My Hat Collection

Hat Collection

1. Straw Boaters

Olney Headwear SM6 Boater- FOR SALE 

Olney has done a magnificent job at making boaters since the 1930s. They still continue their tradition till now. This was purchased  ‘The Hat Place’ (highly recommended vendor). Exceptional boater and one of kind Flower edged straw plait boater. Once used by George Arthur Dunn Company but now only Olney uses it.

Stetson Medalist Boater

This was from an estate in Richmond, Virginia. Apparently the only mens’ item found around the whole estate according to the seller. This boater was exceptional condition, with no cracks or any blemish. The sweatband was in excellent condition with no bends. It looked like if it was never worn. Sweatband is stamped, Lansburgh’s Department Store, Washington DC. Made around the 1950s.


Crofut & Knapp New York Straw Boater (In Restoration)

During the two years, I have only seen two C&K Straw boaters for sale including this one above. The poor thing wouldn’t get a home so I bought it. It was retailed by Rose & Katz, South Bend which I cannot find any info. The flipping of the sweatband revealed a discoloured paper tag marking 4 dollars. According to an existing Crofut & Knapp Boater advertisement it was retailed at 6 dollars so I suppose this one is an older one. The boater was fitted with a rare TRUSIZE sweatband adjuster, ancestor of the Bon-Ton-Ivy. It came with a rather tattered original ribbon which I will have to cut and repair.

It is in restoration.


Right: Crofut & Knapp, NY Straw Boater Ad


St Andrew’s College Boater by ‘The York Hat’ Company

This is a very special boater because I go to St Andrew’s College and historically, I believe I am very lucky to have my school’s boater. Boaters were terminated from the school uniform in 2007.

On 17th March 2017, it was the St Andrew’s College 100th year anniversary Founder’s Day. I wore this boater and an old Collegian approached me and we had a conversation. Mr David Soulsby (1968 Collegian) who was a boarder for 7 years at the College recalls the ‘cady’ (boater). He said that he wore it in the 60s with a thick blazer and cady, went to Knox Church every Saturday or Sunday. He also said that we were lucky for our light and slim blazer. The College Memorial Chapel was built in 1955 but it was demolished due to the earthquakes. The new Centennial chapel was built and opened in 2016.


Gamble & Gunn (Portsea Island) Ribbon Boater

While in London, I bought a boater which was on my wish list. I hoped to purchase a vintage Dunn & Co or a Ridgmont but that got out of hand so I decided to buy a Gamble & Gunn which I spotted early in the year. I received it and was totally amazed. The quality of the boater was astonishing. It was much more better than an Olney. The ribbon was specifically made by Toye Kennings-Spencer which produces ribbons for Her Majesty the Queen in England. A definite looker.

This boater was used in the Great Gatsby film, worn by Leonardo DiCaprio. Most people fail to locate the boater worn by Leonard DiCaprio but I found it for those who may be interested.


F.A.Heckel of Dresden

Straw Boaters: A long gone trend


1925 Mallory Hat Company advertisement on a Classic Boater

Chapter 1: A trend

It is a 1920 summer and a scorching hot day in New York.

The sun is shining high above the sky. Oh, do you see a hat store? Why not fancy a boater?

Yes, that is right! Boater hats were very common during the 1920s. Boaters are rigid straw hats with flat tops and a wide brim. These hats were also known as ‘sailor’s straw hats’ ‘skimmers’, ‘barbershop straws’ but most commonly known as ‘boaters’.


July 1921, sea of boaters in Times Square

Although the boater was an essential piece of fashion during the 1920s and 1930s, now it is only to be seen at certain private schools in Australia and the United Kingdom. It is also seen at the Henley Royal Regatta. As the 1950’s went by, some of the well known manufacturers started to stop the production of boaters. Such companies were: Stetson, Dobbs, Dunn & Co. and many more.

Chapter 2: Boaters in Schools

Boaters held a very important role in many different schools in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Although boaters are almost extinct in New Zealand and Australia, many schools in Britain wear boaters as part of their uniform.

Interesting difference can be seen at Harrow School. Their hats are not counted as ‘boaters’ as they wear their own special ‘Harrow Hat’, a modified boater with a lower flat top and a much wider brim.

             Left: Olney Headwear Co. Classic Boater, Right: Harrow School Hat


A.E.Olney Factory in Luton, Bedfordshire producing Harrow hats & boaters. Circa 1952


Harrow School Founder’s Day, Students in Harrow Hats. Circa 1953

Here are some old photos of school boaters in Christchurch, New Zealand.


St Andrew’s College Students in Boaters Circa. 1930


A Christ’s College senior with matching boater, Circa 1962

Chapter 3: Bogus Boaters

There are those such as me who really  boaters. The following shows the difference between ‘real boaters’ and ‘bogus’ boaters.


Hills Hats Company, New Zealand Deluxe Boater

Hills Hats Company is one of the leading hat manufacturers in the world and I am proud to say I wear their Summer Panama but sadly they have failed with their boaters. Here are some reasons. The material itself is wrong. Boaters are supposed to be rigid hats made out of stiff straw but Hills Hats have used a straw which tends to bend easily, that they use on their Panamas. The flat top area (where the head goes) is too tall for its brim width and the band is too low as well.

Ebay & Amazon & Fashion Store ‘Boaters’

These boaters are retailed very cheaply compared to legitimate boaters. As with the Hills Hats boater the material and even the shape is wrong.

Chapter 4: Real Boaters & Where to buy?

Now there are only three known ‘real’ boater manufacturers in the world. The leading company would be Olney Headwear, with a 100 year long history and they have produced hats and boaters for famous faces and right until up to the present they have produced the majority of boaters in the United Kingdom.

Olney Headwear

Left & Right: Olney Headwear SM6 Guard Band Boater


Above: Olney Headwear Black Ribbon Boater

In 2015, Olney Headwear produced a batch of Harrods Department Store boaters. If you ever go to the Harrods Department Store Food Halls, the staff are seen wearing these.


Above: Olney Headwear, Harrods Department Store Boaters

Lock & Co. Hatters, London

The other would be the famous hatters in the UK, Lock & Co. Hatters in St. James Street of London is also another hat company with a long and proud history.


Above: Lock & Co Hatters Boater made for Brook Brothers, Circa. 1940


Above: Present Day Lock & Co Hatters Classic Boater

I believe Lock & Co used to produce the Harrods Department Store Special Boaters in the 1940s.

Gamble & Gunn, Portsea Island


Above: Gamble & Gunn Black & White Stripe Boater

I found this hat company while searching for a nice boater. I have one like the above and the quality is superb!

Vintage Boaters on Ebay

Ebay is full of vintage boaters made by Lock & Co, Dobbs, Stetson and etc. Some go cheap so grab a deal!

Operating Director of ArtifaxBooks!

I am very happy to say that I am now the new Operating Director of Artifaxbooks. This year the telegraph society has lost a very well respected and knowledgable historian, collector and writer, Mr Thomas M French.

ArtifaxBooks was first established 1990, offering telegraph collectors wide range of books and booklets by 1955 licensed Tom French, W1IMQ. He was a very knowledgable historian in the field of Telegraph Apparatus Company, McElroy keys and champion telegrapher, Ted McElroy and J-38 Military keys.

Now, ArtifaxBooks has been converted into an online museum containing photos of keys owned by Tom French for references for telegraph collectors, hams and etc. The opening of the new ArtifaxBooks will be in around the end of December, 2016.

I am extremely honoured to continue ArtifaxBooks.

Vibroplex Patent Wars: The Rise of the Albright bugs

I would like to thank the many who helped me with this research.

Chapter 1: Introduction to 1914 Vibroplex-Mecograph Co.

 Left:Dunduplex Transmitter Bug, Credit: Bill Holly                                                                                     

Right: 1911 J.E.Albright Shop Advertisement, Credit: Bill Holly

By 1914, the sole selling agent of the Vibroplex-Mecograph Company was James Eugene Albright. He had a good business in selling typewriters and the Dunduplex bug in 253 Broadway Street in New York City. As the fame of the Vibroplex bugs or speed keys rose, clones of the Vibroplex bug started to rise up in the market. Although there is no existing physical advertisement of these clone bugs, it was probably told through telegrapher through telegrapher that the clone bugs were cheaper but to have the same qualities of the genuine Vibroplex bug. The webmaster of telegraph-office, Mr Neal McEwen states that there were ads in the magazines and journals.


 1914 Vibroplex No.4 Blue Racer bug, Credit: Ebay

Chapter 2: ATOZ Electric Novelty Company



Up-Max Levey, Owner of ATOZ Electric Novelty Company- Credit: Paul Carreiro, N6EV

Down- Maroon Base ATOZ Electric Novelty Co. Bug-Credit: Claudio Ruggieri, IZ0KRC

The flag patent violator of the patent wars was the ATOZ Electric Novelty Company of Chicago which was ran by Max Levey. The ATOZ Electric Novelty Company manufactured around 10,000 bugs. They have three models but their single lever was the main seller (Vibroplex original Clone), double levers and one model X was made. For more information on Max Levey, check out this cool history about Max Levey researched and written by Paul, N6EV. Click Here to go!

Most historians and people do not state this but the ATOZ Electric Novelty Company had two types of nameplates. The first nameplate were engraved this: (XXXX is a 4 digit serial number)






Type 2:


   The Improved Vibroplex

              Made by


No. XXXX              Chicago


Rare ATOZ Electric Novelty Co. Type 1 Nameplate Bug, Credit-Ebay


ATOZ Electric Novelty Company Double Lever Bug with Albright License- Credit: Robert Sauvan, W0YBS

Chapter 3: Other ‘Bastard’ bug producers


V.D.Liggitt Model X Clone Bug, Credit-Neal McEwen (One known to exist)

There were other minor companies which copied Vibroplex bugs, some even imitated the real Vibroplex tag and stuck it on their bug. Few minor company clones survive to this day, the V.D.Liggitt, Texas (ATOZ re-named bugs), O.M.Thomas Electric Company (only two known in existence), Mt Auburn Electric Speciality Co. (none known in existence), Oscilloplex by ATOZ ELEC. NOVELTY CO. (Double Lever bugs that avoided patent violation made by the ATOZ Electric Novelty Co) and AE Electric Co, Chicago. (two known in existence, Similar to ATOZ).


Clone Bug with Counterfeit Vibroplex tag, Credit:Ebay


Improved Vibroplex by ATOZ Electric Novelty Co. Credit: Bill Holly, Vibroplex Book


Author’s Non-Tagged Clone Bug, Circa 1914 (Presumed O.M.Thomas or Late ATOZ)

Chapter 4: Albright takes action


Author’s early A&E Electric Company Bug with Albright License

Well, Albright took action. He said that the owner of these bastard bugs (clone bug’s name until WWI) were to pay a $2.00 license fee to J.E.Albright to legalise the use of the bastard bug. Many Vibroplex Clones or most often the ATOZ bugs are found with an Albright License. Some are known to have their original nameplates. By that time there were around 10,000 clone bugs in operation in telegraph offices, so Albright issued a warning ad to the Western Union and to their telegraphers that it would be illegal to use a bastard bug if it did not have a license by Albright.

Fun Fact: Some collectors and operators of the past say some of them felt much better than the ‘real’ Martin Vibroplex.

There are two types of Albright license plates. {This field of Albright nameplates were researched by Thomas M French, W1IMQ (SK)}

The Type 2 license is very rare to come by and usually an Albright license with a Special No. or W.U.T.Co No. under 1000 will have a Type 2. Collector, Tim Patton’s Dinger Key carries a Type 2 Albright license with a number under 1000, around the 990s.


Type 2 Albright License on a Dinger Bug, Credits: Tim Patton

Type 1:

This machine is NOT guaranteed NOR made

but only licensed by


253 Broadway, New York

Special No. 1234

Type 2:

This machine is licensed

but NOT guaranteed NOR manufactured by


253 Broadway, New York

No. 123


Improved Vibroplex Bug by ATOZ Electric Novelty Co with Albright License, Credit: Bill Holly

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 8.01.38 pm.png

Rare Specimen: Dinger Telegraph Bug with Albright License, Credit: Tim Patton

Chapter 5: Albright License no longer needed


Lytle Triplex, Straight Key/Left-Handed bug/Right-Handed Bug, C.1922

During the First World War, inspectors from the Albright Company were asked by the War Department to inspect and approve semi-automatic keys purchased by the Signal Corps for military use, to ensure efficient operating on their circuits.

When the exclusive manufacturing rights were relaxed in the early twenties, there was no longer a need for the so called, ‘Albright License’ since by then many manufacturers were producing semi-automatic keys quite regularly.

Following extract is from the ‘The Story of the Key’ Volume. I, Morse Magnificat. Written by historian, Louise Ramsey Moreau, W3WRE