History: Glover’s Dreams

In the late 1800s thousands of immigrants came to New York to pursue the American dream. Many landed up working in sweat shops under horrendous conditions. This is an excerpt from a book about one of these dreamers. At an early age this man left Warsaw on foot and penniless. In 1898, he emigrated to the United States, but fearing refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotia, Canada, before moving on to New York in January 1899. With a thick Polish accent, he was barely able to be understood. He found work as a glove cutter in upstate Gloversville, New York, which was the center of the bustling glove business in America.

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The biography continues

After five years, Goldfish had “taxed” the glove business. He figured that of the thousands in the industry, only the six or seven major producers were taking big money out of it. A dozen successful smaller producers, the independents, were making a little less. Everyone else took home small change. Everyone except those drummers (traveling salesmen) who sat with their feet up on the windowsills of the Kingsborough Hotel. They worked on commission, and the sky seemed to be their limit. Goldfish realized that he had travelled as far as he could within the factory walls of the Elite Glove Company. If he wanted to get anywhere in the business, it would not be by moving up in Gloversville. He would have to move out into the world.

Kingsborough Hotel, Gloversville

In 1904, Sam Goldfish went to Ralph Moses and announced his desire to be a glove salesman. The request was so brash, it took Moses a moment to compose himself and say no. “I know gloves inside out” Goldfish argued. “I’ve made them. I can sell them. I don’t want any money except enough to travel from town to town. I’ll go on streetcars instead of trains and I’ll stay at YMCAs instead of hotels”. Moses was not interested until Goldfish said, “Give me the company’s toughest territory where it has never sold gloves before.”

Moses gave him a list of small New England towns, starting with Pittsfield, Massachusetts. “The leading store there has never carried our goods,” he explained. “If you can sell them you can sell anyone, and I’ll make you a regular salesman.”

The next week, Goldfish rode interurban trolleys forty miles to Albany and another forty miles due east, across the state line into the little city of Pittsfield , in the Berkshires. When he arrived at the target store, a secretary informed him that the buyer was out. Goldfish returned the next day and received the same message. Goldfish returned a third day, and the buyer finally met with him. He explained that he had done business with another firm for twenty years and that the Elite representative was wasting his time. “Maybe I am,”Goldfish told him,” but I intend to sit here until you look at my gloves. You don’t have to buy them, but you shouldn’t turn me down without seeing what I’ve got to sell. You may be missing a bargain”. Inside the office, Goldfish opened his sample case.

Ladies_Gloves

“Is this the way they will look when they are delivered, or is this just a special?” the buyer asked. Goldfish explained every detail of the gloves’ construction and said that if the man did not like what he received, he could send them back. The buyer began by ordering six pairs of ladies elbow-length gloves (which sold for twenty-four dollars a dozen). Goldfish left the store with orders for another three hundred dollars worth of merchandise.

Sam Goldwyn

Several years later Sam Goldfish changed his name to Sam Goldwyn, an original founder of the Hollywood movie business, and one of the most powerful entertainment tycoons in the world.

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A. Scott Berg: Goldwyn – A Biography 1989