About Hückel Hats
The History of Hückel Hats
Founded in 1799 in Neutitschein, Austria (now Novy Jicin, Czech Republic)
The beginning of millinery manufacture in Novy Jicin dates back to 1630 when the Town Council approved the Articles of the Hatters’ Guild. In 1799, young journeyman Johann Nepomuk Hückel was admitted to the Guild and soon afterwards opened a millinery shop.
The quality of his products matched that of previous handicraft and the new products soon penetrated the Austrian and other foreign markets. In 1865 Johann Nepomuk Hückel installed new machinery and equipment, pioneering mechanized production of fur felt hats. Two years later, he built a large factory fully equipped with modern machinery.
They were the first in the Habsburg Monarchy to introduce a steam machine into the process. The new findings and technologies resulted in expansion of the production area and naturally also a subsequent increase in demand. Consequently Johann Albert Hückel decided to build a new branch in 1867 in the southern suburbs of the town, which was equipped with the most modern machines and became the main centre of the whole millinery company in 1869.
In 1868 the Hutfabrik Johann Hückel’s Söhne Company was established and acquired an extensive market on world markets and also received many awards for its own products at world exhibitions during the second half of the 19th century. Establishment of a mechanical hair clipping room was an important step within the scope of the manufacturing technology.
On January 1, 1869, the business was taken over by the public company J. Hückel and Sons and kept this name until it was nationalized after WWII and TONAK, a state-owned enterprise, was established. At the end of the 19th century the company employed over 1,200 workers and was practically fully self-sufficient; in 1893 it was awarded the title of Imperial and Royal Commercial Supplier.
The success of Hückel’s factory also inspired entrepreneur Anton Peschel (1823 – 1885), the owner of a steam mill in Šenov by Nový Jičín. Peschel purchased building land plots near the Šenov distillery in 1869 where he built his own hat factory between 1870 – 1871. After his death in 1885 his wife Luisa Peschelová (1845 – 1920) took on the running of the factory and subsequently achieved excellent success with her sons in the field of manufacture of hats under the Anton Peschel brand.
The beginning of the 20th century is linked to extraordinary economic results by both large millinery companies in Nový Jičín as well as establishment of a third hat factory. The shareholder company Böhm & Schlesinger was established in July 1912 and later continued manufacture of “šišák“ hats and other products under the name of the Böhm Brothers.
In 1938 the Nový Jičín factory of the Hutfabrik Johann Hückel’s Söhne Company owned approximately a thousand various machines, operated four steam boilers and a 1600 kW turbine, which required three wagons of coal every day. The end of the Second World War drastically affected the nationality of the local inhabitants.
Displacement of German nationals resulted in the local factories losing labourer professions as well as their owners. The TONAK, National Enterprise Company, which was registered in Nový Jičín, was the result of nationalisation and subsequent merger of twenty-one millinery factories in 1945. Its markets during the totalitarian nineteen fifties still included more than 53 countries worldwide, which were chiefly used to the Hückel brand.
The Velvet Revolution and the end of the Communist Regime introduced new directions in hat production in Nový Jičín. The TONAK a.s. Joint Stock Company followed onto the 200-year tradition of hat manufacture in Nový Jičín. The manufacturing activities of the factory in Nový Jičín now focus on production of wool and fur semi-finished products and hats.
The high number of work operations, technological variability and proportion of quality hand crafting is a mark of perfection. Today the renowned TONAK brand, the traditional Hückel brand and the FEZKO and Fezco Quality brands for knitted products, are a guarantee of excellent quality and stability on the market.