The Hat Detective – on the trail of Henry Pollak

I have recently discovered the joy of museum collections.  No, it wasn’t the my first time to a museum. It was my first time to see behind the scenes at a museum. I did not realize that museums had people who can show you items that are in their collections but not on display.  I owe a huge Thank You to my Morley College hat friends for showing me how it is done on a  recent trip to the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum of Childhood to view small straw hats and bonnets.

Recently, I was in California, to watch my youngest son graduate from university.  I reached out to Marla Novo a the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH).  I asked to see hats in their collection.  She was very cooperative and I was able to book an appointment to view many hats. Not all museums are this receptive. Some museums require that you are studying in a particular field or have an interest in a specific item.

Many museums have the pieces in their collection available in online catalogues which is a great way to see lots of vintage hats. The Santa Cruz MAH does not yet have their catalog online, but it is a project they are currently working on.  Since I wasn’t able to pre-select the hats from an online catalog, I was presented with a binder with paper sheets, known as Composite Object Condition Forms (COC), with a photo and brief description of each hat.

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It was a daunting task to choose from what looked to me like a hundred possible hats. I had about an hour and a half of Marla’s valuable time and I am not good with decision making.

I had done a little research to see if there were any “Must See” hats in the collection. I had discovered they had a few Kate Handley pieces. She was a milliner in the early 1900’s with a shop on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. I am hoping to create a future post about her, however this post is about a mysterious little black felt hat.

The first hat I choose from the binder catalog was a lovely black fur felt topper but it was the second hat that this post is about. What caught my attention in the COC was the shape of the piece in the photo, somewhat of a more angular crowned cloche. It had a basic description, “HAT, WOOL, BLACK, with Grosgrain Ribbon and Bow.”  I read the COC in more detail. The “LABELS, INSCRIPTIONS” field intrigued me. It said, “ unreadable label inside”.

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I had hoped that perhaps I would be able to recognized the label or make out some details and thus return some value to the woman and the museum which had gifted me this time and opportunity.

But alas when the hat was on the viewing table and the white gloves were on my hands, I would add little to their sparse information. Other than the “Grograin” ribbon was “Petersham” ribbon. Many hats were to follow with little thought to this little black hat.

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The following day as I waited for the glass to be replace on my phone. This was my 1st broken phone. I was irritated at myself, the time and expense, but  dragging my finger across broken glass was not going to be tolerable for very long.

While I was waiting for my phone to be repaired, I had the opportunity to haunt a Santa Cruz antiques shop on Pacific Avenue, called Goodies. I was looking for anything related to hats; hat stands, hat pins, hat blocks, and actual hats.  Off in a corner they had two hats that caught my eye.  One in particular had a pleasing shape. I took it from the rack and observed the sequins and velvet ribbon. It gave me a feeling of familiarity. I turned it over to see the inside.  It had the stamp. It was a sister to the one at Santa Cruz MAH! A very similar shape, but trimmed differently, as the one the previous day. Except I could read this one.  Glenover, Henry Pollak, New York.

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I needed a picture! I needed my phone back! I scurried off to pick it up from its repair and promptly returned to Goodies.  With the shop keepers permission, I took photos of the hat and excitedly emailed them to Marla at the museum.

I felt like I had just found a clue to an important mystery.  I don’t know why hats give me such a buzz and this was another new exciting type of hat buzz.

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Now, who was Henry Pollak, where were these hats made, and when? Why were there two hats of a similar shape from the same designer from New York in the fairly small city of Santa Cruz?

My following research is not extensive or exhaustive and most of my questions remain unanswered. I found various bits of information but no complete story.

The first millinery reference I found of Henry Pollak relating to the millinery trade was in a 1916 journal called the Illustrated Milliner and the last reference I have found is a dissolution of Henry Pollak, Inc in 1990. I am sure there are many stories during the 74 years of hatting and millinery associated with the Henry Pollak name. I have but a few nuggets gathered.

I observed that Henry Pollack hats appear to be fairly common on Etsy and Ebay with estimated dates of the 1930’s through the 1960’s.

There were several variations of Henry Pollak 100% wool hat bodies with additional branding of Glenover, Glenover Fawn Tra Felt, Belvedere, Flamand and Ritz.

1948 – The Trademark I recognized was registered in New York.

1959 – Reading Eagle Newspaper, pg 28 in an article about the Union buy out of the Merrimac Hat Factory in Amesbury Massachusetts quotes Henry Pollak. He was described as a sales agent in New York.

1970 – Halston, the American fashion designer and milliner with Henry Pollack Inc., established Halston International, ready-to-wear.

1970 – Legal filing between Henry Pollak, Inc. (the Plaintiff) and the Secretary of the US treasury (the Defendant), related to trade tariffs.

I have enjoyed looking into Henry Pollak and wished I could have found more about the man and the business, but with so many hats to make and other milliners to learn about, I will stop here.  My Hattin Around quest continues, but a Henry Pollak hat will forever catch my attention.

… and remember, interesting people wear hats.

Henry Pollak key

 

Published by

Leanne

Hatter, Milliner, Adventurer, Mother, Wife, and maker of many things including this blog and podcast.

20 thoughts on “The Hat Detective – on the trail of Henry Pollak”

  1. Wow, so cool that you followed the trail. I will keep my eyes open for more about Henry Pollack! Thanks for letting me share a bit of the journey with you at the MAH!

    1. Tina,
      I am hoping to get a post done about more of the hats we saw at SC MAH. Especially the Kate Handley pieces. Thank you for joining me.

      1. Hi. I thought you might enjoy a little personal history .
        Henry Pollak was my great grandfather and is also the name of my dad, (now 92 yrs. old). In 1897, the original Henry Pollak left Italy with his brother to seek their fortune and opportunity in Japan- which had been closed to outsiders for centuries. They became successful exporting straw braid to the headwear community in Europe and in America. In 1917, my great grandfather and his wife, (Eva) moved to New York and started importing hat bodies and braids from around the world. Henry Pollak Inc. was incorporated in N.Y. in 1917. Domestic manufacturers of hat bodies required country of origin stamps inside of the crown of the hat bodies in the middle of the 20th century. Our hat bodies came from all over the world. That is why so many wool and fur felt hats are marked with the “Henry Pollak” stamp. My family sold the raw hat bodies to the milliners – but they were never designers or producers of finished hats. Most of the hat designers (Halston, Adolfo, Frank Olive , Suzanne Dache, etc) used our hat bodies. It is ironic that the name that survived in the hats is the name “Henry Pollak”- who did not design hats at all!
        My father did introduce the first non headwear lines of both Halston and Adolfo. I am now the 4th generation member of the family in the business. We are now, no longer in the headwear business. (I import sweaters and coats. But, I did stat my career here selling hat bodies to hat manufacturers. I have traveled to Asia many times , as my great grandfather did- to bring fashion to the new world. I hope this has helped you, finally, to solve the mystery of Henyy Pollak.

        1. Tom, Thank you for taking the time to address many of my unanswered questions. It was such a thrill to get your comment. I can’t wait to tell my family in the morning as they had to hear me talking about it, as I was researching and typing up the blog post. You have a fascinating family history, thank you again for sharing it with me.
          Kind Regards,
          Leanne

        2. Dear Tom Pollak

          I wrote down this Henry Pollak Co, New York, Glenover from the inside of one of my grandmother’s hats that I now own. I would love to learn more about the Company and the hat. This information is really fascinating and thank you for it.

        3. Well, my father was (I think) comptroller at Henry Pollak Inc at 1040 Avenue of the Americas New York 18 New York. This sounds consistent with my limited memory….interesting. cd

        4. I’m researching my hat and want to thank you for your family history of Henry Pollak hat bodies!

  2. It seems I’ve found such a hat myself. The stamp is quite clear, of the Glenover Fawn-tra Felt variation, a simple black hat that looks across between a pork pie and a fedora with a wide brown band sewn in. There is a newer label in the back, white and blue, PASADENA, and below, hidden beneath that inner band, is a label with some sort of stamp or marking and, the letters KN, the number 827366, and IN USE, some sort of other stamp marking, and the number 5. I was originally going to take it apart and turn it into something else, but am now having second thoughts on that account.

    1. Hi David,
      Did you see the comment I received from Tom Pollack? He is Henry Pollack’s great grandson? It sounds like they provided the felts that were used by many different hatters and milliners. Unless there is another special designer label in it, or you love the shape it is currently, my feeling is make it into something you will love. Thank you for sharing. I would love to see a picture of your hat. Perhaps even a before and after. 🙂 Have fun.
      Cheers, Leanne

  3. This was all very enlightening. Thank you all for the information. I, as well, have come across one of these hats belonging to my mother-in-law. I was hoping that I could find something about it and this was way more than I expected.
    I was going to try to get rid of them(have many other hats) on ebay, but now I think I’d like to find a different use or place to put it.

  4. I recently acquired a beautiful emerald green hat with a bow from a garage sale in Paso Robles. The inside has the stamp Glenover Fawn tra-Felt Henry Pollack inc. New York. I don’t know anything about hats but this one is beautiful. I would love to know more about it.
    Thanks, Julia

  5. I recently came across what I thought was a Henry Pollock hat, but after reading your article and comments it is actually a Halston Americana hat. I wish I knew the era or more about the Halston brand, as I am going through hats at my grandmother home. Her claim to fame was she was “The Possessor of 252 Hats”. I would love to share some with you, and you share some knowledge if you are up for it and interested. Just let me know. My email is Lmiller2786@gmail.com.

  6. I have 5
    VINTAGE LADIES HATS. ONE IN GLENOVER HENRY POLLOCK BLACK FELT 100% WOOL WITH TWO STRINGS OF RUBIES SET IN GOLD AND ONE STRING OF MOTHER OF PEARL BEADS. I ALSO HAVE A MERRIMAC MADE IN THE YEAR 1856WITH A BLACK BOW ACCENTED WITH PEARLS. I ALSO HAVE THREE OTHER HATS, TWO ARE FUNERAL HATS WITH FACE MESH AND LASTLY A LIGHT GREEN HAT WITH MESH. ANYONE INTERESTED CAN CONTACT ME AT 936 219 7946AND ASK FOR TONI. THESE HATS ARE IN MINT CONDTION AND IN AN ORIGINAL HAT BOX FRON NEW YORK CITY,NY THANK YOU.

  7. I have recently purchased an antique fashion doll circa 1870. She appears to be dressed in her original and very detailed silk clothing, which unfortunately is detiorating rapidly. Upon her head is the most beautiful little hat complete with silk ruffles, silk tulle and silk flowers. On examination of the hat, the hat form is felt and stamped in the crown is Pollack and 100% wool. This intrigues me as it appears that the company was not around in the late 1800’s so is her costume a later addition…..

  8. So glad I found this! I just picked up a hat from an antique store that says Glenover fawn tra felt inside! I wonder how old it is!

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      Unfortunately I cannot date your hat within about 90 years. The company started selling the felt bodies around 1917 and seems to have closed in 1990. I don’t know when the Glenover fawn tra line was started or ended specifically. If you discover any more info, please post it. Kind regards, LF

  9. I have a hat I received at an auction for $ 1.00 would love to find info about it inside says Henry Pollock original new York also says Superbe. Anyone help out

    1. SUPERBE is another trademarked name for Henry Pollak Inc., so your hat is no older than 1947, and unlikely newer than 1992, which is quite a range.
      Status/Status Date: EXPIRED 11/3/1992
      Serial Number: 71540578
      Filing Date: 11/8/1947
      Registration Number: 0529707
      Registration Date: 8/29/1950

      I would love to hear if you gather any further clues.
      Kind regards, LF

  10. I have a Pollack. Can’t find the same one anywhere on the web. Wondering the history or story on it.
    Anyone who could help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hello Sandra,
      Have you had a chance to read some of the previous posts? Henry Pollak Inc. sold the felt hat bodies to a variety of designers starting around 1917 for over 70 years. Which means you have a broad range years and designers. Do you have any other information to share about your hat? There were several trade marked names on the stamps used on the felts which could help narrow the age range a little.
      Kind regards, LF

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