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M.S. Levy and Sons records

Identifier: MS 1091


This collection contains the accounts, contracts, catalogs, and various business records connected with M. S. Levy and Sons, Baltimore hat manufacturers, 1884-1958.


  • 1884-1958


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Michael Simon Levy was born March 11, 1836, in Mur-Goslin, Germany. While still a boy he was apprenticed to a tailor but did not like the work so he ran away and refused to return. Levy journeyed to Manchester, England where his brother Ralph was engaged in the manufacture of hats. Michael Levy learned the trade quickly. By the age of twenty he had his own shop which employed nineteen men.

It was in Manchester that he met Betsy Jacobs, the eldest daughter of Elias and Henrietta Jacobs. They were married in March of 1856.

Levy's business continued to prosper, but in 1860 he lost all he had in a speculative enterprise which his friends had induced him to join in. At this point Michael Levy went to the United States to start afresh, leaving his wife and children at home.

He went to New York first, sent for his family, but found that the prospects for work were not good. In April of 1866 he decided to go to Baltimore. This was the most critical period of his life. He was in a strange city with small children and limited funds but was able to start a small trade in cloth hats and caps. He fashionned hats using cloth from his family's clothing and was able to secure orders by displaying these hats to potential buyers.

The excellence of his work was soon realized and his business and reputation grew rapidly. Levy moved into offices on West Baltimore Street and, when business increased, into a building on Sharp and German Streets.

The ensuing years continued to be profitable for Levy, especially after his experimentation in the production of straw hats and the training of his two sons, William and Jacob. In 1889 the firm leased a building on the northwest corner of Paca and Lombard streets. In 1899 M.S. Levy and Sons erected a building on the southwest corner of Paca and Lombard streets. Julius Levy also became part of the firm.

Michael Levy passed from the scene in 1911 after an illustrious career in hat manufacture. He was recognized as a leader in the field, having brought his business to a point where it was recognized as unrivaled for quality, workmanship, and integrity.

This heritage was continued by his sons and grandsons. After the death of M.S. Levy, William Levy became president and later chairmen of the board, his official position until his death in 1931. Jacob Levy joined the firm in 1881 but died in 1899. Alfred Levy entered the factory at an early age and in the 1890's assumed charge of production. In later years he took charge of the New York offices and salesmen. He died in 1941. Julius Levy, the youngest son of Michael Levy, entered the business as a clerk at age 16, became a partner in the 1890's, Vice- President in 1911, and was President from 1917-1926.

Grandsons active in the business were Lester S. Levy, son of William; Leslie W. Moses, son of Rose Levy; and Ellis Ephraim, son of Esther Levy.

M.S. Levy and Sons merged with the New England Panama Hat Company and Brigham Hopkins Co. in 1939, operating under the name of Men's Hats, Inc.. The business was prominent in both the straw and felt hat market.

The Levy's retired from the hat industry in 1959, and in 1964, Men's Hats, Inc. closed its doors permanently.


2.0 Linear Feet (2 flat boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mr. Lester Levy, in 1968.

Related Materials

MS 2019, M.S. Levy and Sons records, 1893-1957

MS 2019.1, M.S. Levy and Sons records, 1884-1958

Scope and Contents

The M.S. Levy and Sons collections range from 1884-1959. The bulk of the material consists of financial records of the company. These include account books, receipts, expense accounts, accounting sheets, auditor's reports, and annual reports. The materials document the financial status of the company, and also give detailed information on costs of running the business from obtaining raw materials to meeting jobber's terms.

The rest of the collections contain a wide variety of records dealing with M.S. Levy and Sons. Included are hat catalogs 1898, 1940, 1950; instructions for salesmen ca. 1950; copies of trade magazines; minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors 1920-30; blueprints for additions to the plant; legal agreements between members of the Levy family and between stockholders and directors ca. 1886-1927; papers re: merger of M.S. Levy and Sons and The New England Panama Hat Co., 1939; and correspondence concerning finances of the company, some with coded figures to keep competitors from knowing the financial standing of the company.

Guide to the M.S. Levy and Sons records
Under Revision
Drew Gruenburg
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-09-26: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States