Amsterdam’s industry thriving in ’40s, much of it aiding war effort

Industries ran at full tilt during World War II, according to a Chamber of Commerce booklet called “

Industries ran at full tilt during World War II, according to a Chamber of Commerce booklet called “Little Journeys into Industrial Establishments of Amsterdam,” written by Earl O. Stowitts.

Stowitts was born in the town of Root. He served briefly as executive secretary of the Chamber then was managing editor of the Recorder for 24 years. He died in 1953.

In 1942, Amsterdam ranked eighth in New York state in industrial output, Stowitts said, an important cog in the machinery of the war effort.

The city’s two major employers — Mohawk Carpet Mills and Bigelow Sanford — had switched from making carpets to manufacturing blankets and fabric for tents and tarpaulins. There were 5,500 employed at Mohawk alone during the war. Nearly 500 Bigelow Sanford workers had enlisted or been drafted by 1942.

Women were numerous in the workforce, as men had gone to war. Bigelow Sanford’s machine shop was decorated with “colorful bouquets of garden flowers” and “feminine-looking slacks and aprons” were hung nearby.

“Little Journeys” profiled other Amsterdam factories — Chalmers Knitting, Amsterdam Broom, Gardner Broom, Collins Loom Works, Amsco Rug, Smeallie and Voorhees paper, Inman’s box factory, Harvey Chalmers & Sons pearl button mill, Adirondack Sportswear and Bisbee Linseed Oil.

In 1917, Chalmers Knitting built a seven-story building on Bridge Street. In 1942, 600 people worked there, filling orders for underwear for the military. The building was demolished in 2011.

Amsterdam Broom Co., started by industrialist and philanthropist Julius Wasserman, had a four-story plant on Brookside Avenue in 1942. That building later housed a paint brush company and then was a book warehouse when it burned down in a fire in 2010. Two juveniles were charged with starting the blaze.

Gardner Broom Co. was near the Chuctanunda Creek. William A. Gardner, part of the family, had been mayor of Amsterdam, state senator, state judge and city postmaster. His brother Herbert raised and trained horses and owned 1929 Kentucky Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen. Kentucky racing acing officials say the trophy awarded to the Gardner family has disappeared.

Collins Loom Works on Ann Street made machinery for the carpet and textile industries. Amsco Rug Co. started in 1935 on Hamilton Street with the help of the Chamber of Commerce, Stowitts wrote. The firm employed 32 people and made an angora wool rug called the “Shagwev.”

During the war, Smeallie and Voorhees paper mill on Forest Avenue was manufacturing 40 tons of paper board and wrapping paper a day, using waste paper as the raw material. The finished product was used for bomb pins, food containers and as a wrapping for anti-aircraft and other shells.

Some of Smeallie and Voorhees’ paper went down the hill to the Guy Park Avenue box factory started by Horace A. Inman in 1877. A national leader in making boxes, Inman’s also made paper box machinery. Their former factory is now the Inman Senior Center.

Harvey Chalmers & Sons made over 3,000 pearl buttons each day, although company president Edward Cooper said there was stiff competition from plastic buttons and zippers.

Marcus Breier’s Sons was the parent company of Adirondack Sportswear, a firm praised by Stowitts for its daily workers’ rest period and other efforts at employee relations. Adirondack was making field jackets for the Army and aviator jackets for the Navy. The founder’s grandson, also named Marcus Breier, served a four-year term as city mayor in the 1960s.

Bisbee Linseed Oil was operating the former Kelloggs and Miller plant on Church Street where flaxseed was ground into linseed oil, an ingredient in paint, linoleum and other products. The factory closed in the early 1950s.

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