Buffalo Millineries Part 1

Like most Buffalonians, I absolutely love Buffalo. I know we have a lot of history here, and were once one of the largest, most bustling cities in American History. Knowing this, there had to have been some sort of millinery history, right?!  I did a quick Google search, and sure enough a wealth of information came up. A publication by the name of The Illustrated Milliner came up a number of times, and from there I dove right in and searched through every issue I could find. The Illustrated Milliner described itself as “The American Authority On Millinery” and was published by The Illustrated Milliner Company in New York, NY. The publication is full of old ads, articles about the industry, updates on styles (from Paris, of course!), and sometimes even how-to’s.

I’m going to do a few posts on Buffalo Millineries as there is too much info to contain in one post, so this first one is going to go over the millineries and supply houses, their locations, and clippings of articles relevant to the industry in Buffalo.

It seems the largest millinery houses were:

Sinclair, Rooney & Co.  (Since 1902; 34-36-38 E Eagle/Factory: 465-469 Washington St)
Siegel Bros (Ca. 1922; 511 Washington)
Gerber, Nott & Co (Ca. 1915; 492-494-496 & 497-499 Washington St)

Others mentioned are:
The Enterprise/White Enterprise Millinery (Ca. 1897, Main Street)
Central Hat Manufacturing Co (Est. 1900, 493 Washington)
Madame Wallman (Ca. 1902, 511-513 Main Street)
Reed Brothers (Had a Buffalo office; Since at least 1907; 511 Washington St)
FC Knopf (Around since at least 1907; 13 East Mohawk Street)
Theodore Weissinger & Co (Est. 1908, 487 Washington)
Buffalo Hat Manufacturing/Buffalo Ladies Hats (Since at least 1911; 544 Main St & 5&7 West Huron)
Leon Dubois (feather supplier, since at least 1911; 42 West Huron St)
Buffalo Millinery Supply Co. (Since at least 1913; 482 Washington St)
The Cooper Hat Manufacturing Co (reblockers, ca. 1916; 13 E Mohawk)
L.H. Glenn Co. (Est. 1917, 489 Washington)
Staley Nelson Co (opened 1918, 546 Main St)
Sinclair, O’Rourke, Bone Co., Inc (Est. 1920, 445 Washington St)
Victor Antonucci Millinery Supplies (Est. 1922, 1630 E Genesee)
August J Antonucci/Canadian Millinery Supply Co. (Est. 1922, 1030 E Genesee St)
Mrs. E A Tegler (696 Main St)
New York & Buffalo Hat Co (56 E. Genesee)
Millinery & Decorating Supply (487 Washington)
DW Coyne (jobbing, wholesale millinery, 488 Washington)

The oldest millinery in Buffalo was The Central Hat Manufacturing Co., which was founded in 1900*. They manufactured frames and found success in reblocking pieces. As the city grew, so did it’s market for hats. In fact, the 16th Semi-Annual Millinery Jobbers Association Convention was held in Buffalo, on November 5th-7th, 1908 at the Iroquois Hotel. From what I read in the article in The Illustrated Milliner, they went over pricing, grievances on items damaged in shipment; nothing too exciting, unfortunately.

*An article in a 1909 issue mentions a Pittsburgh woman who visited Buffalo in 1897 and then opened a millinery named The Enterprise Millinery. It didn’t say what year The Enterprise was opened, however, so Central Hat Mfg Co may or may not be the first millinery. The article mentioned the name Madame Wallman, but went on to title an illustration as “Interior views of Mrs. White’s store.” I don’t know if that was a brainfart typo situation, but I’d like to think it was and that Madam Wallman owned both The Enterprise Millinery and Madame Wallman’s Millinery. You can read the article here: LINK

1917 Advert. SOURCE

Fast forward more than a decade, and it seems that Buffalo’s millineries and supply houses set a standard and grew rapidly. Buffalo’s prime location – being close to ports, Canada, and NYC – contributed to its growth. Some trade insiders even used the phrase, “Buy in Buffalo.” The below article from the January 1920 issue goes over the growth of the more popular millinery houses:


I couldn’t find any issues past 1922 online, however. Buffalo’s millinery market seemed to have slowly died off in the late 60’s/70’s when people didn’t wear hats or veils much anymore. However, there are a handful of milliners and hair adornment creators popping up in Buffalo now, which is lovely to see!

Location, Location, Location:
Most of the millineries in Buffalo were located on Washington Street or Main Street downtown. Only a few buildings survive; one being an apartment complex called “The Sinclair” (which was the old Sinclair, Rooney & Co factory), and the other, formerly FC Knopf and The Cooper Hat Manufacturing Co, is now an office building to the left of Casa Di Pizza. Everything has either been bulldozed and built over, or became parking lots/parking garages.

Below: Is an advert with an illustration of the Sinclair, Rooney & Co office, and below that image is what the factory building looks like today. The office building at 34-36-38 East Eagle seems to be a Parking Ramp (though it could have been a part of the old AM&A’s building at one time. Google Maps and more research proved inconclusive 😦 ).

Sources: Top: The Illustrated Milliner, 1902 // Bottom: Google Maps

Below: The building FC Knopf and The Cooper Hat Manufacturing Co used to be in, 13 E. Mohawk, which is technically the door to the left of Casa Di Pizza. You can see the red awning says “13.”

Source: Google Maps

*Note: in the recent Cats Like Us interview I did, I mentioned the old Club Diablo building was a millinery, but I was wrong. A closer look revealed that the millinery in question was now either a parking lot, or the apartment building that’s next to said parking lot.

You can find the online issues for The Illustrated Milliner here: LINK

That’s all for now! Next up, I’ll be showing the advertisements for the top millinery houses in Buffalo. Stay tuned!


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