History For Hire

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Founded: 1985

Website: http://www.historyforhire.com/

History For Hire is a prop house catering to the film and television industry and specializes in rare antiques and vintage film equipment. Jim Elyea and his wife Pam founded the company from their apartment in 1985.

Notable Products

  • Prop rental
  • Expendables store
  • Graphic design
  • Custom fabrication


What to Expect

The 32,000-square foot facility is located in North Hollywood and houses more than 200 categories of props from militaria to silver wares; so many that no one bothers to keep count anymore. There is also a 5,000-book research library, which includes catalogues dating back several decades. If a prop master or director needs to know what type of fishing pole a middleclass family in Maine would have owned in 1932, they need only consult a preserved copy of Sears Roebuck. The Elyea’s true passion is everything vintage, and History For Hire is one of the largest holders of early film, television, and radio equipment in the world. The building resembles a museum more than a business. Examples of the impressive collection were featured in the Robert Downey Jr. film Chaplin. At one time, HFH stocked costume pieces as well as props. One of the shop’s first gigs was supplying 85 crates of military uniforms, flack jackets, and gear to the Philippines for Platoon, starring Charlie Sheen. Today, the company has significantly narrowed its focus; History For Hire only deals in props and has cut out all costumes and furniture.

Less than 20 people are employed at History For Hire at any given time, and all are recruited for their talent as well as their expertise. Every member of the staff is an authority on one or more historical eras or other specialty, like 1970s guitar amps or Japanese art. HFH prides itself on delivering useful knowledge, as well as service, to each client. Department heads that oversee several categories of props within their field act as advisors to prop masters, directors, and set decorators who come in search of objects. They are also responsible for the maintenance of the stock, as well as scavenging the globe for treasures to expand the department’s inventory.

The graphics and printing shop handles orders for goods such as product labels, packaging, signage, and similar items. The department maintains an exhaustive catalogue of vintage images for products like whiskey and hair tonic, and can produce custom art to fit any client specifications. Graphic designers use digital art software to layout composition, and then employ various printing methods depending on the need; tools are in place for screen-printing, large-scale sign making, and mass production.

Gary Aardahl established the custom shop at History For Hire and formerly worked for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, restoring artifacts and fabricating pieces for exhibition. He graduated cum laude from the History Department of California State University and now leads the team of artists and craftspeople who are employed to refurbish antiques and replicate historically accurate items. This group’s work includes the 1880s luggage that held the cash prize in Maverick, as well as the 1920s microphones seen in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? With full manufacturing capabilities, the custom shop is tasked with filling client orders for original items, as well as repairing and restoring the in-house stock. Those working in the custom department have a diverse set of practical skills, including drafting, painting, sculpting, and carpentry.


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