Answer to Question No. 1: Collette’s was incorporated by founder Clarence Collette in 1907 to manufacture Mendets, a product which resembled a bolt attached to a hole-less washer, which was used to plug holes in the not very durable tin pots and pans that filled the home kitchens of this country during the first half of the last century. One of the company’s first Amsterdam locations was the old Eighth Ward School building that still stands up near the Rockton Wye. This firm would later become best known for producing lower grade baseballs, basketballs and footballs. After Clarence Collette died in 1965, Eli Robinson took over as Collette’s president. When the firm ceased operations in 1989, it occupied one of the old Mohasco Carpet mill buildings at the foot of DeGraff Street.
Answer to Question No. 2: Thomas B. Constantino created the visor tissue pak as the first inside-the-car ad-specialty product of Amsterdam’s Noteworthy Company, a firm he founded in 1954. It would be Noteworthy’s second product, Constantino’s solution for discarding the used tissue that propelled the firm to tremendous success, as the company went on to become America’s first and largest producer of litterbags. Tom’s son Anthony eventually took over his father’s company and brilliantly transformed it into the digital age by selling custom designed stickers, magnets, buttons and labels online to a worldwide market. He calls it Sticker Mule!
Answer to Question No. 3: Frank Pabis (pictured above) was the name of Joe Wartinger’s apprentice and his idea was to produce and sell complete, easy-to-use and affordable repair solutions for damaged furniture. His market consisted of furniture makers, distributors and stores. He capitalized his business with a $5,000 investment. He located it in an abandoned garage on John Street in the east end of Amsterdam. He did his own research and development, formulated his own products and even designed and created the mechanical processes and machines he used to make the products. Then he went out on the road and like Joe Wartinger had done for him, he showed prospective customers how they could use his products to quickly, effectively and inexpensively fix furniture defects that would otherwise prevent or lower the value of the piece’s sale. It proved a winning formula from the get-go. At its zenith, the company Pabis founded and named Mohawk Finishing reached the $4 million dollar mark in annual sales.
Answer to Question No. 4: Four Shuttleworth brothers started the Amsterdam rug-making business that would one-day morph into Mohasco Corporation. The two oldest of the siblings, John and James would end up having the least influence on the operation and future of the company. The third oldest of the boys, Walter took charge at first and ran the firm until 1902 but it would turn out to be Herbert Shuttleworth, the youngest of the brothers who would evolve into the cunning wheeler dealer and driving force behind the firm’s dramatic merger with McCleary, Wallin & Crouse in 1920, which created a mighty new company called Mohawk Carpets.
Answer to Question No. 5: Amsterdam’s Breton Industries came into being after WWII, primarily as a manufacturer of canvas products for military, industrial and commercial applications. Owned and managed by the Lewis family, the firm’s long-time production headquarters was located at 10 Leonard Street in Amsterdam’s West End neighborhood. They relocated to the Edson Street Industrial Park in the 1990’s and occupy the building shown above. The firm’s current product offerings include protective covers, vehicle covers (including the one they make for US Army Humbles), tentage, and all types of bladders for liquids and gaseous mediums.
Answer to Question No. 6: The COnnecticut LEather COmpany. became Coleco and by the mid 1970’s, they had become Amsterdam’s largest industrial employer with close to 3,000 workers.
Answer to Question No. 7: Then Amsterdam postmaster Julius Wasserman and his eldest son David started a manufacturing business in 1883 on Brookside Avenue. Within the next 25 years, their Amsterdam Broom Company would employ as many as 125 people and turn out four million brooms of all sorts and sizes each year. It would be young David who brilliantly managed and grew the business for the next half century, until he passed away in 1953. Upon his death, his brother Isadore found himself in control of the business making a product that had become pretty much obsolete thanks to the advent of vacuum cleaners. Approaching sixty years of age when his brother died, Isadore was not up to the challenge of modernizing the firm’s product line and instead, he relinquished control of the business for the purpose of finding a buyer. That buyer turned out to be Stanley Edelman, a New York City businessman who owned the Eddie Brush Company, a firm already making some of the alternative products an old broom-making factory needed to stay in business. The final deal was signed during the first week of October in 1957 and one month later, Isadore Wasserman died. The Eddie Brush Company would indeed enjoy a long run at the Brookside Avenue plant but also would eventually cease operations. In 2010, the four-story former home of the Wasserman family’s Amsterdam Broom Company sadly burnt to the ground.
Answer to Question No. 8: Sidney Grossman wasn’t born in Amsterdam and he never actually resided here either but if it wasn’t for this son of a Russian immigrant, our town’s decline as a northeast industrial center would have followed a much steeper and more rapid ride downward than it actually did. Grossman became a familiar figure to Rug City residents in 1955, a year after the Bigelow Sanford carpet mill moved out taking 1,500 jobs with it. The company left behind two million square feet of empty space spread over 40 different buildings of every shape and size imaginable. While most residents of our community saw those empty buildings as a disaster, all Grossman saw was opportunity. His efforts here began with a $330,000 winning bid at the public auction for the abandoned Sanford buildings in 1955. Between 1955 and 1962, a parade of prospective industrial tenants uncovered by Grossman were welcomed, pitched, wined and dined by a who’s who of Amsterdam community members and the results were a diversified group of companies with names like Bayshore, Consolidated Novelty, Fiberglass Products, Noteworthy, Esquire, Coleco etc. that cumulatively hired more workers than Sanford had laid off, filled those vast empty spaces with new machines and processes and kept Amsterdam gas stations, coffee shops, bars and downtown stores in business for another thirty-to-forty years.
Answer to Question No. 9: The name of the lace-making knitting firm was Bojud. The company moved to Amsterdam in the mid-1960s and was one of the larger textile mills in the area. In addition to lace, Bojud produced fabric for gloves, jerseys, hats, and curtains. At its peak in the late 1970s and 1980s, it had more than 120 machines running three shifts, employed nearly 200 people and billed about $100,000 per day. By the late 1990’s, overseas competition had crippled the business. One of Bojud’s employees, Allan Bouck of Perth, NY purchased the company in 2007. He called his new firm Willow Street Lace and downsized the operation to just 11 machines and a total of three employees.
Answer to Question No. 10: Fownes Brothers and Co., Inc. was established in 1777 by John and Thomas Fownes in the English city of Worcester. Fownes Brothers entered the American market in 1887 with a sales office in New York City. The New York office is maintained to this day and has become the global headquarters for sales, merchandising and design. Fownes Brothers established manufacturing facilities in Amsterdam ain the 1920’s. In the late 1950’s the firm’s manufacturing began sifting from the US and the Caribbean basin, to the Far East. For many years, Fownes was based in a multi-story factory on Grove Street before moving to the old Mohawk Carpet complex at the foot of Elk Street in the early 1970’s (see photo above). I helped my father-in-law’s construction firm prepare the old carpet mill for Fownes at the time and got to know Arnold Jaffe, the long-time head of the company’s Amsterdam operations.
Answer to Question No. 11: The name of Amsterdam’s greatest pumpkin making firm was Bayshore Industries, a plastic toys and swimming pool manufacturer, which moved to Amsterdam from Maryland in 1961. Many of my high school classmates were among the 150 workers employed by the firm and many of my buddies were intimately involved in making those ugly plastic pumpkins! They were grabbed hot out of the injection molding machines and then the seams were shaved even with very sharp knives. The holes in the head had to be drilled out and the eyes and noses painted black. I still remember hearing my buddies bitch about the burns, cuts, smells and messes that resulted. A few of of them even claim they still get Bayshore flashbacks whenever they encounter Trick or Treaters. The name of the head guy at Bayshore was Alvin Gursha who is pictured above.
Answer to Question No. 12: Esquire Novelty Company was another Sid Grossman find. The firm moved here from Jersey City, NJ in 1961, originally occupying a couple floors of an old Sanford mill on Willow Street before moving to bigger space in an old Mohasco building off of Forest Ave. The company’s customized toy six-shooter gun sets turned tens of thousands of American kids into their favorite television cowboy and Esquire toy rifles and machine guns armed streets full of children soldiers engaged in noisy but bloodless neighborhood war games.
Answer to Question No. 13: McCleary, Wallin and Crouse – The third and last of the big three Amsterdam carpet manufacturers opened its doors in 1886. William McCleary, Samuel Wallin, David Crouse and a fourth original partner named David Howgate were all employees of the Sanford firm when they decided to spin off on their own in a small factory next to the Mohawk River on Amsterdam’s South Side. Their initial mission was to differentiate from the Sanford’s room-sized rugs by focusing on producing narrow runners, designed to warm, decorate and protect walking paths inside homes and businesses. The new firm struggled at first and it wasn’t until a fire at the South Side plant forced the partners to relocate to Amsterdam’s Rockton neighborhood that the company started making a profit. It grew to employ 2,000 workers by the time it merged with the Shuttleworth Brothers in 1920 to form Mohawk Carpets.
Answer to Question No. 14: Ward Products was the first tenant of the Edson Street Industrial Park, moving in there in 1957. The company was a subsidiary of the Gabriel Co. and had been located in Ashtabula, OH. The firm manufactured car antennas and its opening here in Amsterdam was a lifesaver for scores of former Bigelow-Sanford employees left jobless when the carpet maker departed the city for Connecticut. Most former Ward employees will tell you that the business hummed smoothest under the direction of the very capable Joseph Cejka. It is not very difficult to figure out why Ward’s closed. How many cars do you see today that have retractable radio antennas?
Answer to Question No. 15: The name of the company was Consolidated Novelty and their trademark products were sparkling fake Christmas Trees. The Novelty subsidiary was one of four the company managed at its Willow Street location. The other three were Consolidated Chair, Delta Novelty and Delta Ornament
Answer to Question No. 16: The company was called the Pioneer Broom Company and my grandfather walked to work there most of his adult life. The firm was owned by Amsterdam’s very prosperous Blood family. The plant on Main Street turned out 300 dozen full-sized brooms every day while another Pioneer plant on Washington Street produced 200 dozen whisk brooms daily.
Answer to Question No. 17: Giving up Coessen’s Park, a heavily used recreational facility on the eastern end of East Main Street was certainly a huge price to pay, but at least the box-making plant that forced the sacrifice is still going strong over 50 years later. Now owned by KapStone Paper & Packaging, it continues to offer well-paid manufacturing jobs to scores of Amsterdam residents.
Answer to Question No. 18: After spending the first 118 years in Canajoharie, Beech-Nut moved its manufacturing operations 20 miles east to an industrial park just south of the City of Amsterdam. The biggest reason for the move was the damage caused to the company’s original location by the epic Mohawk River flood of 2006. The move brought close to 500 good paying jobs to this area not to mention a 550,000 square foot state of the art manufacturing facility. The number two baby food maker in the US behind Gerber, Beech-Nut started out as The Imperial Packing Co., in 1891. Its big product back then was not baby food but vacuum-packed ham. Beech-Nut diversified over the years into such products as peanut butter and chewing gum. Strained baby food was introduced in the 1930s, and it really took off with the post-World War II baby boom.
Answer to Question No. 19: Cranesville Block Co. – A Rug City threesome of WWII veterans named John Tesiero, Ray Francisco and Dick Furman made the very accurate forecast that pre-fabricated concrete blocks were going to be huge in the post war construction industry and they decided to start making them in a barn on Cranesville Rd. back in 1947. By 1964 Cranesville Block president Tesiero was ready to go really big-time. Up until then, the cement used to make the company’s blocks had to be purchased and shipped to the company’s location. Tesiero wanted to make his own so Cranesville purchased the former Adirondack Power Plant, a huge and familiar landmark visible from both sides of the Mohawk River just west of Amsterdam. It was turned into the company’s headquarters and manufacturing center. Ready mix concrete was added to the company’s product line and during the next decade, Tesiero began gobbling up every ready-mix location in a four-county area. Next came a crown jewel in Tesiero’s rock hardening empire, he purchased a stone quarry and was then able to control his products’ entire supply line. Soon thereafter he started expanding his ready-mix operations beyond the Capital District. By the turn of the 21st Century, Tesiero’s entrepreneurial leadership had turned Cranesville into one of the top 100 concrete producers in the nation.Tesiero passed away in 2016 and his children now run the company.
Answer to Question No. 20: The correct answer is “B”, Just a few months before Benjamin Breier died in October of 1956, his Amsterdam apparel company had been purchased by White Stag Manufacturing Co. of Portland, OR, which specialized in ladies apparel. White Stag moved into Breier’s existing location at 10 Leonard Street. Benjamin’s son, future Amsterdam Mayor Marcus Breier (pictured above) was named Vice President of White Stag at the time and the plan was for him to run the men’s apparel division of that company, which would remain based in Amsterdam. But a year later, the Breier family withdrew from the deal citing an effort by executives of White Stag to underestimate the value of their company and the matter ended up in the courts. Meanwhile, Marcus Breier opened a new leather apparel firm in the Rug City and called it Breier of Amsterdam. Choice “A”, Fiberglass Industries, originally moved into the two giant Sanford buildings located on Shuler Street and then expanded into a brand new plant in the Edson Street Industrial Park. Choice “C” Fairchild Electronics became a long-time tenant in one of the several old Sanford buildings Noteworthy founder Tom Constantino had purchased from Sid Grossman. Choice “D”, Dajims was a display making firm started by the father and son team of Dan and Jim DiCaterino located in an upper floor of one of Sanford’s old Willow Street properties. In 1989, choice “E”, the toy company Hasbro purchased $85 million worth of a bankrupt Coleco’s assets and continued manufacturing a few of the Coleco plastic injected product lines in the old Sanford buildings that housed them.
The City of Amsterdam lost a huge and eloquent chunk of its memory yesterday with the sudden passing of Robert Neil Going. His passions, his intellect, his sense of humor, his politics, his incredible array of interests and experiences made him one of the most intriguing people ever to call Amsterdam home. A judge — a lawyer– a civil servant–a devout Catholic–an author & historian– a radio personality–a willing community volunteer–a lover of nature, art, food, Broadway plays, movies, the Red Sox & books–somehow a cousin to thousands–and most of all an immensely proud and loving dad, grandfather & husband, when Bob sold his long-time home on George Street and relocated to Albany a few years back it felt as if twenty different people had left this town with him. And the saddest thing about his passing is knowing how much he loved the family he leaves behind, how he so enjoyed being with them and observing them do wonderful things with their lives. I was a huge fan of Bob’s writing. There are many posts in his blog “The Judge Report” and at least an equal number of passages and pages in his wonderful books that I find to be powerfully and perfectly written. I’ve read so many of them two or three times already and I look forward to reading them again. Rest in peace Bob. You gave life here on Earth a wonderful ride.
A manager at Amsterdam’s Pricechopper/Market 32 told my wife that the store intends to honor Joe Dignazio with a plaque. Stop and think of that for just a second. Think how busy that market has been all these years that Joe worked there and how many thousands of customers encountered how many hundreds of employees during that time. That Joe’s service and kindness and love of his work stood out so much is a testament to how appreciated he was. Joe passed away two weeks ago and as nice an honor as that plaque will be, this man’s real memorial still stands further south, on the crest of Market hill. It is impossible to catch a glimpse of the old Joe’s Market storefront without thinking of this man who many called “Little Joe”. He spent most of his adult life working there for his mentor, Joe Martuscello. I recently had the opportunity to interview Joe D. for a story I wrote about Joe’s Market for the Historic Amsterdam League. I asked him what made working there so special. He answered immediately. “The customers!” He told me his life was that store, the coworkers part of his family and the customers his cherished friends. Everyone should be so lucky to have a career they love as much as Joe Dignazio loved his.
I call personalities like Bob Going and Joe Dignazio “Amsterdam originals”. Everybody knew these guys, they were public figures and each made noteworthy contributions to the collective personality of this place. I am so glad I was able to have crossed paths with both of them. May they rest in peace.