse, and Wrangler hats. Comprised of 2 campuses, Hatco is the only vertically integrated fur felt manufacturer in North America. By turning raw fur into hat bodies at their Longview campus, Hatco can truly say their hats are "American Made, Texas Proud", and 100% made of fur, unadulterated with inferior wool filler, a fact that other brands and manufacturers cannot make. Hatco also manufactures and distributes dress and outdoor headwear under the Stetson label and Dobbs label, with the same attention to detail as their western counterparts. The Hatco apparel division designs and distributes under the brands Resistol Ranch, Rancho Estancia, and RU.

    By embracing the rich heritage of American hatters and continuing to make hats with equipment from the early to mid 20th century by skilled craftsmen while balanced with 21st century American lean manufacturing, Hatco has created an environment where “the past and the present come alive”. To see this unique process Hatco now gives tours to hat wearers, (and soon to be hat wearers) at both their fur felt and straw plants in Garland Texas.
  7. Interesting that you should bring that up. Here is a prequel to the above opening timeline, specific to Resistol & it's coming to be purchased by Hat Brands Inc. If HCOA goes all the way back to Cavanaugh maybe you have info that those brands were purchased by Resistol? I am under the impression HCOA was folded into the original John B. Stetson Co while in Philadelphia & the HCOA name has never been used again, like so many names under that umbrella.

    1922 Harry Rolnick moved to Houston, TX & with his brothers opened Harry's Hat Shop for hat repair & restoration.

    Moves to Dallas, TX & becomes a principal owner in Florence Hat Company (yr unknown)

    1927 Byer-Rolnick is formed in Dallas, TX by millionaire E. R. Byer & hatmaker Harry Rolnick. They received a patent on a sweatband & started making dress hats under the Resistol name.

    1935 Resistol starts making a line of Western hats.

    1938 Resistol Hats moves from Dallas to Garland, TX.

    1968 Byer-Rolnick sells their company to KeraCorp Industries.

    Levi Strauss & Co buys KeraCorp Industries (yr unknown)

    1985 Hat Brands Inc buys Resistol Hats from Levi Strauss & Co.
  8. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Here is some of the information I have:
    the Hat Corporation of America was formed in 1932 by John Cavanaugh
    Almost immediately there were trademarks filled for varied hat names for BOTH men's and women's hats. These included many famous trademarks not limited to, but including:
    "Vagabond" 1934
    "Gamebird" 1934
    "Knapp Felt" 1935 and again in 1947
    "D Dobbs" 1935
    "Fox Hound" 1947
    "Ovalized Sixteenths" 1947
    "Dobbs" 1947
    "Westward" 1950
    and others up to 1969 which shows a "Derringer" trademark being the last. AND if I recall that LAST trademark may answer the question as the "Derringer" is/was a Stetson model from that time (I have one).

    Here is part of an ad (from my collection) from 1952 that clearly lists the brands (or at least some of them) owned by HCOA at that time.
    Hat Corporation of aAmerica 1952.jpg

    Note the following brands under their umbrella:
    Dobbs, Cavanaugh, Knox, Berg, Byron, C&K, and Dunlap.....quite the list. Which is why I thought initially either they bought Resistol or Resistol bought them as they are all together now.....MAYBE they (HCOA) bought Stetson or Stetson bought them by the 60's (unless Stetson bought JUST the "Derringer" trademark).......LOTS more to look opened a lot Jack...;) This corporate "buy out", sub corporate ownership, splits and acquisition, sure gets messy..:eek::eek:

    Good discussion.......thank you!!!:) LOVE looking at the History and TRYING to unravel the web!!!:):):):):):):)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
  9. Frunobulax


    Funkytown, USA
    I've been poking around and can't find a good reference, but I could have sworn Brad had indicated there was no connection between HCOA and Hatco.

    Wish he'd finish his website.
  10. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    And THAT could be too......but it seems, as the Beatles have said, "All Together Now".....;);););):D
    ME TOO....YES PLEASE BRAD finish your website!!!!!!
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  11. So many great hats within this dare i say style. Very interesting thread.
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  12. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    AND THEN.....I find THIS which ties it all together.......:eek::eek::eek::eek:
    AND the connection to Resistol!!!!! (and then eventually Stetson, referring to the Stevens Hat Company license deal) matching nicely with Jacks history....)


    Koracorp Industries, Inc., a diversified apparel and textile company, has agreed to acquire the hat business of H.C.A. Industries, Inc., the nation's largest men's headwear manufacturer.

    The complex proposal to acquire the worldwide rights to the Cavanagh, Dobbs, Knox and Champ brands from H.C.A., formerly called the Hat Corporation of America, would practically end that company's manufacturing operations. During 1971, H.C.A. disposed of the assets and business of the Cable Raincoat Company and later sold Eagle Shirtmakers to Damon Creations, Inc.

    The licensing by H.C.A. of its well‐known brands to Koracorp comes at a time when men's hat sales have long been in a sharply declining trend.

    It follows by about a year a similar arrangement made by the John B. Stetson Company to license its Stetson label to the Stevens Hat Manufacturing Company.

    According to the separate announcements by both corporations last night about the transaction, which will become effective Feb. 29 if approved by H.C.A.'s directors and stock holders, H.C.A. expects to receive more than $1‐million from royalties on its trademarks, based on a percentage of net revenues, in the first year. The company's annual hat volume was placed at about $12‐million.

    In addition, H.C.A hopes to receive approximately $3.5‐million during the 22 months following the closing from the sale of inventories and equipment. The company will retain its accounts receivable, from which it believes it will realize some $4‐million.

    Since 1967, Koracorp has owned the Byer‐Rolnick Corporation, a large men's head wear manufacturer in Garland, Tex., with annual sales of $9‐ million. Its brands include Resistol, Bradford and Churchill, and its strength is in the West hat category, which complements H.C.A.'s strength in dress and casual hats.

    The deal calls for Koracorp to make payments in quarterly installments for 20 years for the trademarks and to lease H.C.A.'s casual‐hat plant in Sunbury, Pa, for 10 years. The other H.C.A. facilities in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not included in the agreement.

    The companies pointed out that “the proposed transaction has been presented to the United States Department of Justice, which indicated no objections.”

    From the New York Times........All found here:


    STILL does not explain the "Derringer" trade mark use though......:rolleyes:

    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
  13. Wow, great find Mark! I knew if it was there it had to be in a bundle somewhere. I knew KaraCorp Industries was in the clothing business & that's why Levi Strauss & Co. bought them. But I was never able to locate much on them. Great find!
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  14. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    THANKS Jack!!!! It took some deep digging (and a LOT of reading) BUT you inspired me with this thread!!!!!:)

    Thank you for the thread!!!!;)
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  15. Frunobulax


    Funkytown, USA
    Yes, they all.wound up in the same place!

    So what vintage brands are now under Hatco, even if they're no longer produced?


    I know I am missing some.
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  16. I meant to suggest this earlier, check derringer vs deringer spellings. I'm sure you know the inventor of the pistol was named Deringer. Could they have gotten around trade marks that way?
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  17. M Hatman

    M Hatman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    And there could be the answer......I will have to look for the stetson advert for the spelling and compare to the trademark from HCOA........
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  18. Re: Derringer. 1968.

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  19. In 1959 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev accepted President Dwight Eisenhower's invitation to visit the US. Khrushchev arrived Sept 15th, departing on Sept 27, 1959 after a 12 day stay. His official itinerary says he traveled to Washington, D.C., New York, California, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and back to Camp David. Nothing in his itinerary or press coverage at the time said he toured the Stetson Philadelphia plant while in Pennsylvania but it would appear he was given a Stetson hat sometime before he was photographed eating a hot dog in Des Moines, IA on Tuesday, September 22nd. Since Texas was not on his itinerary it's safe to assume it's not a Resistol.

    Apparently he was a TAR man.


  20. In trying to document the source of Khrushchev's hat I found a few more pics & hats from his 1959 visit.

    With VP Richard Nixon

    PS on Edit: I've removed the 3 pics as further research verifies the pic with VP Richard Nixon is from Nixon's visit to the Soviet Union in July 1959. At least one of the other two pics appears to be the same hat, thus the same trip.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2021

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