November 2 – Happy Birthday Marcus Breier

BreierCoverHe is dead now but I still won’t share his name publicly. What I will tell you is that he was one of Amsterdam, New York’s more successful businessmen and he was well known and well respected within this community. He and I had become friendly because we shared a keen interest in business and local history. One night after a long discussion he told me he was sending me a gift in the mail. I felt bad because I hadn’t gotten him something but to tell you the truth, I was trying to figure out why he got me one in the first place. About a week later I got my answer.

It came in my mailbox in a tube-shaped package with a sticker on it that read “A subscription to ??? is being sent to you by ???.” I opened it up and almost fell off my chair. It was an anti Semitic newsletter. It was filled with stories about how Jews were supposedly ruining the economies and governments of the world. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to scream out in rage and sorrow. I imagine if this so called friend of mine hadn’t been in his eighties at the time I would have driven over to his house and confronted him. Instead, I just searched the printed piece of ignorance, hate and prejudice for a phone number, called it and cancelled my “gift” subscription and stopped taking my former friend’s phone calls.

I provide this story only as a way of describing the sort of hidden obstacles a Jewish person running for elected office must have faced in a typical upstate New York community in the early 1960s. Marcus Breier was that Jewish candidate in Amsterdam in the fall of 1963. He was born in Brooklyn on November 2, 1912. He got both his bachelor and law degrees from Cornell University prior to World War II and began his professional career as a lawyer in New York City. He then joined his family’s apparel business, Marcus Breier & Son, which had been started by his grandfather and namesake in 1898. The firm had become pretty well known as the supplier of flier jackets during WWII and owned the design and trademark for Bantamac jackets, which were very popular in the 1940s and 50s. Marcus Breier’s father, Benjamin Breier had moved the firm from Brooklyn to Amsterdam in 1933 and located it in a building, which was right across the street from my Grandfather’s house on Leonard Street.

Just a few months before Benjamin Breier died in October of 1956, the company had been purchased by White Stag Manufacturing Co. of Portland, OR, which specialized in ladies apparel. Marcus Breier 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 under evaluate the worth 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…

You can read the rest of my story about this former Amsterdam Mayor in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.


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