THE Australian hat.
In 1874 Benjamin Dunkerley arrived in Tasmania from England and decided to start a hat making business in Hobart. His skills as a hatter were backed by his ability to invent machinery, and soon after his arrival he had developed a mechanical method of removing the hair tip from rabbit fur so the under-fur could be used in felt hat making. Previously this task had to be done by hand.
In the early 1900's Dunkerley moved the business to Crown Street, Surry Hills, an inner suburb of Sydney, setting up a small hat making factory.
In 1904 Stephen Keir I, who had also migrated from England, joined Dunkerley. Keir had hat making experience from England, and was seen as a valuable acquisition for the business. In 1905 he married Ada Dunkerley, Benjamin's daughter and soon after was made General Manager. Since that time the hat making firm has been in the hands of succeeding generations of the Keir family. In 1911, the business became Dunkerley Hat Mills Ltd, and had a mere nineteen employees.
On 25th May 2012 Stephen Dixon Keir III passed away peacefully. He leaves behind him his wife (and former Director) Wendy, Daughters Stacey and Nikki (who both currently serve as directors of Akubra Hats), Son and Chairman of the Board of Directors Stephen Maitland Keir IV as well as seven Grandchildren. So the family tradition continues.
The Akubra Hat Factory is now based on the mid north coast of New South Wales in the town of Kempsey, having relocated from Sydney in 1974.
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