Herbert T. Singer was the youngest son of a former Big Apple postal clerk named Abraham Singer. In 1898, before there was a Zip Code, Abraham put a small printing press in the back room of his New York City apartment and began producing packs of “practice cards” for his co-workers who sorted the mail that trains used to carry around the country back then. These cards displayed the name of the post office on one side and the railroad and county location of that post office on the reverse side. Abraham Singer ended up moving to Amsterdam in 1909, where he continued both his career as a postal clerk and his practice card business in a small barn located behind 339 Division Street. He also started taking on more and more commercial printing work. By 1914 he needed more room so he purchased a former broom factory on the corner of Liberty and Forbes Street in the same building that until just recently served as the Central Administration headquarters of the Greater Amsterdam School District.
In 1919, Abraham’s two oldest sons, B. Barrett and Everett joined their father’s business and moved the company into the sale of advertising specialties. Simply put, an ad specialty is any product used for any purpose that also includes a printed advertising message. Calendars, appointment books and pens are each traditional examples of ad specialty products. They are typically handed out free to customers and prospects and each time they are used by those individuals, the ad printed on the product is seen again and again.
In 1927, today’s Amsterdam Birthday Blog Celebrant, the youngest of the three Singer brothers, would also join the company. A decade later, Abraham died and the three brothers formed a partnership that would propel Amsterdam Printing and Litho on a path of growth that would evolve the family’s business into one of the largest Ad Specialty company’s in the world.
They were pioneers and expert practitioners in the field of direct mail, using the US Postal Service to deliver their promotional mailings to hundreds of thousands of prospects around the country. The company’s direct mail kept the Amsterdam Post Office busy and profitable for decades.
In 1960, the firm that started in the tiny back room of a Manhattan apartment was moved into a modern, one-floor combined office, manufacturing and warehouse facility measuring 120,000 square feet that was located on Wallins Corners Rd. From that one “practice card,” the company’s product list would expand to thousands of products and its customer list would reach into the millions.
Herbert Singer was also very involved in the Amsterdam Community. He served on the Amsterdam School Board and was very active in the Sir William Johnson Council of scouting. He was one of the founders of Amsterdam Community Chest, the pre-curser of the United Way. He helped the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps get started and was just the third Amsterdamian in history to achieve the highest degree of Masonry.
His first wife Lillian Miller, a native of Ballston Spa, died in 1935, when she was just 24 years old. He then married Ruth Sack, a native of Pennsylvania. He had two sons and a daughter. The oldest of them, his son Robert, would eventually become president of the family business. Herbert died in 1993, at the age of 87.
After Herbert passed away, the Singer family sold the business to Taylor Corporation, one of the largest privately held companies in the US, which is based in Minnesota. Fortunately, Taylor has decided to not just keep but also expand Amsterdam Printing & Litho’s presence in Amsterdam and it remains one of our community’s largest employers.