Thursday, September 16, 2010

Company Profile: The KM Pro Company

 The history of the KM Pro Company goes back to 1896, when Tim McAuliffe Inc., a manufacturer of sporting goods was founded in Boston, Mass. McAuliffe supplied caps and uniforms to many sports teams, specifically baseball.

I provided a small photo essay about the KM Pro Cap Company for the "Strictly Fitted" website, which features some addition information not found here. Link: History of KM Pro


In a time when New Era was supplying caps to only a small number of teams, McAullife was king. McAullife caps weren't always manufactured by the company themselves. McAuliffe caps were often made under private label by companies such as Leslie and even New Era.




McAullife's embroidery was provided by the Roman Art Embroidery Company, also based in Boston. All teams until expansion in the 1960s used McAullife caps at one time or another.




Downsized by competition, the McAullife name was gone by the end of the 1960s. At that time, they became the KM Pro Company. KM caps are most easily recognized by their unique "zig-zag" backing pattern.


The KM Pro Cap Company Held it's ground into the early 1970s providing caps for three of the four 1969 expansion teams (the Expos, Padres, and Pilots (and then the Brewers)) and supplied several major teams as well, including the Boston Red Sox. However, their main competitor New Era finally knocked them out and the KM Pro Cap Company closed its doors at the end of 1976. Due to the major loss of business, the Roman Art Embroidery Company began manufacturing baseball caps in KM's place and the Roman Pro Cap Company was created. The first Roman caps were identical to KM caps but Roman switched to their own design by the 1980s. That decade, Roman began making reproductions of old-style caps by using their archive of McAullife and KM cap embroidery designs. The rest of the story of the Roman Pro Cap Company has already been covered here. Below is the inside of an example of an early Roman cap identical to a KM cap in every way except the label.

Here is an odd one: Collector Steven August has what appears to be a KM & New Era hybrid. It's a game-used New York Mets cap with a KM-style backing and visor, but with a New Era label. Compare the hybrid to the standard New Era on the right side.



Keep in mind that some teams would have game used caps refurbished instead of purchasing new ones, so it is possible to find KM Pro caps with New Era tags. McAullife Uniform Corp. also repaired caps in place of KM Pro.

Former KM Pro big wig Harold Aronson also started his own cap company after the fall of KM which was called "Devon Professional Cap". Devon caps were similar in construction to KM, with the same style crowns and visors. Devon was purchased by Twins Enterprises (now "'47 Brand") in the late 1980s.

BONUS FREEBIE!!! When new, KM caps came with an insert to help the caps maintain their shape. Make your own by printing out the scan of a real KM cap insert. Just print it out on some card stock paper, cut it out, and fold.


Update: A reader sent me a link to the Game Used Universe forums that prided me with some good info on KM Pro.


"KM pro was a joint venture ( for lack of a better term) between Tim McAuliffe and Jack Kaufman. Hence the K M. The hats were produced by Kaufman and sold thru McAuliffe. The embroidery on the hats was done by Roman Art who also did the chainstitch NIC- NIT on the McAuliffe jerseys. Roman Art also produced for McAuliffe/ Stall and Dean all of the patches that weren't MLB mandated. In the mid '70's the New Era owner David Koch purchased at a bankruptcy sale, all of the Kaufman cap manufacturing equipment possibly in an attempt to eliminate competition in that area."

"I used the term "joint venture" because I lacked a better description. The original McAuliffe Co. didn't mfr anything- jerseys hats ect were all done by someone else. Starting in the early '50's the jerseys were mfr'd by Stall and Dean. I don't know how far back the relationship with Kaufman goes back but they did the hats. In 1969 the McAuliffe "label" was taken over by Stall and Dean and they continued the relationship with Kaufman until the mid '70's when the Kaufman assets/equipment was bought by the New Era owner. All of my KM info came from Richard Stall, the former owner of Stall and Dean."

I have also heard that "KM" stood for Tim McAuliffe's wife, Kim.

A special thanks to Steven August and Ted Weisbrich for providing pictures of KM caps from their respective collections.

9 comments:

  1. This cap truly puts a spotlight on what an abomination the NE 5950 shape is.

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  2. KM was for Kaufman and Mcauliffe, I believe. His wife's name was Mary-Mae for short.
    Payton M.

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  3. KM stopped making MLB caps but the company was still around on Kingston St. in Boston until 1991 or so. In 1983 they still had boxes of odd size MLB caps that you could sift through. Willy Arlt of the late, lamented Cooperstown Ballcap Co. once told me that McAuliffe was the first capmaker to stiffen the crown. They did this for the 1934 Braves' cap. I don't know if that was the first, but if you ever see a pic of Babe Ruth in the 35 Braves cap the crown is clearly stiffened. Arlt told me that was called the "McAuliffe style" at the time.

    The last KM caps that were made were for Ebbets Field Flannels around 91 or 92. They have that distinctive KM cut that you never see anywhere today. Ironically, the last caps that Roman made were also for EFF and for Mitchell and Ness, and they resurrected the KM cut for those caps, although they used a wierd, heavy wool flannel that I have never seen on another ballcap before or since.

    A guy in western Massachusetts tried to bring the KM stylde back in the mid 90s-- he started the New England Cap Co., but apart from some really fine prototypes of Boston Bees and Braves caps the company never went anywhere.

    I also have several Roman caps from the early 80s, and they are KM style. By 1990 Roman caps were dreadfully uncomfortable, with cheap leather sweatbands and poor quality flannel and an almost conical crown. I useed to go out to their Randolph MA factory store and buy seconds/prototypes for $5 apiece.

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    1. That company (New England Baseball Cap) was supposed to make caps for EFF but when the Roman Pro workers went on strike EFF was able to buy out Roman Pro and that company (New England) got the shaft. They made a lot more than Braves caps. I still have some I bought on ebay a long time ago.

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  4. Originals New England Uniform, Inc. company profile demonstrates the company's ability to effectively meet customer needs. In New England Uniform, Inc. company you can get many profits.

    New England Uniform, Inc. company profile

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  6. Hi,
    I just got this Yankee cap and its a strange hybrid
    The NY logo is Roman's stitching the style of the logo from years 61/62 from what i could tell (when McAuliffe logo still in business )
    The logo says KM pro
    The bill has 7 rows of stitches like a KM pro
    but without the stamp on the head band and no zigzag on the inside front. also the white fluting around the inside is plastic like the NewEra caps of the late 70s. Any idea where this cap might have come from? do you think it was a game worn cap or a throwback? Did KMpro use there label on throwback caps like Roman?

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  7. That's a really nice collection you have there! I'm from the Greater Boston area myself and collect MLB baseball caps. I currently work for Marchionne, a great local Insurance Agency in Greater Boston, so I'm fortunate to live in such a great baseball town. If you haven't made it to Fenway, I would highly recommend it!

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