Rosy view of the progressive hat trade

While there was disquiet among workers in the hat trade over low wages, the local correspondent of the Hatters' Gazette painted a rosy picture of the industry.

He wrote that a tour of some of the factories of the neighbourhood was productive of several interesting results, and to the writer, who had known the straw trade for over 40 years, it was a real pleasure, filled with admiration, at the progressive enterprise of the various parties concerned in the trade.

Dillingham hats workroom 1907Every factory is now run on the most up-to-date lines. First, the building is more or less on a palatial scale - gone are all the old ramshackle barn-like factories which served their purposes 20 years ago. Now elegance of taste is combined with the most convenient of designs, and the result is a building where the trade can be carried on in perfect comfort.

The greatest change in process, however, is the substitution of power-driven machines for the old-fashioned treadle article... This scale of improvement is found right through the factories, and today, from its extremely light and healthy nature, there are very few trades that can compare in a favourable or hygienic sense with the straw trade.

There is only one real and constant fly in the ointment and that is the highly competitive nature of the trade. This has, of late, assumed so acute a form as to become unbearable, and, therefore, the men's hat manufacturers of St Albans and Luton have, under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, met together for the purpose of trying to arrive at some system which shall give to their branch of the trade some security of sale prices.

Several meetings have taken place, and while one may not disclose for the present the total result of the deliberations, it will not be injudicious to report that substantial progress towards a common basis of action has been made.

[Source: The Luton News, Thursday, February 11th, 1915.]