Monday, 22 June 2015

Luton Straw Hat Trade and the War Office

Largest straw hat in the world c.1905 [Z1306/75/17/45]

Tuesday 22nd June 1915: Rumour, it seems, travels further and faster than fact. The following article has been published in the Yorkshire Evening Post:

“The connection between the straw hat trade and the provision of munitions is not immediately obvious, yet the factories at St. Albans and Luton are, for the first time in their history, busy with War Office contracts. I believe that never previously have the War Office authorities furnished straw hats for the troops. At the moment, however, large contracts have been placed with the straw hat manufacturers for straw helmets which will be covered with khaki cloth, and be issued in lieu of the pith helmets usually provided for soldiers on service in Egypt, India, and the Far Eastern stations. Manufacturers are also busy executing War Office orders for large quantities of Panama hats for the Army nurses.”

The straw hat manufacturers of Luton very much which this was true, but so far their efforts to secure Government contracts have met with no success. Two hat manufacturers recently travelled to London in the same train compartment without telling each other their business. On arriving at the War Office, one of the men met the other leaving. Unfortunately neither was successful in securing any work for the Luton hat factories. It is believed that St. Albans may have won a contract, a snippet of news which has been somewhat embellished by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Source: Luton News 25 June 1915

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