A (Very) Brief History Of Henry Howell & Co. Ltd.

The original Howell shop was established at 76 Aldersgate in London in 1832 by Henry's father, John Howell, selling high-class hosiery and a variety of fashion accessories - including walking canes.

Shortly after his marriage in 1859, Henry left the family shop and established a cane merchandising business, manufacturing walking sticks for the wholesale market under his own name, on Old Street in London in a building formerly occupied by James Thomas Akerman, a long time manufacturer of walking sticks, parasols, and umbrellas. Henry Howell & Company quickly grew to become one of the world’s leaders in the production of high quality walking sticks.

In 1867, Jonathan Howell, Henry's cousin and the sole remaining proprietor of the original family store on Aldersgate, closed the shop and joined Henry in the manufacturing of walking sticks, shooting sticks and umbrella handles. In 1888, Henry died childless and left everything he owned to Jonathan. By 1895, Henry Howell & Co. employed 460 people and declared itself the largest single manufacturer of walking sticks in the world. Such was the quality of the work that, in 1900, the company was awarded the Grand Prix at the Paris Industrial Exhibition.

Unloading Pimento trees Inside one of the workshops In the despatching room
(The images above are stills from a film, made in 1912, of the Old Street factory.
A link to the film is on the Loose Ends page.)

On November 4th, 1903, a limited company (Henry Howell and Company Ltd) was formed by Jonathan Howell, George Short and Edwin Short in order to 'acquire and take over as a going concern the business now carried on at No. 180, Old Street, and elsewhere, in the County of London, under the style or firm of "Henry Howell & Co.", and all or any of the assets and liabilities of the proprietors of that business'. Jonathan Howell became the company's Managing Director and Chairman, with George Short and Edwin Short as Directors. Shares were issued to the value of £60,000, the original shareholders being:

Bernard Charles Howell joined the company some time afterwards. Bernard was a talented, and published, cartoonist, many of his cartoons containing depictions of birds, and it was he who was later to produce the YZ design drawings. He stayed with the company until its end, eventually taking over as Managing Director, following Jonathan's death in 1934, and jointly running it with his cousin, John Waddy-Howell.

Henry Howell and Company Ltd prospered and, by 1917, owned property comprising:

The 1909-1919 entry in the Post Office Business Register, held at the Guildhall Library, reads:
  'Howell, Henry & Co Ltd. stick makers, wholesale and export manufacturers of umbrella sticks and walking canes, spécialité natural sticks of every description; importers and dealers in all kinds of foreign canes and sticks; walking and umbrella sticks mounted in gold, silver and ivory to suit the home, colonial and foreign markets: manufacturers of hunting crops and riding whips.'  
The first Business Register mention of YZ is in the 1930 entry:
  'Howell, Henry & Co Ltd. wholesale and export manufacturers of walking canes, umbrella sticks, sporting seat sticks, hunting crops, “YZ” novelties &c.'  

And, by 1936, the entry had expanded a little on that:

  'Howell, Henry & Co Ltd. wholesale and export manufacturers of walking canes, umbrella sticks, sportsmen’s seat sticks, hunting crops, “YZ” novelties (ash-trays, gongs &c.)'  

The company's entry in the 1920 British Industries Fair (London) Catalogue reads:

  'Manufacturers of High-class Walking Sticks and Canes, Umbrella and Sunshade Handles and Sticks for all markets, also Hunting Crops, Riding Whips, Horse Measures, Presentation Canes (mounted in Silver, Gold, Ivory, Horn, Erinoid), Carved Heads, etc. Officers’ Canes, Soldiers’ Swagger Canes, Leather‑covered Canes, Folding Walking Sticks. Specialists in Natural Sticks of every description, Drum Majors’ and Chiefs’ Staves, etc.'  

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the company's performance declined and, in 1935, in an attempt to cut costs and revive its fortunes, offices were opened at 1 Carlisle Road, The Hyde, London, N.W.9. The City showrooms remained at 180, Old Street.

The decline, though, continued and the company was liquidated in July, 1936. On August 27th, a new incarnation - Henry Howell (1936) Limited - was registered.

On March 14th, 1947, Henry Howell (1936) Ltd was placed into voluntary liquidation.