Focus on History: Luxuray in Fort Plain; Chuctanunda trail in Amsterdam

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FOCUS ON HISTORY – A company with the poetic name Luxuray bought a multi-storied factory building on Willett Street in Fort Plain in 1931 to manufacture women’s underwear, mainly panties.

The building was first used in 1874 by the Shipman Spring and Axle Works. That business moved to Illinois in 1894, a loss keenly felt in Fort Plain according to historian Rob Carter.

From 1900 to 1931 the Bailey brothers wove silk in the Willett Street complex. Then Luxuray entered the picture,
Soon after acquiring the Fort Plain property in 1931, Luxuray began expanding.

“When this work is finished,” wrote the Otsego Farmer newspaper in 1933, “Luxuray Inc. will be one of the most complete and modern underwear plants in the United States, with a force of employees totaling from 250 to 300.”

The Gloversville Morning Herald that year reported Luxuray was implementing two shifts in Fort Plain and making rayon underwear.

Luxuray sold its own line of panties and supplied stores like Macy’s and J.C. Penney’s. Luxuray had a factory store in Fort Plain.

One company executive in the 1970s boasted, “We make everything from a skimpy string bikini up to a size 68-inch hip.”

The predominantly female Luxuray employees, most of them operating sewing machines, were noticed in local newspapers for sporting events, employee parties and good deeds. Luxuray regularly advertised for more workers.

Rolls of cotton, nylon, acetate and other materials were trucked to Fort Plain, and Luxuray’s cutting room staff was responsible for minimizing fabric waste.

In 1945 many of the women from Luxuray used their own funds to help pay for a bingo party for soldiers recovering from war wounds at a Utica hospital.

Some 250 employees and friends gathered for Luxuray’s annual clambake and dance in 1948. There was also a softball game and tug-of-war.

Luxuray had several corporate owners. In the 1950s it became part of Beaunit Corporation. The Fort Plain plant was sold to a group of local Mohawk Valley investors in 1974. The number of employees had shrunk from several hundred to about 70 people.

“They may not know it,” wrote reporter Charles Tobey in a story in the Courier Standard Enterprise in 1984, “But right now, thousands of women are wearing panties made in Fort Plain.”

Harry Reeder, manager of the plant in the 1970s and 1980s, told the newspaper, “We like to think of ourselves as a good place to work.”

Lightning apparently started a fire that damaged the roof of the Fort Plain factory in 1986. The company kept going.

Foreign competition led to Luxuray’s demise. The company merged with Johnstown Knit in the closing years of the 20th century. By 1999 underwear production had ceased in Fort Plain.


Friends of North Chuctanunda Creek Incorporated will celebrate National Trails Day at their first public meeting June 3 at 9:30 a.m. at the Clock Tower Building, 37 Prospect St. in Amsterdam.

Maps will show completed trails and future construction. There will be refreshments.

An elevator to the top floor of the Clock Building will enable attendees to enjoy the view from the historic structure that once was part of Bigelow Sanford Carpet and later toymaker Coleco.

Outdoors on June 3, John Naple will lead an optional mile-long walk along the North Chuctanunda Creek. The walk will go through the former Sanford Mill Complex from Locust Avenue to Church Street, stop at the creek overlook in back of Kelloggs and Miller’s former linseed oil plant, and go down Church Street to opposite City Hall.

The North Chuctanunda Creek provided water power to many of Amsterdam’s 19th century mills.

Categories: Opinion, Opinion

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