The beginning of a headdress and of its use goes back to very ancient times. First hats were made from the head skins of some animals and were after made of wood, iron, copper, leather, tow, straw and, finally, of wool and fur (rabbit, hare and beaver).
Scrolling through the history of primitive civilizations, from the Roman to the Chinese, we can notice a great diversity. Several names were given in Rome and Greece to hats: "Petasus", "Pileus", "Caussia", etc. Egyptian civilization had several gorgeously adorned hats. In central part of Europe, the use of hat is known since antiquity.
The hat industry is, in fact, very ancient in Europe and Portugal went through a particular impulse in the 18th century thanks to Marquis of Pombal.
Since the mid-18th century the population of S. João da Madeira was devoted to manufacture thick woollen hats, manually, homemade or at small workshops and the first factory was founded in 1802.(J. Gomes de Pinho).
In 1867 there were already 6 factories and in 1892 the first steam plant was installed with a annual capacity of 200.000 hats (Oliveira, Palmares & Cia)
In 1909 there were around 12 factories and in 1914 the first totally mechanized hats factory, steam-powered and producer of fine hats was created.- Empresa Industrial de Chapelaria, Lda (now a Hat Museum)
In the 30’s the movement of “deschapelados” (people with no hats) lead to the gradual disuse of hat. The plants resented and entrepreneurs bet on new sectors such as fabric hats, shoes or rubber.
Even so, felt production kept its centre in S. João da Madeira with the establishment in 1943 of Cortadoria Nacional de Pêlo (fur preparation) and later with the creation of FEPSA in 1969.
FEPSA-Feltros Portugueses, SA was founded in S. João da Madeira in March 31st, 1969 by 6 manufacturers of felt hats with the purpose of producing felts in the best conditions of quality and productivity. (Nicolau da Costa & Cia, Lda/ Vieira & Araújo & Cia, Lda/ A.Henriques & Cia, Lda/ Soares, Silva & Duartes, Lda/ Pinho, Costa & Cia, Lda/ Franciso Leite Soares de Resende, Lda)
This resolution arose from a struggle of more than 30 years to adapt production to a declining consumption and was only possible with the will of a new generation committed in the survival of an industry with a long tradition, which walked the strides of its own extinction.
Created in this environment of almost general disbelief, FEPSA came to justify the promoting Commission convictions. Soon a stable financial situation was reached allowing the distribution of dividends by shareholders already in 1972.
The annual production of about 350,000 units stayed in Portugal, supplying the associated finishing mills and other small consumers. With the political revolution of 1974, the social and labour situation affected the achieved stability, to which have also contributed the increase on operation costs and raw materials, and the financial problems of society coupled with a drastic reduction in the consumption of felt in the country.
To fight this situation FEPSA turned to the external markets, and after several attempts and adaptations, FEPSA succeeded to penetrate into various countries in competition with world renowned manufacturers.
Company's economic and financial equilibrium was soon replaced in 1979 and kept this way until now. On the exact same year the land and building of Rua da Indústria in S. João da Madeira was purchased where FEPSA was installed until 1990.
Since the foundation new machinery was acquired, this together with a secular know-how enabled FEPSA to reach the level of other manufacturers worldwide. The fact that some of European and American manufacturers have ended their production has doubled the demand for felts. In order to satisfy such demand FEPSA needed to install new lines of manufacture allowing at least doubling the production. Unable to do it at the above mentioned plant a new factory was built in modern installations focused on the acquisition of new equipment, pollution prevention and well-being of all workers.