Hooks with a History - Boye
I apologize in advance to those who were expecting a short post in consideration of the holiday season. Once I delved into the history of Boye, I knew I couldn't keep my promise.
I should probably also apologize in advance for my repeated cheesy wordplay with the Boye company name. But Boye, I just can't help myself...
Although I consider plain ol' aluminum Boye hooks to be everyday and quite uninteresting (no offense, Boye, I think that's just because I use them every day), my new "vintage" Boye hooks seem to have more than originally meets the eye. Let's begin with some history of the company itself:
First of all, Boye, they really got me! (Ha, ha...That's two already.) All this time, I thought they were just a knitting and crochet company! In fact, the Boye company began in 1906 with the introduction of a sewing caddy called the Rotary Case. That would be a clock-looking cabinet thingy that I don't even want to begin to understand because it has to do with sewing, so if you're interested, please go read this article. The authors were able to interest me in this sewing accessory even though I didn't want to be sucked into sewing history.
So, getting back on track... After James H. Boye and a few of his unnamed associates started the company with this invention, they further expanded into the realm of torture. I mean sewing... They expanded in the sewing business with sewing machine parts and accessories. It wasn't until 1917 that they would put out the first line of Boye steel crochet hooks.
This at least tells me that my Boye crochet hooks can't be any older than that. Now, how to put a date to each of them? My most-used set of hooks are brand-new-ish aluminum Boye hooks, purchased at a Wal-Mart. The first thing I noticed about these older Boye hooks is that the style of the trademark is different. That's where I started the rest of my research:
I came across a wonderful bit of the Boye history while having no further success in my searches. In this article, I was able to find the years that certain hooks were manufactured, along with some other really interesting information. But first, I had to find out what "crochet forks" are. (Hairpin lace looms.) Did you know that because of the shortage and need for steel, the government stopped the production of steel crochet hooks during World War II? I mean, sure, I learned about that in history class, but not specifically crochet hooks. Guess the thought never crossed my mind that it wasn't just machines and building materials that were scarce; needlework suffered, too. And that's where the history gets a little confusing to me...
Nickel plating was stopped first on May 1, 1942, so (possibly) all steel crochet hooks from then to May of 1945 were finished with black oxide. But, all steel hook manufacturing was halted in August of '42. In April of 1944, two sizes of steel hooks were reinstated. And the ban on nickel plating was ended later in May of the next year. So, if I have this right, then black oxide hooks were only available for a few months before the ban on steel hooks, and for one year after. And since my Boye size 3 and G steels aren't black oxide, I can look farther ahead into the past for that.
Now, to cross-reference the information I gained about the steel hooks with the changes in trademarks and other markings...
To get the less-exciting news out of the way, the size 3 steel hook isn't very vintage. First of all, the print on the flats was changed to read "size/Boye/size" in 1925, so I was hopeful. But jumping right ahead, the trademark without the quotation marks wasn't used by the company until 1962. Although that means that it's ancient to me, this steel hook isn't truly an antique. This is a newer hook, possibly purchased by the generous soul that provided my mom with her first hooks, but probably by Mom herself.
On a related note, the colored size K and N hooks aren't truly vintage, either. The updated trademark along with the fact that size K wasn't introduced until 1956 tells me that these are newer. And... After a painfully long search through vintage hooks on ebay, I found a case... And bid on it... A set of Boye "Diana" crochet hooks packaged in a hard plastic case, and, if I remember correctly, a felt-covered or foam insert that held the hooks... Wait... What was that? How do I remember? Seeing the case struck a memory of watching Mom pull out this set of hooks every time she made a baby blanket for somebody. The colors matched all of the vintage ornaments she has for the Christmas tree, so in my little mind, it was always a bit like Christmas to see Mom's hooks. I know my mom stopped crocheting shortly after I started school, so it's been a long time since I've seen that set. I've discovered that the random size "J" hook I've been using belongs to that set... But where are the rest? Hmm... Mom never looses anything... Or takes it out of the case it belongs in... Grr, now that's driving me nuts! Where are they? I have asked; now it will probably drive her nuts, too. Alright, let's move on to something more interesting for everybody.
The two aluminum G and J hooks with worn paint use a trademark from before 1962. The part that has me stumped is: I can't find any information for exactly when the flats read "MADE/size/U.S.A., with "Boye" alone on the opposite side. But Boye, oh Boye, I think it doesn't matter... I had to do some extra learning, but I think the proof is in the paint. The color of anodized aluminum doesn't chip, peel, or wear off. Since these hooks are showing considerable damage (especially that bent one), I believe they may be from before 1949, when the anodized aluminum hooks were first sold. However, I'm unsure if these are the lacquered aluminum hooks sold from 1932 to 1935, or the set of various colors released in 1949 prior to the anodized. The colors listed are "dubonnet, starlight blue, aqua, and silver". Did they sell a set of all different colors, the way hooks are sold now, or was each size available in each color? So, I'm still a bit stumped, but my gut is telling me that these could be the older lacquered hooks.
For the coolest of the cool, and the most vintage of the vintage, let's get to that steel size G hook: It's vintage! Oh Boye, it's vintage... I was able to track down this assortment of hooks on Lace Buttons, where I found what it is: A nickel-plated steel rug hook! First introduced (along with size "I") in 1926. From there, I browsed many sources from Pinterest, eBay, Etsy, etc., but every one of them that has information says "made around the WWII era", and no actual date.
What I learned from my original source is that G and I steel hooks were not manufactured between 1942 and 1947. There are a few rare black oxide-finished "G" and "I" hooks out there, but mine's not that uncommon. So, being harder to place, I can only figure that it is from between 1926 and 1942, or it was made sometime after 1947. I was unable to discover when these hooks were discontinued for good, but my gut tells me it was sometime around 1949, when the aluminum size "G" hook was introduced.
Boye was the first company to sell a complete line of hooks that were made in America. And even if you have some Boye hooks that might not be "vintage", but they were made in the U.S.A., you have something that isn't being manufactured anymore. In 1989, the Boye Needle Company merged with Wrights, then Conso acquired Wrights in 2000. (http://www.forcrafts.net/crochet-patterns/37-boye-hooks)
I'm not sure at what point during that time hook manufacturing was moved to China. Although it's not stamped on their hooks, that's what it says on the packages my hooks came in. Boye hooks can still be purchased, but with a no-flair logo on one side and international hook sizes on the other. They still have similar Christmas-ball anodized colors and the classic tapered throats that every Boye user either loves or hates. But that "vintage" stamp of "U.S.A." is now a faded memory of the past, so hang on to 'em if you've got 'em.
And who knows? Maybe someday in the future, manufacturing will come back to the United Stated, and those of us who have these made-in-China/bought-at-Walmart hooks can call them a collector's item. Yeah, probably not. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. But what I will hope for is that no matter where they were made, and by what company, somebody will cherish them because they were a part of Mom.