Cudmore: Burtiss Deal was an agile mayor

Lived until he was 84
Amsterdam's Market Street in 1909.
Amsterdam's Market Street in 1909.

Categories: Life & Arts, News

Longtime Amsterdam mayor Burtiss Deal was 5-feet-5 weighed 150 pounds when he played varsity football for Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Into his seventies, Deal was able to make an impact on a conversation by jumping onto a table from a standing position.

Born January 29, 1882, at a home on Amsterdam’s Division Street, he was the son of entrepreneur Charles Deal and Eugenia Mills Stanley Deal.

Charles Deal moved his small family to West Galway after Burt was born and the elder Deal operated a shoddy mill.  The mill used scraps from woolen underwear to create new but inferior woolen yarn.

When Burt was 6 years old the Blizzard of 1888 and his younger brother Howard arrived. The doctor was marooned with the Deals for several days until the roads were cleared.

The Deals after a time moved back to Amsterdam and Burt graduated from Amsterdam High School, then on Academy Street.

He helped Principal Wilbur H. Lynch pack his books for a trip to Mexico for an administrative teaching job.

In 1900, Deal pitched for the Creelers baseball team in Amsterdam, named for the textile workers who tended Amsterdam’s carpet weaving looms.

Deal went to college in 1903, joined a fraternity and played football but had to leave without a degree and come back to Amsterdam because his family had financial reverses.

He went to work.  He was with the production department of General Electric in Schenectady and then was in sales for 17 years at International GE. He was employed at Mohawk Carpet Mills in Amsterdam for five years.

Amsterdam Mayor James Cline gave Deal his first political job on the Civil Service Commission in 1913. A Republican, Deal was Sixth Ward alderman from 1932 to 1938.

Deal opposed Democratic Mayor Arthur Carter and the New Deal programs. Deal said despite his last name he had no connection to President Roosevelt’s New Deal or President Truman’s Fair Deal. As a tribute to his people skills, however, he was elected vice president of the Democratic Party-controlled Common Council in 1937.

Deal’s former high school principal, Wilbur H, Lynch, succeeded Arthur Carter as mayor. Lynch appointed Deal as city clerk in 1944 and 1945.

Democrat Joseph Hand was elected mayor in 1945 but lost to Deal in the 1947 election. Deal was re-elected three times.

He was not an activist mayor and was friendly to industry. Unfortunately, many problems caused decline of the industrial giants of the area, including Amsterdam’s Bigelow Sanford and Mohawk carpet mills.

Deal enjoyed establishing a friendship with Jan D’Ailly, the mayor or burgomaster of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He once took the burgomaster on a fall tour of upstate New York.

In 1955, as his fourth term was coming to an end, Bigelow Sanford announced it was leaving Amsterdam. Deal and city Republican Chairman Walter Going decided it was time for new blood. Republican Frank Martuscello ran that year and was elected, the city’s first Italian-American mayor.

Deal was 73 when he left politics. His 80th birthday was the occasion for major stories about his career by Sam Zurlo in The Daily Gazette and Hugh Donlon in the Amsterdam Recorder. His life is also chronicled in one of Michael Cinquanti’s books on Amsterdam birthdays.

Deal never married and lived in a house on Division Street, which he called Gracie Mansion, a tip of the hat to the mayoral residence in New York City.

Deal died in 1967 at the then Lamp Nursing Home in the city. He was 84 and was buried at Green Hill Cemetery.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or [email protected]

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