The History of Crofut & Knapp, Dobbs, and Cavanagh Hat Manufacturing
Disney Hats was a brand manufactured, but not owned, by Crofut & Knapp from around 1888 or so, until sometime between 1937 and 1940. They were not affiliated in any way to Walt Disney or his companies. Because Disney was a retailer, published information about the company is rather scarce.
In 1885, John A. Disney started Disney Hats as a retailer of men's hats at 196 Third Avenue in New York City. At some point the company also opened a shop in Times Square, at 42nd and Broadway, and this prestigious location was used in national advertisements. Disney did not make their own hats. By at least 1888 or 1889, Croft & Knapp, of South Norwalk, CT, was making the hats for Disney. The relationship may actually go back to 1885, but I haven't found any hard evidence to place it earlier than 1888. C&K made hats for Disney until sometime between 1932 and 1940. John Disney ran the company until his death on January 7, 1906. His half-sister inherited the company, though not without a legal challenge by his niece.
In July 1909, the company incorporated as Disney Hats, Inc., with a capitalization of $5,000. The company struggled, apparently, as they declared bankruptcy in 1911 and went through receivership. Assets of the company were valued at $5,000, with liabilities of $20,000. Four creditors filed petitions against the company, including Crofut & Knapp for $7,200, for money that Disney owed them. The creditors settled two months later for 35 cents on the dollar. C&K continued to make hats for Disney for several more decades after they emerged from receivership.
William H. Champion, long-time president of Disney Hats, Inc., owned half of the fifty shares of stock issued for the company, and he was possibly the other original investor, along with John's half sister, Francis K. Disney (Fannie K. Cohn is her given name in the court documents from 1907). In 1914, Champion was listed as treasurer and director, with Francis K. Disney the president. By 1919, Francis was no longer listed in the corporate records, and William Champion was the president. Irving Wilmot, second vice president of C&K in 1924, was listed as treasurer and the other director of Disney Hats in 1919. Whether or not Wilmot served both companies concurrently is unknown at this time. By 1924, A. E. Fehrenbach was Disney's treasurer.
William Champion remained president of Disney Hats, Inc., until his death on 28 September 1926. The 25 shares of $100 par-value stock he owned was valued at $1,147 a share. Champion credited his wife with designing the styles for Disney Hats. The average profit of Disney was given as $11,192 a year on invested capital of $27,426.
The story of Disney Hats in the 1930s results in a change of manufacturers. Alfred A. Hodshon, a longtime hatter in Danbury, CT, operated a number of companies in his lifetime, one of which was Sunfast Hats. Sunfast was purchased by Cavanagh-Dobbs, a holding company for Croft & Knapp and Dobbs & Co. Hodshon hats were a line of hats made by C&K between 1929 and 1932. A. A. Hodshon and his son Alfred E. Hodshon went with Sunfast to Cavanagh-Dobbs in Norwalk. In July 1932, just weeks after Cavanagh-Dobbs acquired Knox & Dunlap to become the Hat Corporation of America, Both Hodshons left the Hat Corporation of America to start up their own company again back in Danbury. This new company became the A. E. Hodshon Company.
Sometime between 1932 and 1940, The A. E. Hodshon Co. took the Disney manufacturing business away from Hat Corp. It is reasonable to think that Hodshon nabbed the Disney business closer to 1932, though no evidence has arisen to furnish a firm date. Documentary evidence shows that Hodshon was making Disney hats by 1939, and that Hodshon was probably affiliated with the Frank H. Lee Company. Some circumstantial evidence suggest that Hodshon was making Disney Hats by 1937. Disney Hats, Inc., went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 1939. Their assets were valued at $3,319, while their liabilities were listed at $24,652. What is not clear is if Hodshon bought Disney Hats, Inc., or the Disney name, or if Lee did. Arthur A. Hodshon retired from the company in 1944. 
Certainly, by 1943, the Frank H. Lee Company owned the Disney brand and was making Disney Hats, as they filed for renewals for the Disney trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The John B. Stetson Company acquired Lee in 1960, and continued to offer Disney Hats. Disney Hats were offered at least into the 1970s, years after the original Lee and Stetson factories had closed and the brands were licensed out. Disney Hats underwent a branding change in 1947 to "Mr. Disney," featuring a standing figure dressed to the nines, in tails and a top hat. This logo would continue to be used in the crest of Disney hats for the rest of their existence.
~The Hatted Professor
 Advertisement, L. Strauss & Co., The Indianapolis News, 12 September 1923, 18.
 Jerome B. Fisher, Reports of Cases Heard and Determined in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Vol. 118, 1907, (Albany, New York: J. B. Lyon Company, 1907), 378-384.
 "Business Troubles," The New York Times, 26 October 1911, 18.
 "Business Troubles," The New York Times, 18 November 1911, 20.
 Advertisement, The Denham-Lashhorn Co., The Journal News, Hamilton, OH, 11 September 1929, 3.
 "$100 Stock Worth $1,147," The New York Times, 11 May 1928.
 R.L. Polk & Co.'s 1918-19 Trow's New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, Boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx, Vol. 62, (New York: R.L. Polk. & Co., Inc., March 1914), 252.
 The Crofut & Knapp Company, The C&K Book (The Crofut & Knapp Co: New York, 1924), 75.; R.L. Polk & Co.'s 1918-19 Trow's New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, Boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx, Vol. 66, (New York: R.L. Polk. & Co., Inc., March 1919), 304.
 The C&K Book, 75.
 "$100 Stock Worth $1,147," The New York Times, 11 May 1928.
 "Cavanagh-Dobbs Buys Sunfast Hats," The New York Times, 7 July 1928.
 Advertisement, Popular Dry Goods Co., Inc., El Paso Herald, 19 February 1929, 3.
 "2 Danbury Hat Shops to Reopen," The Norwalk Hour, 15 July 1932, 9.
 "Hat Contest on Derby for Sports Writers," The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, NY), 18 March 1939, 9.
 Advertisement, Cutler's Fine Men's Wear, The Salt Lake Tribune, 16 March 1937, 6.
 "Business Records: Bankruptcy Proceedings," The New York Times, 13 May 1939.
 "John W. Karl Buys Connecticut Home," The New York Times, 28 July 1944.
 US Patent and Trademark Office, Disney Registration Certificate (US Patent and Trademark Office: Washington, DC), renewed 17 July 1943, accessed 10 January 2016, http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4806:qqyo1k.4.690.
 "James B. Lee, 47," The New York Times, 28 March 1964, accessed 10 January 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/1964/03/28/james-b-lee-47.html.
 "Boyd's New Store," Sun-Standard (Blue Island, IL), 4 October 1973, 7.
 The Library of Congress, Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Vol. I, Part 11 B, Number 2: Commercial Prints and Labels, July-December 1947, (Copyright Office, The Library of Congress: Washington, D.C.) 96, accessed 10 January 2016, https://books.google.com/books?id=50whAQAAIAAJ&pg=RA2-PA96&lpg=RA2-PA96&dq=%22Mr.+Disney%22+hats&source=bl&ots=mWwlADJoGC&sig=XlX9aNH39pnYeMO2GOYIFeEIClE&hl=en&sa=X& ved=0ahUKEwin0OfakaDKAhVF5yYKHW4dADUQ6AEITjAM#v=onepage&q=%22Mr.%20Disney%22%20hats&f=false
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