Page 5 - April 2016
P. 5

‘tips’. At St Bride we have a small box of   considerably more expense, as additional
artefacts left behind when his business      plates had to be engraved by hand, but
eventually ceased trading. I’ve not been     might have been advantageous for very
able to ascertain the date of closure, but   large orders. The surviving records are
we do know from genealogy records and        fragmentary, so it is hard to tell how he
census returns that hat-tip stamping was     approached each job. The tip designs
recorded as a trade as early as 1830, half   we have at St Bride include all of the top
a century before George was born.            names in hat-making; Harrods, Gieves,
                                             Dunn & Company and many others,
   By the end of 1950 only George Fowler     including a special design for Panama
remained at the hat-tip press in the         hats.
UK. From a business which had once
employed many hundreds of workers the           The limited speed of production meant
trade had shrunk to a one-man operation,     that George Fowler could never have
based in a first-floor warehouse workshop      supplied vast quantities of his work
in south-east London. George’s work is       to High Street department stores. His
exquisitely detailed, which is all the more  product was very much for the upper-
remarkable for something that rarely saw     class hatters of Britain. His finest work
the light of day. The detail in some of      appeared inside silk toppers, hand-
his engravings is as fine as any woodcut      sewn Harris tweed fishing hats and the
by Bewick and his printing skills were       bowlers worn by city gents. The quality
second to none. A number of his ‘tips’       of George’s work made it expensive and
survive in the collection in an album,       it probably cost as much to print some
together with a handful of small sketches    of the better quality hat-tips as it does to
of work in progress, rough ideas and         manufacture a cheap baseball cap in the
envelopes filled with finished artwork.        Far East today.

   The blank ‘tips’ were normally supplied      Apart from fragmentary business
by the hatters. Bundles of pre-cut silk      records, the only recorded description
or satin pieces would arrive at George       of George’s work appears in a cartoon
Fowler’s works and he would complete         strip drawn by Peter Jackson for the
the orders as required. Some examples        London Evening News in September
we have are 2-up, reducing the printing      1950. George kept this short illustrated
time by half. Perhaps he also printed        article and filed it away with his company
4-up, although this would have incurred      records. The yellowed newspaper clipping

Hat-tip designs from George Fowler’s album.

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