Two years after the end of World War II, Mohawk Carpet Mills in Amsterdam published a small picture book, “Smoke: The Story of a Fight.”
The title linked the smoke of hearth fires and factories, “the servant of man,” with the smoke of warfare, “the master.”
The book cover was made of canvas, produced at Mohawk. Amsterdam’s two major employers, Mohawk and Bigelow-Sanford, converted production from carpets to canvas and blankets during the war. Millions of yards of cotton canvas were made in Amsterdam and used for tents, tarpaulins and gun covers. Local mills also produced more than 5 million blankets.
According to “Smoke,” “Men lived in blankets. Men waited in blankets. Men fought in blankets. Men died in blankets.”
“Smoke” lauded blood, bond and salvage drives on the homefront — “It got so you didn’t dare put your evening paper down for fear of losing it to the salvage drive.”
Copies of the book are still sold online.
The author of “Smoke” was Reginald Harris. A native of England who came to America when he was 18 months old, Harris worked in personnel at the carpet company, was convention director and personal assistant to the company president.
From 1940 until his unexpected death at age 55 in 1960, Harris directed vocal music groups sponsored by the carpet mill, most notably the Mohawk Mills Chorus, predecessor of today’s Mohawk Valley Chorus. He was also organist and choir director at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church.
A reader recalled that another friend of Mohawk executive Herbert Shuttleworth II also had something to do with the creation of “Smoke.” The recollection was that Shuttleworth brought a fellow Army veteran back to Amsterdam after the war. Shuttleworth was a major in the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps from 1942 to 1945. If anyone has more information, please let me know.
Shuttleworth headed Mohawk Carpets and later Mohasco Corp. Born in Amsterdam in 1913, Shuttleworth was the third generation of his family to preside over the carpet company. He was a Mohawk vice president from 1940 to 1948, and executive vice president until 1952, when he became company president. He retired in 1980, and the firm’s corporate headquarters moved to Georgia soon after.
Shuttleworth was a philanthropist who supported many charities. He was owner of the Amsterdam Rugmakers, a minor league baseball team, in the 1940s and 1950s. The former Mohawk Mills Park where the Rugmakers played was renamed in Shuttleworth’s honor after it was rebuilt in the 1970s. He died Sept. 11, 2010.
St. Kateri supporter
The efforts of Amsterdam industrialist Thomas Constantino in support of the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church have been recognized in a church publication. St. Kateri was born in what is now Auriesville in the 1600s and lived for a time at a Mohawk village near present-day Fonda.
The Evangelist newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany reported that Constantino used his Noteworthy Company to promote Kateri’s sainthood for two decades. He reproduced hundreds of thousands of paintings, cards and coloring books. He traveled to Italy and met Pope John Paul II as part of his campaign to advance Kateri’s cause.
Constantino commissioned artist John Steele to paint a portrait of Kateri and sculptor Frederick Shrady to create a bronze statue of the saint. Constantino died in 1989. His widow Carol told the Evangelist, “I can’t think of a greater tribute and sense of well-being for my husband, that something he worked so hard on has come to fruition.”
Constantino founded Noteworthy in 1954 to make car litterbags. A promotional products manufacturing company, Noteworthy is operated today by Constantino’s sons.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at 346-6657 or email@example.com.