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PRIMER OF PROBLEMS
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MILLINERY INDUSTRY

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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OE LABOR
FRANCES PERKINS, Secretary

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

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PRIMER OF lib,
PEfellteEMS
IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

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Bulletin

of the

Women’s Bureau, No. 179

United States
Government Printing Office
Washington : 1941

For sate by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.

Price 10

Contents
Page-

Letter of transmittal...........................................................................
I. The industry and a diagnosis of itsills.............................................
II. More about busy and dpll seasons..................................................
III. Workers’ earnings..................................................................................
IV. Workers’ stake in the firm’s business.................................................
V. Organizations of employers and employees..................................
VI. Rehabilitation of the industry..........................................................

v
1

16
23

33
44
45

Charts
The 1 2 major millinery manufacturing areas (map).............................
3
1. Volume of millinery industry in the various areas—based on
net sales...................................................................................... Frontispiece
2. Volume of net sales according to price of hat- all areas................
5
3. How the various areas rank in regard to net sales of different
priced hats.............................................................................................
5
4. Number of men and women in each occupation.............................
9
5. Weekly fluctuation in number of workers and in total amount
of factory pay roll................................................................................
17
6. Highest and lowest points of employment and of earnings in
the year, by occupation.....................................................................
19
7. Proportions of workers in the various occupations employed the
specified number of weeks in the year................................ ..
21
8. Annual earnings by occupation..........................................................
25
9. Average weekly earnings of all workers according to area.........
31
10. Proportion of total income of the industry paid to workers and
proportion remaining for employers...............................................
33
11. Distribution of income by operating costs according to net
sales of firm........................................................................................
37
m

—

■

Letter of Transmittal

United States Department

of

Labor,

Women’s Bureau,

Washington, June 28, 1940.
I have the honor to transmit herewith the popular
version of this Bureau’s technical study of conditions in the
millinery industry in the United States. This was prepared
for distribution among employees in the industry and for use
among interested civic groups.
This simplified version has been written by Mary V. Robin­
son, chief of the division of public information.
Respectfully submitted.
Mary Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,
Secretary of Labor.
Madam:

CHART 1.—Volume of millinery industry in the various areas—based on net sales.

n
SOUTH ATI ANTIC AREA

m

mm NEW YORK CITY

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS
IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY
Part I.

The Industry and a Diagnosis of Its Ills

Who is responsible for this diagnosis of the millinery industry?
The Women’s Bureau of the United States Depart­
ment of Labor, charged by Congress with the interests of
women workers, was the specialist called in to collect informa­
tion from the industry, to analyze the data, and to publish a
report on conditions in the industry.1
Why was this analysis made?
The two groups most concerned with the millinery
industry, manufacturers and employees, realized
1. That the industry was sick and growing worse.
2. That the death rate among millinery firms was high.
Accordingly, representatives of the two groups petitioned the
Secretary of Labor to investigate the causes and effects of the
industry’s disorders. Such a study would, it was believed,
shed light on the ills and serve as an effective instrument in
efforts to cure them.
The petitioners were:
Millinery Stabilization Commission (unofficial, impartial
body representative of both employers and employees).
United Hatters, Cap, and Millinery Workers’ International
Union.
Eastern Women’s Headwear Association, Inc. (one of 12
employers’ organizations).
1 See full report, Conditions in the Millinery Industry in the United States, by Bertha
M. Nienburg, U. S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau Bui. 169.

1

2

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What is the size of the industry as a whole?
The industry is not in the big-business class in regard
to numbers of manufacturers and workers, size of factories, or
volume of sales.
In 1937 the industry comprised:
Something over 800 manufacturers.
An average of approximately 22,000 employees—half in
New York City and the remainder in the 11 other major
producing areas in the United States.
An average of about 27 workers per firm.
Gross sales 2 of less than $92,000,000, with the New York
City firms doing well over half the business.

The industry decreased markedly in volume of sales and
number of manufacturers and employees in the decade prior
to 1937.
.
.
This decline has had bad effects:
On the manufacturers
By increasing the competition for
the dwindling volume of business.

On the workers
By shortening the busy seasons,
and reducing total earnings, even
in organized plants, in spite of the
increased rates of pay secured by
the union. By causing an over­
supply of workers.

The accompanying map shows the 12 major areas in which
firm sales exceeded $1,000,000.
2 Gross sales comprise the total amount received from sales, whereas net sales are the
amount after deduction of trade discounts, allowances, and losses on returns.

3

1HE INDUSTRY AND US ILLS

THE 12 MAJOR MILLINERY MANUFACTURING AREAS

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1. New York City.
2. Connecticut and Outside New York
City.
3. Northern New Jersey.
4. Philadelphia.
5. Massachusetts.
6. South Atlantic area (Richmond, Va.,
Birmingham, Ala., Atlanta, Ga.).

257650“—41

7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

ALA.

Texas (Dallas and Waco).
Illinois (Chicago and De Kalb).
Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee.
Missouri (St. Louis and Elvins).
Los Angeles.
San Francisco.

4

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How do the 12 major areas rank in importance?
In each of these areas the millinery industry showed
over a million dollars5 worth of net sales in 1937. New York
City is head and shoulders above all other areas. It is the
largest, the oldest, and the most important market in the
country. It is the style center, and in general determines the
fate of the industry. It employs about half the workers and
accounts for well over half the net sales.
The other areas ranked in 1937 as follows:
Illinois (chiefly Chicago) with 14 percent of the workers
and 11 percent of the sales.
Massachusetts with 8 percent of the workers and 6 percent
'
of the sales.
Northern New Jersey with 5 percent of the workers and 5
percent of the sales.
Missouri with 5 percent of the workers and 4 percent of
the sales.
Los Angeles, the South Atlantic area, and Connecticut
and Outside New York City, each with roughly 3 percent
of the workers and between 3 and 4 percent of the sales.
Texas and the Philadelphia area, each with 3 percent of the
workers and between 2 and 3 percent of the sales.
San Francisco and the Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee area,
each with about 2 percent of the workers and between 1
and 2 percent of the sales.

Chart 1 (frontispiece) shows the total volume of net sales
divided according to area.
Chart 2 shows the total volume of net sales divided according
to the various wholesale prices of hats, all areas.
Chart 3 shows the volume of net sales of the variously priced
hats according to area.

THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ILLS

D

CHART 2.—Volume of net sales according to price of hat—All areas
Wholesale price
of hats per dozen

S7.50 and below
Over $7.50,
Including $13.50

Over $13.50, ,
Including $24

Over $24,
including $4g

Over $4g

Eaoh complete

1^ million dollars

CHART 3.—How the various areas rank in regard to net sales of different priced hats.
(Each complete unit=$100,000]
Wholesale price
of hats per dozen

NEW YORK CITY

$7.50
and below

Over $7.50,
Including
813.50

'VllTUimiHUL
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_

Over $13.50,
including

$24
Over $24,
including
$4g

Over $4g

■khreb

6

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

CHART 3.—How the various areas rank in regard to net sales of different priced hats—Con.
fEach complete unit= $100,0001
Wholesale pries
of hats per do ten

CONNECTICUT AND
OUTSIDE NEW YORK CITY

ILLINOIS

<7*50 and below
Over 17.50.
Including $13*50
Over $13.50
Including

[1

424

Over
Including $4g

b*
I

Over $4g

MASSACHUSETTS

PHILADELPHIA

$7.50 and below
Over $7.50,
including $13*50
Over $13.50,
including $24
Over $24,
including $4g

11

Over $4g

MISSOURI

TEXAS

NORTHERN NEW JERSEY

SAN FRANCISCO

$7*50 and below
Over $7*50,
including $13.50
Over $13.50.
including $24
Over $24,
including $4$
Over $4g
$7.50 and below
Over $7.50,
including $13.50
Over $13.50, ,
including $24

f.
[_ 1

Over $24,
including $4g
Over $4g

LOS ANGELES
$7*50 and below

SOUTH ATLANTIC AREA

.

Over $7*50,
Including $13.50
Over $13.50.
including $24
Over $24,
Including $4g

CLEVELAND, DETROIT, MILWAUKEE
$7.50 and below
Over $7.50,
including $13 *50

1

Jtaeunt too email to show in diagram

If

THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ILLS

7

How do the most important millinery production areas com­
pete with each other?
Not all in the same way. Some specialize in certain kinds
of hats. The tailored-felt-hat industry is predominant in Con­
necticut and is quite different from the straw-hat industry
that began in Missouri a generation ago and is still centered
there. The industry in New Jersey, where the cheapest hats
predominate, is different again from that on the Pacific coast,
where specially designed or other higher-priced hats are more
important.
In regard to volume of sales, New York City manufacturers
sell about three-fifths or more of the hats in each wholesale
price group but that above $13.50 and including $24 a dozen.
As their markets are Nation-wide, all other production areas
making hats at a specific price in any volume may be con­
sidered potential competitors of New York City as well as of
each other.
Competitors with New York City are:
For the lowest-priced hats, as given in chart 3, northern
New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut together with an
area of New York State outside New York City, and
Texas and Missouri to a minor extent.
For the hats priced next to the lowest, Illinois, Missouri,
Massachusetts, northern New Jersey.
For the hats next higher in price, Massachusetts, Missouri,
Illinois.
For the hats at still higher prices, Los Angeles, Connecticut
and Outside New York City, Philadelphia, Illinois, San
Francisco.

8

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How do various jobs rank in regard to opportunities for men
and women employees and total numbers of workers?
In general almost 2 in every 3 workers are women. This
proportion varies from area to area, depending on kinds of
hats made, and the ratio in each craft also varies according to
locality.
.
The blockers comprise men only, whereas the trimmers,
much the largest occupational group, are all women.
Cutting, which gives employment to comparatively few
workers, is done very largely by men. The same is true of
shipping, whereas office work is performed to a great extent
by women.
The machine operators, next in numerical importance to
trimmers, consist, for all areas combined, almost equally of
men and women. The proportion of each sex so employed
varies greatly in the different areas. In New York City men
are employed almost exclusively, but in all other localities
women outnumber men in this occupation.
Among the other factory workers, ranking third in regard
to numbers, are found more women than men.
Analysis of the 1937 figures shows that—
The average number of workers of each craft in every
100 employees, all areas combined, was:
48 trimmers and milliners (who make and trim hats);
19 sewing-machine operators;
15 blockers, who block hats into shape by hand and
machine presses;
14 other factory workers such as girls who assemble
materials, inspectors, foremen;
2 cutters, who cut out fabric hats and cut off surplus
from brim or crown;
2 designers, who make up samples or plan the
trimming of hats.

Chart 4 shows the number and proportion of men and
women in the various occupations in all areas together.

THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ILLS

CHART 4.—Number of men and women in each occupation.

Blockers

affigangSBy

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Cutters

Operators

iMiUMiwa

Trimmers

Other
factory

Shipping

Office
Eaoh solid figure — 200 workers

9

10

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What did the Bureau find to he the major ills?
In a nutshell these are:
Due to external causes
1. The seasonal factor.
2. The style factor.
3. The price factor.
These are imposed by general
economic and social conditions
beyond the control of individual
firms.

Due to internal causes
1. Poor business methods.
2. Excessive competition.
3. Oversupply of workers.
These are related to the structure
of individual business operations
and can be corrected by individual
and joint action.

What is the importance of the seasonal problem?
The seasonal factor plays havoc with the earnings of
workers and manufacturers.
The seasonal factor 3 means—
For the manufacturers
Meeting each year the problems
of uncertainty as to seasonal
variations due mainly to weather
conditions.
Making enough in the busy weeks
to carry the firm and its overhead
during the dull weeks and some
part of*the transition period.

For the workers
Earning enough in the busy
weeks to carry them through the
dull weeks when they have no
work or have greatly reduced
earnings.
Shifting from one employer to
another in search of work, though
such shifting is not usually suc­
cessful because of work being
slack for most employers at one
time.

In 1937 the year comprised: ,
24 busy weeks (15 before and during the spring, 9 in the
fall).
14 definitely slack weeks (5 in the summer, 9 in the winter).
14 transition weeks with production below average just
before and after the busy seasons.
* For detailed information see part II.

THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ILLS

11

How important is the style factor?
The style factor is the axis on which the whole in­
dustry revolves. But based on the uncertain quantities of
beauty and change, which in turn are based on the fancy of
women, this factor, if not controlled, keeps the industry in a
chaotic state. Retail merchants, preferring to test each style
of hat against women consumers’ demand, tend to keep hat
orders small and call for immediate delivery.
The style factor, because not adequately controlled, means—
For the manufacturers
Production chiefly on receipt of
orders. Purchasing hat materials
on a hand-to-mouth basis, pre­
venting development of bargain­
ing power.
Starting manufacture on a style
idea with no assets and no ade­
quate knowledge of business
methods.

.

For the workers
Demand for many workers for
short periods.
Failure of varying piece rates,
though continuously adjusted, to
yield the iame regular earnings.
Bearing the brunt of manufactur­
ers’ inexperience and losing jobs
when firms go into the red and
out of business.

In New York City only 8 percent of the firms buy the bulk of
their materials in advance of production. Of firms in all
other areas, about half make at least part of their purchases in
advance.
Eleven percent of the firms still in business in 1938 had losses in
1937; in addition, about 100 firms went out of business.
Trimmers’ average hourly earnings in 231 New York City firms
in 1 week in March 1938 varied from under 40 cents in 2
firms, through every 5-cent interval, to $1 and over in 23
firms.

2370r»0°

41

-3

12

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How does the price factor affect the industry?
The growing demand for cheap hats, necessitating
low wholesale prices and a very small profit to the manufac­
turer on each hat, makes for unsound economic conditions in
an industry in which production remains largely on a unitinstead of a volume-production basis.
This cheap-hat trend means—
For the manufacturers
Sharp competition for orders.
Decreased bargaining powers,
with syndicates and chain stores
becoming powerful factors in
the millinery industry.
Greater difficulty in keeping the
industry on a paying basis and
of earning a livelihood for
themselves.

For the workers
Lower earnings per hat because
cheap hats need less work and
require less skilled labor than
more expensive hats.
Loss of job, or less chance of em­
ployment, if the firm bids too
low on orders and goes out of
business.

In 1937—
The largest volume of net sales (three-eighths of all) was of
hats wholesaling at over $7.50 and including $13.50 a
dozen, with labor costs of 30% percent and profit per hat of
only 3.9 cents.
About one-fifth of net sales were of hats at $7.50 or less a
dozen, with labor costs of 26 percent and profit per hat of
only 3 cents.
.
Another one-fifth of net sales were of hats at over $13.50 and
including $24 a dozen, with labor costs of 29 percent and
profit per hat of only 4.7 cents.
Hats wholesaling at over $24 a dozen had average labor costs
of 33 percent. Profit per hat was 15.8 cents for those up to
$48 a dozen and was more than twice that—36.5 cents—
for those at over $48.
Of gross sales made by the firms—•
45 percent were to retailers. .
38 percent were through syndicates that sell millinery in
department stores or through chain stores with a series
of outlets.
17 percent were through jobbers.

,

THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ILLS

13

How serious is the problem of oversupply of workers?
There are many more millinery workers than are
needed in the industry even in the busy season—roughly twice
as many. Large numbers are extras who are unable to secure
as much as 3 months’ or even 1 month’s work in the year.
Fly-by-night manufacturers who go out of business increase
the problem of surplus workers.
This oversupply means—For the manufacturers
Greatly increased personnel prob­
lems.

For the workers
Greater competition in finding
work.
Shorter periods of employment.

The total workers employed in the peak week of 1937 averaged
35 per firm, but the total given some employment at any
time during the year averaged 71 per firm, indicating an
excessive oversupply of labor and short-time employment.
Not 1 in 10 employees worked in each of the 52 weeks of 1937.
Only a little more than a fourth worked in 46 or more weeks.
(For more details see part II)

14

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What are the most serious effects of excessive competition?
Competition within the industry tends often to be of
a cut-throat nature and undermines the interests of both manu­
facturers and workers.
Excessive competition means—
For the manufacturers
Undue influence by the less
scrupulous firms in setting up un­
fair trade practices and labor
standards.
Difficulty for the better types of
manufacturers to maintain good
practices and standards.
Yielding to below-cost terms of
syndicates and other large dis­
tributors, in the struggle to get
orders.

For the workers
Suffering from unsatisfactory con­
ditions.
Greater struggle on the part of the
union to maintain fair labor
standards.
Difficulty of collective bargaining
of union members with manu­
facturers who are not free agents
because of pressure exerted on
them.

Three-fifths of the firms made only one-fourth of the sales;
therefore, competition among them necessarily was great.
Only a third of the firms followed both the established trade
and anticipation discount practices as set up by the Millinery
Stabilization Commission; three-tenths of the firms allowed
special discounts under special circumstances, and a third
reported extra services.

THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ILLS

15

What are the most conspicuous types of poor business methods?
In general, the millinery industry has not kept pace
with modern trends of scientific management, mass produc­
tion, and advanced technology. This is due partly to the
nature of the industry and to the many manufacturers
who, though knowing how to make hats, have no business
experience.
The chief troubles in this respect, reported for many manu­
facturers, are:
•
Operation without adequate resources.
Purchasing hat materials haphazardly instead of as a special­
ized function concerned with buying at the most advantageous
time and under the most favorable cost-discount arrangements.
Lack of adequate records and of cost-accounting systems.
Inefficient and wasteful running of the plant instead of
careful planning of arrangements and operations.
Poor business methods mean—
For the manufacturers
No bargaining power in the pur­
chase of hat materials, which
comprise almost half of all costs
and are supplied by a few wellestablished houses.
Little bargaining power in the
sale of hats to ever-enlarging
retail selling outlets.
Falling between a seller’s market
for supply goods and a buyer’s
market for trimmed hats.

For the workers
Difficulty in organizing nonunion
areas because of manufacturers’
effort to offset outside pressure on
them by their pressure on labor.
More difficulty in collective bar­
gaining because manufacturers
are not free agents and often are
unable to abide by contracts with
workers.

Twenty-one of the firms surveyed had no 1937 records.
One-fifth had no annual record, or a very poor one, of expenses.

Part II.—More About Busy and Dull Seasons

Are the problems of seasonality found alike in all areas?
The seasons vary somewhat in the different areas.
In the metropolitan centers the problems are a shade less
severe than in the areas of smaller places.
In general, in 1937 those areas with the highest peak in the
spring fell to the lowest point in the summer. Connecticut
and Outside New York City, the South Atlantic area, and
Texas have a higher pay roll in the fall than in the spring.
Though all areas employed nearly twice as many, and some
even more, in their busiest as in their slackest week, the areas
along the Atlantic seaboard, except Massachusetts, showed
somewhat less difference between the extreme weeks.
The Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee area was the least stabil­
ized. The firms in these cities had a very small proportion of
their employees at work in the middle of the summer except
those on the nonproductive force.
In 1937­
In regard to average or better pay rolls, Illinois and Missouri
had the worst record, with only 23 such weeks.
Northern New Jersey had the best record, with 31 such weeks.
New York City, the chief center, had 27 such weeks.

Are the problems of seasonality increased for the workers by
an oversupply of labor in this industry in all areas?
An excess of available millinery workers characterizes each
of the 12 important areas. However, the Philadelphia area
was somewhat better from the workers’ viewpoint, as it was
the only center in which the number of workers available was
not more than one and a half times the force employed in the
busiest week—based, in both cases, on the average number
per firm.
16

BUSY AND DULL SEASONS

17

The most overcrowded labor market was in the ClevelandDetroit-Milwaukee, the Massachusetts, and the Texas areas,
each of which had over two and a half times as many workers
available as were employed in any single week.
How many workers have jobs in the busy as compared with the
dull seasons, and how do their earnings vary during the year?
Chart 5 shows the weekly fluctuations in the number of
workers and in the total amount of the factory pay rolls.
CHART 5.—Weekly fluctuation in number of workers and in total amount of factory
pay roll.
1 EMPLOYMENT
i EARNINGS

The line of heads represents the varying numbers on the pay
rolls from week to week. There are great differences in the
numbers employed in the busy as compared with the dull
seasons. The maximum number employed in any week is 84
percent higher than the minimum number in any week.
However, the employment curve is leveled out of close relation
to production by the fact that in the organized shops there may
be more employees on the pay roll than are actually needed,
due to the trade-union contracts that call for spreading the
work among all employees instead of discharging some of
them.
The line of pay envelopes represents the ups and downs in
earnings from week to week. Earnings fluctuate far more than
employment does.

18

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

Where the earnings curve falls below that for employment,
this is due to a decline in earnings because of a short week or
slack work in the dull season.
In 1937—
■
For every 100 productive workers (based on average employ­
ment for the year) there were—
122 at the peak of the busy season—the middle of March.
63 at the low point of the dull season—the first week of
July112 at the second, but less sharp, peak—the middle of
September.
84 at the second, but less severe, low point—the middle of
December.
For every $1 a worker earned in the average week, he or she
earned—
SI.71 in the busiest spring week.
.44 in the dullest summer week.
1.56 in the busiest fall week.
.60 in the dullest winter week.

Are seasonal variations in employment and earnings found
alike in all occupations?
All occupations suffer from seasonal employment, but the
nonproductive workers to only a minor degree.
Because they usually work a full week even in slack seasons,
and rarely receive overtime pay, the nonproductive workers
individually and collectively have more uniform earnings
throughout the year than have the productive workers.
Seasonal problems are especially serious for the most skilled
workers (such as blockers and operators) and for the most
numerous (the trimmers). These three groups comprise about
three-fourths of all millinery workers.

19

BUSY AND DULL SEASONS

In 1937 there were employed in the busiest week as compared
with the slackest week—
Two and a half times as many operators.
Twice as many trimmers.
At least half again as many blockers, cutters, other factory
workers, and nonproductive workers.

Operators show the greatest fluctuation in earnings. Block­
ers’ earnings vary almost as much, though their employment
is considerably more stabilized throughout the year than
that of operators.
Chart 6 shows for each occupation definite fluctuations in
weekly employment and earnings, from the highest to the
lowest point in the year.
CHART 6.—Highest and lowest points of employment and of earnings in the year, by
occupation.
OTHER
SYMBOLS ■ EMPLOYMENT

EARNINGS

BLOCKERS

TRIMMERS

CUTTERS

OPERATORS

OTHER FACTORY NONPRODUCTIVE

SEE

Not all occupations have the fullest employment in the spring
(the peak for blockers and cutters is in the fall), but all occupa­
tions experience two cycles a year, with the lowest point for
each in the summer.
The fact that the peak for earnings exceeds that for employ­
ment is due to increased earnings because of full time or even
overtime in the busy season.
257650°—41------ 4

20

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What effect have seasonal operations and an oversupply of
workers on the employment opportunities of individuals?
Because of the sharp variations in demand for labor and the
ease with which employers hire and fire, many workers have
very little employment in the year. The records of this study
are for individual firms and do not combine the various em­
ployment periods a worker may have had with several employers However, though the figures indicate the necessity for
workers to shift from place to place if they are to have employ­
ment for a reasonable part of the year, the fact that slack
seasons so nearly coincide makes it doubtful that seeking work
in another millinery firm would meet with success.
Of all workers whose weeks of employment during the year were
reported—
Two-fifths had worked less than 13 weeks with the firm,
over half of these less than 4 weeks.
Considerably less than half worked 26 weeks or more.
Only a little over a fourth worked 46 weeks or more.
The best employment records were for blockers and cutters,
more highly skilled and employed under conditions somewhat
different from those of other crafts.
Blockers:
More than two-fifths had 46 weeks or more of work.
More than three-fifths had at least a half-year of work.
Cutters:
- More than two-fifths had 46 weeks or more of work.
More than half ha,d at least a half-year of work.
The poorest employment records were for—
General factory workers:
Only a sixth had 46 weeks or more of work.
Not far from three-fourths had less than 26 weeks of work.
Operators:
.
Only about a fifth had 46 weeks or more of work.
Nearly three-fifths had less than 26 weeks of work.
Trimmers:
About a fourth had 46 weeks or more of work.
Well over half had less than 26 weeks of work.

•

21

BUSY AND DULL SEASONS

Chart 7 shows the proportions of workers in the various
occupations who were employed specified numbers of weeks
in the year.
'
CHART 7.—Proportions of workers in the various occupations employed the specified
number of weeks in the year.
100 percent

Occupation
Under 13 weeks

13, under
26 weeks

26, under
46 weeks

46, including
*52 wfnks
*52 we^ks

Trimmers
(11,501)

Operators
(5,132)

Cutters
(310)

Blockers

(2,g*6)
General factory
(3,50S)

Nonproductive

(3361)

Are seasonal fluctuations reduced if the factory makes hats
of more than one type of material?
Producers of hats of felt, straw, and one other material appear
to have an advantage over firms specializing only in felt or in
felt and straw.
Though the effect of the manufacture of three types on
amount of production is not obvious, particularly in regard
to the number of busy weeks in the spring and of dull weeks
in the summer, some beneficial results are apparent in the
transition periods and in the winter.
Fluctuations in earnings for workers were slightly less in the
three-material hat firms compared with the two-material, and
in the two-material as compared with the one-material (that
is, felt only).

22

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

In 1937—
The normal or average pay roll was reached earlier in the
year for the 3-material firms (January 11) than for the 2material (January 25) or the 1-material (February 15).
At the beginning of the year the pay roll was nearer normal
for 3-material firms (that is, nine-tenths of normal) than
for the 2-material and 1-material firms (that is, two-thirds
of normal).
In the winter lull, production in the 3-material firms fell to a
little under three-fifths of normal for just 1 week; but in
both the 2-material and the 1-material firms, production
dropped to only a little over two-fifths of normal for 7 weeks.

To what extent does selling to large buyers, such as syndicates
and chain stores, affect seasonal variations in the industry?
While syndicate selling may increase slightly the length of the
busy periods, it has as yet done little to lessen the extremes
brought about by the seasonal and fashion factors. A com­
parison of the amounts paid productive workers by firms sell­
ing two-thirds or more of their hats and by firms selling less
than two-thirds to these large buyers shows that the peak of
production is slightly higher, the slump slightly less, in the
syndicate-selling firms.
In 1937—
Productive pay rolls were above the average for:
28 weeks in syndicate-selling firms.
25 weeks in other firms.
Productive pay rolls were two-thirds or less of the average for:
15 weeks in syndicate-selling firms.
14 weeks in other firms.

Part III.—Workers' Earnings

What are workers in the millinery industry paid?
Their wages vary considerably according to craft,
locality, and season, and fluctuate greatly from week to week.
For the busiest week in 1937, that of maximum employment,
each worker would have received $32.55 if wages for all em­
ployees had been evenly distributed.
For the dullest week, when there were only about half as
many workers as in the peak week, the average per worker
was only $15.60—less than half that of the peak week.
In 1937, averages by occupation were as follows:
*
Blockers..................................................................
Cutters....................................................................
Operators...............................................................
Trimmers...............................................................
General factory workers...................................
Nonproductive workers.....................................

Busiest
week

___ $60. 14
___
48. 11
. . . . 45. 36
. . . . 24. 34
___
17. 32
___
24. 23

Dullest
week

$16.
31.
17.
8.
14.
24.

57
12
10
74
69
16

To what extent can millinery workers hope to earn a living
>jrom millinery manufacture?
In most lines of employment the amount that a work­
er can earn in a year is an indication of his ability to get a
living out of his job, but in the millinery industry the seasonal
factor undermines annual earnings very seriously. Even if a
worker manages to retain employment for most weeks of the
year, he must earn enough in the busy seasons to carry him
over the slack periods when earnings decrease so materially.
And many workers, though earning fairly good weekly wages
while employed, cannot find jobs in the dull seasons.
Those workers fortunate enough to be employed for 46 weeks
or more in the year may be called full-time workers, and their
earnings tell the story of what workers could earn if lack of
work did not limit their income.
23

24

. PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What can workers earn if employed approximately a full
year?
The total amounts earned by the workers with 46 weeks or
more of employment in the year varied widely for the several
occupations. Cutters had the highest average, $2,048; block­
ers the second highest, $1,927; and trimmers the lowest, $858.
However, only comparatively small proportions of the
workers—from a little over two-fifths of the cutters and block­
ers to considerably less than a fifth of the general factory
workers—had 46 weeks or more of employment.
In 1937, for the various occupations, the proportion of workers
employed 46 weeks or more and their average year’s earnings
were as follows:
Percent
of total

Average
year's
earnings

Gutters..................................
Blockers.............................. .
Trimmers.............................
Operators.............................
General factory workers . . ............................................ 16. 5
Nonproductive workers. . .................. ......................... 35.0

$2, 048
1, 927
858
1, 601
943
1, 514

What can the general run of workers in the various occupations
hope to earn during the year?
.
Not quite a fifth of all workers earned $1,000 or more; over
three-fifths earned less than $600. Steadiness in earnings dur­
ing a year varies considerably for the different occupations, as
is illustrated by chart 8.
The year’s earnings of blockers and cutters are the highest
because their rates of pay generally are higher and their em­
ployment is steadier than in most other occupations. Over
half the workers in each of these occupations earned $1,000
or more.
Operators, who perform skilled work with a high rate of pay,
fail to earn a sufficient yearly income because of their irregular
employment.
Trimmers and general factory workers suffer from low rates
of pay in addition to lack of steady work.

workers’ earnings

25

Nonproductive workers, though averaging less a week than
operators, show a better average for the year because their
employment is fairly steady.
The following chart shows the number of workers in each
occupation who earned amounts specified.
CHART 8.—Annual earnings by occupation.
Occupation and
year's earnings

Each, oomplete

1

300 workers

BLOCKERS (3,251)
Less than $300

IS

$300, under $600

1

$600, under $1,000

11

$1,000 and over

±11111

OPERATORS (5,902)
Less than $300

1111111.

$300, under $600
$600, under $1,000
$1,000 and over

1111
11111

TRIMMERS (13,3215)
Less than $300
$300, under $600
$600, under $1,000
$1 ,000 and over

11111111111111111111111
********

11111mm
111i

GENERAL FACTORY (4,1^9)
Less than $300
$300, under $600
$600, under $1,000
$1,000 and over
NONPRODUCTIVE (3,988)
Less than $300
$300, under $600

111m
11

$600, under $1‘,000

UL

$1,000 and over

1111

26

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What can workers in specific occupations in the various areas
> hope to earn during the year?
Blockers have their best prospects in New York City, with the
average for the year 1937 of $1,789 (1,113 employees), and
their poorest prospects in Texas, with an average of $305
(184 employees). Other areas where average earnings ex­
ceeded $1,000 were Connecticut and Outside New York City,
northern New Jersey, and Illinois. An average of under $700
was found in Massachusetts, the South Atlantic area, Texas,
Missouri, and San Francisco.
Cutters, who are much the smallest of all the occupational
groups, generally work either most of the year or less than 3
months, the latter reducing the average even in the better­
paying places. In New York City, where 52-week cutters
averaged $2,455, short-time employment brought down the
average for all employed in 1937 (only 221 reported) to $1,189,
an amount exceeded in four areas with very small numbers.
Illinois, ranking next to New York City in number of cutters,
also ranked next in average earnings—$1,154. In 3 areas—
Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee, Texas, and Connecticut and
Outside New York City—average earnings were less than
$1,000, the area last named showing only $372 for the small
group reported.
Operators, like blockers, had their highest average in New
York City ($1,005 for 1,938 employees) and their lowest in
Texas, $290. No area but New York City averaged so much
as $700, but the range was $500 and under $700 in Illinois,
Connecticut and Outside New York City, northern New
Jersey, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The
average fell below $400 in Massachusetts, the South Atlantic
area, and Texas.
General factory workers had their highest average, $670, in
the Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee area. Their lowest average,
$154, was reported for Texas. The second highest average was
$454 in San Francisco. In all other areas the average was
below $400, though the Philadelphia area, Missouri, Con­
necticut and Outside New York City, New York City, and the

workers’ earnings

27

South Atlantic area, in descending scale, had an average above
$300. New York City, which had 1,589 general factory
workers, by far the largest number, had an average of only
$313; Illinois, an average of only $248.
Trimmers had general difficulty in earning a sufficient in­
come, the highest average being for New York City, $508 for
the 4,743 workers. Again Texas had the lowest average, $172.
Only one other area, Connecticut and Outside New York
City, had an average of over $400, and no area but Texas had
one below $200. Illinois, with the second largest number of
trimmers, had an average of $350, and Massachusetts an
average of only $270.
Nonproductive workers had their highest average, $972, for
the small number in northern New Jersey, and their lowest
average, $595, in Texas. In all other areas the average
exceeded $700, and it was above $900 in Missouri and Los
Angeles. New York City, with almost 2,000 of these workers,
had an average of only $710.
To what extent do rates actually vary in the different
areas?
Hourly earnings are the best test of the prevailing
wage standards, whether based on time rates or on piece rates.
Most of the workers are paid by the piece. In San Francisco,
making more expensive hats, all workers are paid a weekly
rate.
Blockers usually work as a “corporation,” that is, two, three,
or four blockers pool their earnings, each getting a specified
amount for the week. Occasionally, on fabric hats, sewingmachine operators work as a corporation.
To set fair piece rates is a complicated matter. Because
orders for a particular model tend to be small, many different
models may be worked on in any one week, and fair piece
rates must be set for each operation on each model. Union
contracts fix basic hourly rates for “average good workers,”
and the piece rates for each operation are set to yield these
amounts.

28

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

The piece-work situation is particularly complicated for
trimmers. In New York City the effort made to set rates that
will give to the average worker the same earning power, re­
gardless of the amount of work on any hat, has met with some,
success, average hourly earnings on the various price groups of
hats, reported by 2,458 trimmers, ranging only from 76 cents
to 81 cents. Such a degree of uniformity had not been attained
by trimmers elsewhere. For example, in Illinois, the State with
the second largest number reported, 854, the range was from
42 to 65 cents an hour.
In areas where workers are not organized and therefore are
not safeguarded by union contracts, hourly earnings are strik­
ingly lower than in centers where the union is an important
factor.
How do the average hourly earnings of workers as revealed
by the survey compare with the Federal 40-cent minimum?'
In order to compare production rates of each craft from firm
to firm and from area to area, the Women’s Bureau in its survey
asked that employees keep a record for one week of the number
of hours worked each day, the number of hats worked on each
day, the price paid for each pattern of hat, and the total earn­
ings for the week.
The week selected was a busy one in the spring of 1938—in
most cases the 6 days beginning with March 28. Of the 7,525
workers reporting the information, 5,408 were piece workers.
In regard to their hourly earnings, only 6 percent of all work­
ers earned less than 40 cents an hour. Only in Texas was the
average (mean) for all workers who reported below this
amount; in that State it was 36.8 cents.
Thus the section with the largest proportion of workers who
earned less than 40 cents was Texas, where over three-fifths
of the workers received such low wages and one-fifth earned1
1 A 40-cent minimum was recommended by the Millinery Industry Committee, com­
prised equally of representatives of the public, the employees, and the employers, set
up by the Wage and Hour Division of the. U. S. Department of Labor. The recommenda­
tion was approved by the Administrator, who issued an order setting this rate as the
minimum for the industry on and after January 15, 1940.

29

workers’ earnings

less than 25 cents. As the Texas records of hours and earnings
were copied from the factory pay rolls instead of being reported
by the workers themselves as in the other areas, the data on
Texas are definitely authentic.
The section with the second largest group earning under 40
cents was the South Atlantic area. About one-third of the
employees earned less than 40 cents, and nearly one-tenth
earned less than 25 cents.
The other areas had comparatively small proportions with
hourly earnings of less than 40 cents.
How much do hourly earnings vary for the three principal
>productive occupations?
Blockers top the list in regard to hourly earnings. Only in
Texas, the South Atlantic area, and Missouri did any propor­
tion of blockers or blockers’ helpers earn less than 75 cents an
hour.
Trimmers’ hourly earnings were widely spread, but there were
marked concentrations in Missouri at 50 and under 60 cents,
in Illinois at 50 and under 65 cents, in the New Jersey area at
55 and under 65 cents, and in New York City at 60 cents and
over.
Operators’ earnings differed more in the several regions,
though everywhere but in Texas they were relatively high in
this spring week.
Average hourly earnings (mean) from data reported by workers 2
for the week of March 28, 1938, were as follows:
.
Area
New York City....................................
Illinois.....................................................
Philadelphia.........................................
Cleveland—Detroit—Milwaukee .
Missouri.................................................
San Francisco.......................................
Northern New Jersey........................
Texas.......................................................

Blockers

. $i. 92
. l. 47
. l. 15
. l. 04
. 923
. 869
838
. 482

2 Except in Texas, where firms’ records were available.

Operators

Trimmers

$1.54
1. 02
. 879
. 727
. 827
. 646
. 879
. 377

$0.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

794
618
553
515
565
477
596
347

All figures exclude overtime.

30

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How much do weekly earnings vary in different production
areasr
When the weekly average for a year is used as a measure, the
picture given represents both the wage standards prevailing in
the area and the effect of seasonal unemployment. A com­
parison of the areas on this basis shows New York City as a
skyscraper locality towering conspicuously above all other
areas.
In 1937 the weekly average for all workers in New York City
was $27.18. This was higher than the averages in other areas
by 20 and under 30 percent in three cases, 30 and under 40
percent in three, 40 and under 50 percent in two, and 60
percent and over in three. The list follows:
New York City
Area

Texas..................................................................................................
South Atlantic area.......................................................................
Massachusetts..................................................................................
Missouri.............................................................................................
Cleveland—Detroit—and Milwaukee...................................
Illinois................................................................................................
Los Angeles......................................................................................
San Francisco..................................................................................
Northern New Jersey....................................................................
Connecticut and Outside New York City.............................
Philadelphia.....................................................................................

(percent)

92.
73.
65.
48.
42.
39.
34.
32.
29.
28.
20.

1
8
2
6
9
4
6
5
9
4
5

Chart 9 shows the relation between the weekly average for
all workers in New York City and the averages in other areas.

CHART 9.—Average weekly earnings of all workers according to area.

1
w o r k e r s ’ e a r n in g s

$27 Ifl
NEW YORK CITY

$21.16

$16 45

CONNECTICUT MASSACHUSETTS
AND OUTSIDE
NEW YORKCIJV

$20 92
NORTHERN
NEW JERSEY

$2? 55

$15.64

$1902

PHILADELPHIA SOUTH ATLANTIC CLEVELAND,
DETROIT. AND
AREA
MILWAUKEE

$1950
ILLINOIS

$18 29
MISSOURI

$14 15
TEXAS

$20 52

$20.19

SAN FRANCISCO LOS ANGELES

32

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How much a week can men and women in the various occupa­
tions expect to earn in the different areas?
Blockers, cutters, machine operators, and trimmers had their
highest weekly average over the year in New York City, but
general factory workers averaged the most in Massachusetts,
and nonproductive workers the most in the Philadelphia area.
Amount and area of highest and second highest average weekly earnings for the year
1937, by occupation
Blockers............................
Cutters..............................
Operators...........................
Trimmers...........................
General factory workers
Nonproductive workers.

.............. $43.27 in
$35.37 in
.............. $42.68 in
$41.12 in
.............. $37.43 in
$27.65 in
.............. $18.55 in
$16.67 in
............. $18.37 in
$17.46 in
.............. $26.14 in
$25.90 in

New York City.
Illinois.
New York City.
northern New Jersey.
New York City.
Philadelphia area.
New York City.
San Francisco.
Massachusetts.
San Francisco.
Philadelphia area.
Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee.

Amount and area of lowest and second lowest average
Blockers............................ .. .............. $16.87 in South Atlantic area.
$17.45 in Texas.
Cutters................................
$16.97 in Texas.
Operators........................... .............. $14.14 in Texas.
$16.27 in Massachusetts.
Trimmers........................... .............. $9.35 in South Atlantic area.
$11.40 in Texas.
General factory workers ............. $10.86 in Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee.
$11.59 in Texas.
Nonproductive workers. .............. $19.15 in Texas.
$20.24 in Missouri.

Part IV—Workers’ Stake in the Firm’s Business

How much of the income from millinery manufacture goes to
employees and how much to employers?
After costs of materials, supplies, and overhead were sub­
tracted from sales in 1937, 41 cents of every dollar of sales was
available for the services of employers and employees.
Of the total amount of income in 1937, the shares received by
workers and employers were as follows:
Percent

Blockers, cutters, operators, trimmers, general factory workers. . 25. 4
Foremen, designers, shipping force, office workers.......................
5. 4
Sales force....................................................................................................
4. 9
Left for firm members or for reinvestment (but they withdrew
5.6 percent, causing a loss to show on their books)..................... 4. 86

Chart 10 shows what proportions of the total income of the
millinery industry go to workers and employers.
CHART 10.—Proportion of total income of the industry paid to workers and proportion
remaining for employers.

11

illlf

Peroent 25.k
Productive
workers

Nonproductive
workers

Sales force

Firm members
33

34

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How does the amount available for distribution to employees
> and employers vary?
The survey showed that this varies according to volume of
business, price of hats, amount spent for other items of cost in
each locality, and trade practices.
The manufacturers in this industry range from men selling
less than $50,000 worth of hats in a year to men selling over
$500,000 worth, but every firm, large or small, must meet the
problem of running the business on a sound basis.
Has the worker a stake in the manufacturer’s success?
The welfare of the worker is so closely related to the manu­
facturer’s success that every employee should be interested to
know how he is affected by the various factors entering into
the operation of the business.

WORKERS’ STAKE IN THE BUSINESS

35

What are the costs of the millinery industry and how do the
amounts spent for various items rank in importance?
The costs of running the factories and selling the hats can be
broken down into several general groups:
1.. Manufacturing costs cover: All labor, direct and indirect; hat materials
bought during the year plus or minus inventory differences at begin­
ning and end of year, purchasing discounts, and express on incoming
goods; equipment, including blocks and dies, and any repairs on
equipment; rent; power, light, heat, water; factory and supply insur­

2.

3.

4.

5.

ance.
Manufacturing costs in 1937 formed 84.3 percent of all costs and in­
cluded two major items: Hat materials, comprising almost half of
all costs, and labor costs, accounting for about 30 percent of all costs.
All the other items chargeable to manufacturing totaled only 5.7
percent, of which rent was the largest and blocks and dies the second
largest expense.
Selling costs cover: Sales, salaries and commissions, advertising, travel
and entertaining. These costs comprised only 6.8 percent of the total
costs, the service of selling accounting for 5.2 percent, travel and enter­
taining 1.2 percent, and advertising 0.4 percent.
Office, shipping, and miscellaneous costs cover: Salaries in these departments,
office and packing supplies, printing, various special services, transpor­
tation, communication, and so forth. These costs were 6.7 percent
of the total, and again salaries were the major expense.
Financial expenses cover: Credit service (often including association dues),
collection charges, interest, bad debts, taxes, life and accident insur­
ance. These costs comprised only 1.9 percent of the total.
Depreciation, which accounted for 0.3 percent of all expenses.

36

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

Hoiv does the total of manufacturing costs per hat vary on
the differently priced hats in the several areas?
For hats wholesaling at $7.50 or less a dozen, manufaeturing
costs per hat were approximately the same in the four major
competing areas, in spite of differences in labor costs. Of all
areas, Texas had the lowest and Missouri the highest manu­
facturing costs. These costs were offset in total expenses by
low sales and overhead costs in Missouri firms and by high
sales and overhead costs in the Texas factories.
For hats wholesaling at above $7.50 and including $13.50 a
dozen, manufacturing costs per hat were very close in the
New York City, the Illinois, and the Missouri firms, but were
lower in northern New Jersey and higher in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts had the lowest sales and overhead costs.
For hats wholesaling at above $13.50 and including $24 a
dozen, manufacturing costs per hat varied from $0.82 in the
South Atlantic area and $0.87 in Illinois to $1.22 in New York
City.
For hats wholesaling at above $24 a dozen, manufacturing
costs per hat varied from $2.02 in Illinois to $2.36 in San
Francisco.
How do the costs of hat materials differ in firms doing various
amounts of business?
These expenses were strikingly similar when the various
firms were grouped according to volume of sales. As already
stated, they constituted by far the largest item, not far from
half of the total expenses in each group of firms when classed
by net sales.
Since costs of hat materials take so large a part of the budget,
it is important to control expenditures for such materials
through scientific buying. It is the difference of a cent or a
fraction of a cent on this or that expense that makes a manu­
facturer’s income large enough for him to stay in business or
so small as to force him into bankruptcy.
The following chart shows the proportions paid for the various
items according to amount of business done by the firms.

WORKERS’ STAKE IN THE BUSINESS

37

CHART 11.—Distribution of income by operating costs according to net sales of firm.
Not ealee; operating accounts
*50, 000 and under__
Each complete
Manufacturing

m

two percent

Hat material
All labor
All other mfg.
Selling
Qfflce. shipping
and miscellaneous
Financial expenses

m

Over SSO.OOQ Including >100.000
Manufao turlng
Hat material
All labor
All other mfg.
Belling

©©©?

'si'Si.sasBsfe.
Financial expenses

sssf

Over *100.000, Including <300.000
Manufac turlng
Hat material
All labor
All other mfg.
Selling

fflBBC

Office
and m

m

Financial expenses
Over tgOO.OOO. Including tlOO.OOO
Manufaoturlng
Hat material
All labor
All other mfg.
Belling

Financial expenses

&

Manufacturlng
Hat material

All other mfg.

^and mis

liiilkilh.

005
&&&E
aw

Financial expenses
Over Sroq.OOO
Manufacturing
Hat material
All labor
All other mfg.
Selling

°aniCmi8cel?£ne§6s

Financial expenses

awwwwswssi
w

38

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

How does the cost of labor, the second largest item, vary
under certain conditions?
The price at which hats are sold has a very direct bearing
on the manufacturing costs for labor, that is, productive
labor, designing, and direct supervision combined. In 1937
these costs rose in proportion to the total costs with each rise in
price, excepting only the line of hats priced at above $13.50
and including $24. The manufacturing labor costs on hats
wholesaling at over $48 a dozen and at $7.50 and less a dozen
were respectively 35 percent and 26 percent.

In 1937 manufacturing labor costs varied by area and price of
hat as follows:

Cheapest hats (wholesaling at $7.50 a dozen and below):

Percent
manufactur­
ing labor
c°s total

New York City............................................................................
Missouri.............................................................................................
Northern New Jersey....................................................................
Connecticut and Outside New York City............................
Massachusetts..................................................................................
Texas. ............. ..................................................................................
Hats sold in the largest volume (over $7.50 to $13.50 a dozen):
Illinois................................................................................................
Missouri..............................................................
New York City............................. .. . ............................................
Northern New Jersey...................................................................
Massachusetts..................................................................................
Hats sold at over $13.50 to $24 a dozen:
Illinois................................................................................................
Massachusetts..................................................................................
New York City...............................................................
Missouri............................................................................................
Hats sold at over $24 to $48 a dozen:
San Francisco..................................................................................
New York City. .............................................................................
Los Angeles......................................................................................
Illinois................................................................................................
Most expensive hats (over $48 a dozen):
New York City...............................................................................
Los Angeles......................................................................................
San Francisco..................................................................................

28. 7
24. 3
22. 5
22. 4
19.8
17. 8
36. 1
31.3
30. 9
28. 0
22. 9
30. 2
30. 2
29.0
27. 6
35. 8
32.4
32. 4
30. 3
36. 3
33. 8
31.9

39

WORKERS’ STAKE IN THE BUSINESS

To what extent does the amount left for employers vary be• cause oj other business factors?
that is, the net returns or net profit, is the
amount left for employers; in other words, it is the amount
left after the manufacturing costs and the sales, operating, and
financial expenses have been subtracted from the net selling
price.
With variations in all items and different net selling prices of
hats even in the same sales range, there are considerable differ­
ences in the net returns to the firm.
A significant picture is given by comparing the net returns
per hat for millinery in the various price groups in 1937. The
net returns per hat were smallest for the cheapest hats—$0.03
for those priced at $7.50 and less a dozen—but they rose
steadily as the price increased. The most expensive hats, those
selling at above $48 a dozen, showed a profit per hat of $0,365.

JVholesale price per dozen

Average net
returns to
firm per hat
(cents)

$7.50 and less....................................................................................... 3.0
Over $7.50, including $13.50.........................................................
3.9
Over $13.50, including $24............................................................. 4.7
Over $24, including $48................................................................... 15.8
Over $48................................................................................................ 36.5

For firms showing a profit before firm members’ withdrawals,
such profit was 5.92 percent of net sales. It was highest among
Texas firms (10.25 percent) and among Los Angeles firms
(8.15 percent); it was lowest among northern New Jersey firms
(4.25 percent). New York City firms’ income constituted 5.79
percent of sales.

40

PRIMER OE PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What do net selling price,1 manufacturing and selling costs,
and net returns to firm average per hat?
These items varied according to the different priced hats and
the several areas. It is of most interest, perhaps, to illustrate
such differences by detailed data on the cheapest type of hats
($7.50 and less a dozen) and on hats that sold in largest volume
(over $7.50 and including $13.50 a dozen), for the five most
important areas in each case.
Hats wholesaling at $7.50 and less a dozen:
New York City was only slightly above the average, with a
net selling price of 52.3 cents a hat, manufacturing and
selling costs of 49.1 cents a hat, and net returns to the
firm of 3.2 cents a hat.
Northern New Jersey had next to the lowest net selling price
(51.4 cents), average manufacturing and selling costs
(49.8 cents), and the lowest net returns to the firm (1.6
cents).
Massachusetts had a net selling price of 55.3 cents, manu­
facturing and selling costs of 51.6 cents, and net returns
to the firm of 3.7 cents.
Connecticut and Outside New York City had much the
lowest net selling price (40.1 cents), much the lowest
manufacturing and selling costs (37.8 cents), and next to
the lowest net returns to the firm (2.3 cents).
Texas had a higher than average net selling price (53.7
cents), the second lowest manufacturing and selling costs
(46.8 cents), and the highest net returns to the firm
(6.9 cents).

1 The net selling price is the actual amount that the manufacturer receives from sales
after the deduction from the gross sales of the trade discounts, allowances, and losses
due to returned goods.
.

WORKERS’ STAKE IN THE BUSINESS

41

Hats wholesaling at. over $7.50 and including $13.50 a dozen:
New York City ranked neither first nor last, with a net
selling price of 90.6 cents a hat, manufacturing and selling
costs of 87 cents a hat, and net returns to the firm of 3.6
cents a hat.
Illinois was above average, with a net selling price of 92.9
cents a hat, manufacturing and selling costs of 88.8 cents,
and net returns to the firm of 4.1 cents.
Missouri had one of the lowest net selling prices (89.7 cents),
manufacturing and selling costs slightly above average
(86.8 cents), and the lowest net returns to the firm (2.9
cents).
Massachusetts had one of the highest net selling prices (95.9
cents), the second highest manufacturing and selling costs
(90 cents), and net returns to the firm above average
(5.9 cents).
Northern New Jersey had much the lowest net selling price

(68 cents), the lowest manufacturing and selling costs (65
cents), and one of the lowest net returns to the firm (3
cents).
The differences between gross and net sales were least on
the lowest-priced hats, and increased with the wholesale price,
in every area where such comparison was possible.

42

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

What volume of sales seems necessary for firms to earn a
' sufficient income?
In general, not until firms do a business of over $100,000
does the amount available for firm members exceed materially
the earnings of their full-time better-paid employees. Only
then are returns large enough to pay them for their services as
executives, buyers, sellers, or in other important work.
In the firms with net sales in 1937 of over $100,000 and
including $200,000, the average amount available to be divided
by the two or more firm members or to be reinvested in the
business was $7,697 for all firms combined. This was 5.6
percent of the net sales.
With net sales of over $50,000 and including $100,000, the
average amount available to the firm was $4,344, or 6.1 per­
cent of the net sales.
And when net sales were $50,000 or less, the average, though
7.5 percent of the net sales, was only $2,284, to be divided by
the two or more firm members.
Thus with larger volume of sales, though the income for
firm members actually was much larger than with smaller
volume of sales, the proportion that such income comprised
of net sales decreased as the volume increased. This is true
even when only those firms showing a net profit in 1937 are
considered, as in the following:
Firms with a net profit in 1937

Volume of sales (net)

$50,000 and under......................................................................
Over $50,000, including $100,000.........................................
Over $100,000, including $200,000......................................
Over $200,000, including $300,000......................................
Over $300,000, including $500,000......................................
Over $500,000..............................................................................

Amount available for
dividing among firm
members
Average
Percent of
per firm
net sales

$2, 831
5, 249
9, 120
12, 077
15, 009
33,110

9. 3
7. 3
6. 7
5. 0
4. 1
3.9

WORKERS’ STAKE IN THE BUSINESS

43

Does a loss appearing on the hooks mean a real loss to
employers?
Not far from two-thirds of the firms that showed a net profit
had a book loss after the firm members withdrew their share of
the income, because their withdrawals were out of line with
the business done. Thus only 144 firms, or somewhat less
than a third of all reporting their income accounts, had a book
profit after the members’ withdrawals.
Real losses, that is, when there was nothing available for
firm members after all costs were met, were experienced by
about a tenth of the firms in business for at least 11 months of
1937 and at time of survey.'
While real losses occurred in both large and small businesses,
they were more common among firms in the smaller-volume
classes. A little over a tenth of the firms in the three lowestvolume groups, that is, those of $200,000 and under, had
actual losses. To be sure, the number of firms decreases
markedly when volume of net sales exceeds $200,000, but even
in the two groups with the largest volume of sales there were
one or two firms that operated at a real loss.
Operation at a real loss was reported in all areas but the
small-production areas of Connecticut and Outside New York
City, Philadelphia, and Cleveland-Detroit-Milwaukee.
Operation at a real loss was reported by firms in each grade
of hats but those of highest price—over $48 a dozen.
•

Part V.—Organizations of Employers and Employees

Jf

To what extent are manufacturers and employees in the
industry organized to help work out their problems?
Altogether there were 12 different organizations of em­
ployers in 1938, but even these did not include all manu­
facturers. There is no strong national association, Nation­
wide in its membership—the type of organization necessary to
enable employers in all areas to cooperate in the solution of
problems and to work with the organized employees to their
mutual advantage. There is, however, a growing interest in a
National Council of Millinery Associations and in the effective
educational work of the Millinery Stabilization Commission
(see below).
There is a strong union in the industry—the United Hatters,
Cap, and Millinery Workers’ International Union, to which
over four-fifths of the employees in the industry belonged in
1938. The union is making constant effort to organize all the
important areas and to bring all workers into its ranks.
The Millinery Stabilization Commission is an unofficial,
impartial body, whose personnel is agreed upon by representa­
tives of employers and workers in the industry, and whose
purpose is to investigate the ills of the industry and to initiate
a campaign of stabilization. It has served as a voluntary co­
operative agency to promote the interests of the industry,
chiefly in the New York City and New Jersey centers. Its
principal functions thus far have been the development of fair
commercial practices; the introduction of cost-accounting
methods; trade promotion; and the education of manufacturers,
raw-materials supply houses, and wholesale and retail distrib­
utors to the importance of cooperation in putting the industry
on a sound economic basis. The Commission issues a con­
sumers’ protection label, sewed into hats to show consumers
that the article has been produced under fair trade practices
and established labor standards.
44

Part VI.—Rehabilitation of the Industry

How can the industry be put on a sounder basis?
There is no single remedy as there is no single cause
of the trouble. The disorders are the result of a combination
of factors. Some of these—part and parcel of the present eco­
nomic system and the result of Dame Fashion’s decrees—are
exceedingly difficult to control. But there are other factors for
which forces within the industry are largely responsible and
which can be adjusted and controlled by the industry itself.
Many of the detrimental effects of such factors can be elim­
inated through the cooperative efforts of organizations of
manufacturers and workers. For the solution of other prob­
lems, the cooperation of retailers and of consumers with the
manufacturing branch of the industry appears essential.
Certain desirable and possible procedures are suggested as
follows:
1. The economic equilibrium between millinery manu­
facturer, materials supply house, and millinery purchaser
(retailer) can be attained and maintained by intelligent
effort and mutual confidence within the manufacturing
branch itself.
The strength of the manufacturing branch must be
built up to equal that of the branches that service it and
that it services, if control is to be gained over the destroying
force within the industry.
Adequate control of forces within the industry is possible
through cooperative and systematic effort of employers
and employees.
Effective cooperation is possible only if employers build
up a strong association to cooperate with the strong union
that already exists. By this means the groups may work
together through a voluntary organization representative
45

46

PRIMER OF PROBLEMS IN THE MILLINERY INDUSTRY

of all parts of the industry and all areas, to promote their
common interest in the welfare of the industry.
2. The development of scientific business organization
and use of good business methods is essential. Many ills
arise from attempts to operate without adequate resources
and without knowledge of sound business methods or
market conditions. A program to correct this must include
the following functions:
To secure credit from legitimate sources at legitimate
rates.
To interpret price trends and market conditions in order
to negotiate to best advantage with hat-materials dealers.
As materials comprise almost half of all costs, the purchas­
ing of them should be put on an efficient and scientific
basis.
To plan each season’s production with the aid of style
research agencies, and to avoid flooding the market with
freakish models, unacceptable to large proportions of the
consuming public.
To calculate costs of manufacture, including allotment
for factory management, selling, and overhead charges on
each type of hat. The saving of a fraction of a cent at
many points makes for profit.
To carry on manufacture under efficient management,
with careful planning of equipment, arrangement, opera­
tions, and employment.
To negotiate sales on the basis of preliminary designs as
far as possible in advance of delivery.
3. Development of larger markets for millinery is desir­
able and possible. The best potential market today is
among women of 30 to 55 years of age. If the 2,500,000
women of these years engaged in business and the profes­
sions bought three or four hats a year, and home makers
of the same ages bought two hats a year, the sales of
millinery would be materially increased. It should be
possible to expand the hat market at present prices by at
least 50 percent.

REHABILITATION OF THE INDUSTRY

47

A part of the oversupply of workers could then find
employment, and it would be possible to assess the number
of new workers that could be absorbed and to adjust train­
ing facilities accordingly.
4. Women consumers’ aid can be enlisted to lengthen
seasons and to steady style caprice so as to aid the industry
to increase sales, plan for changes, lengthen production
seasons, and give better values because of better plans.
Closer contact between women consumers and the manu­
facturers is necessary and may be established through
consumer style appraisals for four seasons each year before
hats are offered to the retailer.
O

WOMEN’S

BUREAU