June 3rd is a huge anniversary date in the history of the City of Amsterdam, NY. It marks the birth in 1803 of John Sanford. He is the patriarch of Amsterdam’s Sanford family and if he did not move from his birthplace of Roxbury, Connecticut to this place in 1821, many of us who were born in what would become known as the “Rug City” might not even be here.
Interestingly, this guy made the move not to start a factory but instead to become a teacher, first in Amsterdam for a few terms and then in Mayfield. It was in that village that he opened a store, which he later moved down to Amsterdam. It was as a merchant that he became well known and respected, so respected that by 1840 he was a successful candidate for US Congress. He served just one term in Washington before returning to Amsterdam to become partners in a rug mill that had been started by William Kimball Greene. One might assume that Greene was looking to bring the influence of an ex-Congressman to his firm’s executive suite. But just a couple of years later, Greene ended up selling his end of the business to Sanford.
Sanford must have found he was not up to the task of running the mill by himself because he forced his eldest son Stephen, who was then a Cadet at West Point, to leave that academy and return to Amsterdam to help run the business. Regardless of the true motive, it proved to be a brilliant decision because in 1854, when the mill was destroyed by fire it would be Stephen who would not only rebuild the business but also turn the Sanford name into the most powerful name in worldwide rug manufacturing.
At the time of the fire, John Sanford was just 51 years old but evidently, he had had enough of the business world because he chose to retire. Just three years later he was dead.
While individuals like John Sanford, his son Stephen and William Kimball Greene helped forge this area’s reputation as an industrial center it would be later generations of very sharp men and women who would extend it to modern times. One of those very smart people and a long-time resident of Amsterdam, shared a birthday with John Sanford.