Charles Horner of Halifax by Tom Lawson.

Chas Horner Trade MarkCharles Horner, the son of a local weaver, was born in 1837 and died in 1896. Charles was the founder of the unique Halifax jewellery business and achieved much in his 59 years with his innovation and undoubted marketing skills. He laid the foundations of a thriving business, which survived two world wars only to be closed in the late 20th century.
The Charles Horner factory in Halifax produced a wide range of products during the 20th century. These included bangles, buttons and badges, bracelets, art nouveau pendants, brooches and hatpins, cufflinks, earrings, charms and other jewellery and giftware.
19th century dowagers, dames and daughters often hurt their fingers when their sewing needles penetrated the soft silver thimbles - until Charles Horner came to their rescue. He hit on the brilliantly simple, but very effective idea of sandwiching a strong utilitarian steel shell between an inner and outer decorated silver shell, which he patented in the 1880s. The safe, silver thimble was born and was named by Charles Horner as the 'Dorcasä' thimble.
The success of the Charles Horner range of Dorcas as well as more traditional silver hallmarked thimbles and jewellery laid the foundations of the Horner fortune the new Horner factory, which opened in 1905.
From the end of the 19th Century, ladies' fashion included ever-larger hats, which needed to be fastened to the big hairstyles of the period. By chance, this coincided with the art nouveau design period. The Horner brothers ( their father, Charles died before the new factory was built) ensured that the new factory in Mile Cross included a Hatpin Department and many thousands of Horner hatpins were made and sold. They are now eagerly collected on a world-wide basis. But beware fakes!
After the First World War, Horner's had some financial difficulties, probably due to the loss of their traditional markets. A new plastic, based on milk protein - casein, was becoming popular and Horner's decided to set up their own casein processing department. They registered the trade name "Dorcasine", a new trade mark based on Charles Horner's famous Dorcas name, though it is not yet known if the firm made casein thimbles.
The production and sale of casein plastic products appear to have made an important contribution to the Horner business. Dorcasine was sold mainly in sheet and rod form but Horner's also made and sold their own finished buttons, button blanks, knitting needles, plastic jewellery etc.

Tom Lawson has prepared these short notes in connection with the research and publication of his book on the Horner business.


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