Some efforts have been made to clean the area up (environmentally). Sadly the area is still highly contaminated. I grew up in the middle of gloversville as a child / preteen. During that time my father always had a vegetable garden as did several neighbors. My father stopped gardening the year he purchased a rototiller from sears on Fulton st. After mechanically tiling the garden he kept since I was born, he discovered massive amounts of leather under the soil. All of the neighbors that were adult age when I lived on that street have died of cancer. This was Montgomery Street.
My parents decided to move out of the city and build a new home in a “healthier area”. The area they chose was farmlands, away from the tanneries and chemicals. Well with a dairy farm down the road and miles outside the city who would have thought we would later discover the wells were contaminated by a city landfill miles away. The city was forced (they didn’t want to) extend city water to residents. In my early 20’s I watched a beautiful young girl die of cancer. Coincidentally or not, her parents water well was one of the epa monitoring wells. It had some of the highest readings of voc’s In the water. It was also the furthest monitoring well from the landfill. Unfortunately this is as far as the city water was/ is extended. Neighbors 30ft away from where this beautiful young girl died are still drinking well water. Dec has closed the case and haven’t done any further monitoring since 1996. Several people have now gotten cancer a short distance past the areas with city water. A coincidence? I don’t know. The street my family moved to trying to escape from the contamination of the city – Bemis Road. I guess that plan didn’t go so well. I believe the contamination has spread to 349 and also Warren Rd. Where stupidly I decided to settle as an adult. I guess my fate was sealed long ago!
I graduated from Gloversville High in 1954 and I believe that there was a glove making school in a separate building next to the Sr. High School. I had heard that it taught glove making from the bottom up. Does anyone know how long that vocational school was in existence?
Great Article! Born and raised in Gloversville. I don’t think anyone who lived there wan’t involved in some way or another with the industry. I remember the smell and the many colors of the Creek very well. And contrary to what was said in the article, not everyone had money. We lived and grew up in the area because that’s were our family had been for a hundred or more years and many still do live there. Thank you again.
I grew up in Gloversville, and had a grandfather, father and two uncles in the glove business. I graduated from GHS in 1951. Went away to college and then the Korean War, coming back to visit a few times, but everyone is gone now except for one elderly aunt and one cousin.
After spending my entire adult life as a technology writer and editor, I have finally retired and am now writing my memoirs and Gloversville is an important part of my story.
Please post my email address. I will gladly correspond with anyone from Fulton County.
My Julien and Jeannisson ancestors came from Millau, France (France’s “Gloversville”) My Hodder and Jenner ancestors came from Yeovil, England (England’s “Gloversville”) Several generations worked in the Fulton County glove industry. My Jenner/Julien great grandparents were the last in the industry and lived next door to Salvatore “Sammy” and Ila Greco.
Awesome article – very well done! I grew up partially in Gloversville and Broadalbin. I remember plenty of older women that sewed gloves in their homes. This job and industry loss is not limited to the glove and leather industries. Look up and down the Mohawk Valley – GE, Coleco, Rug manufacturers, White Mop Wringer and hundreds of other manufacturing plants have gone and their good paying single paycheck households with them. Now families need 2, 3 or 4 paychecks to make the same money. A great treatise on this economic decline is “Men Without Work” by Nicholas Eberstadt. No political party or President in the last 40 years had any idea how to cope with this job loss. Automation, globalization, and regulation all contributed but there never was nor is there now a plan to bring relief to the minimum wage earners, seasonal and temporary employment. Willy Nilly, here we go. Consider the late writer and social critic Kurt Vonnegut observation, “I’ll tell you…one thing that no Cabinet has ever had is a Secretary of the Future, and there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.”
In the early 1950’s, my father owned a handbag factory, Kervita, located at 11-13 Cayudutta street, the backside and small parking lot bordering the Creek. I used to visit there while in high school, and was always amazed by the different colors exhibited by the rushing waters from week to week. In those days, Gloversville was a wonderful place to live. But sadly, a number of my classmates have fallen to cancer, perhaps relating to the badly contaminated Creek.
Hi Jerry, Great article. Does everyone love their hometown as much as I do? Glad to be in touch with you!
Jackie & Larry Smith: WE both grew up in Gloversville. We played on the shores of the Cayadutta Creek when we were kids. We lived upstream of the first leather factory. At that place the creek was crystal clear – not so further downstream. Jackie’s Grand-father, Dad and both brothers worked in the leather mills at some point in their lives. My mom worked at St.Thomas making wallets and she also worked at Allegro sewing shoes. We have wonderful memories of growing up in this small town.
I grew up in the south end of Gloversville and went to Lexington school and then 5th and 6th grade in the “new” Park Terrace school. We had to cross the bridge over the Cayudetta Creek on hill street. Usually we would have to hold our nose in crossing because of the stench. On the way to school the creek might be brown and perhaps red on the way home. But the city was a vibrant place to grow up. Friday nights, pay day, in downtown Gloversville was an event. Traffic jams at the 4 corners with people shopping and socializing. Ahh the good old days, maybe!!
My father ran Milligan & Higgins and was part of the group that built Omnicology (the fertilizer plant) at the industrial park in Gloversville. I had great memories growing up there as i worked summers in Kargs & the glue factory It is a shame what happened to the great little town in the Adirondacks but greed and ignorance was it’s downfall. Very good article but you should point out that there were many large corporations that owned most of the tanning operations. The big one was Karg/Fuerer who own quit a few of the problem locations. Anyone remember the deaths of the poor men who went into the sewer to clean a clog and dies from the fumes of the chemicals down there. That was at Karg and was the start of the end as the EPA really clamped down after that. I remember the hoops my dad had to jump through to meet their demands and what was once a thriving multi million dollar business lost all it’s ground and after that most of the animal hide glue was made overseas. The glue factory sold to the US Mint (for stamps), 3M for masking tapes etc, Norton for sandpaper, and Atlas for matches.
True, the decline of the leather business played a part in the demise of Gloversville. But it wasn’t the regulations and foreign competition that killed the city. Yes, the industry, not the city. A bigger factor was the owners of these factories keeping different industries from entering the county. For nothing more than not wanting to have to “compete” for the work force out there. Competition there would have meant having to pay higher wages. Greed and lack of vision ovecame the greater good of the area. Several companies looked to gain entry into the area throughout the boom years only to be denied. Too bad, G’ville was a great place as a kid to grow up in during those times.
My Dad was part owner of the tannery that existed where Colonial Tanning is now located. I remember coming home from college on Christmas vacation and working in the tannery horsing skins, hanging skins to dry and running the buzzle-buffer for hours as well as the splitting machine. My Dad was a custom splitter at the end of the booming days in Fulton County.
My Aunt and Uncle were managers at Garfalls in Johnstown and my mother, after learning to sew “Ossan Palming” at the old high school, worked in a factory for a while making gloves. She also worked in a factory that made those soft shoes-Whinnigs slipper factory. My mpther-in=law and her sisters worked in factories making gloves as well as sewing at home. I worked in St Thomas after high school before leaving to join my husband in the air Force. My dad commuted to Schenectady to work at the GE. My father-in-lay was a toggler and I remember him working two jobs a day…Levores and another I can’t recall. I treasured all the fine leather goods we were accustomed to having-from the “cow-girl” fringed jacket I owned as a kid to the beautiful suede jackets my parents had and the quality wallets from St Thomas and the fine gloves, that I still own. (1950’s-60’s)
Jules Garfall was my great uncle by marriage. My mom and most of her family worked in their factory at some point or another. We still have some of their originals at my mom’s house, including a leather Alice in Wonderland dress that was made for one of the World’s Fairs in NYC. Jules was also a very talented artist. My dad’s parents also worked in tanning (grandpa did the dyes, grandma did sewing) but not for Garfalls.
…so long and thanks for all the gloves.
Many thanks to Debbie and Larry Price for this remarkable study. I grew up in G’ville and my step-father was a chemist and executive in a leading tannery. I loved going to his place of work and smelling the finished skins stacked and ready for shipping. Dad carried this same leather scent on his clothing when he returned home for dinner, etc. Most of my childhood friends had parents working within the leather industry or Main Street retail shop sales. My last visit home was in 1978 where I viewed a shrinking down town and population. I am delighted to learn that a comeback exists and extensive renovation of the G’ville Public Library is nearing an end. I am proud to say that I was born and grew up in Gloversville, New York.
This is an interesting and well written synopsis of our region. I’ve lived in Fulton County morning entire live and I’m excited to see the revitalization taking shape. We are blessed to have the beautiful Sacandaga Resevoir and incredible Adirondack Park as a part of our region. With increased business expansion and revitalization our population and sociology-economic base will grow as well. Thank you for a wonderful article 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
My Dad worked as slokum staker and worked 16 hour days stretching leather. Talk about work ethic. As a youth sometimes he’d bring me along to help horse up the skins on palettes. I’d fall asleep on topic some. He’s 88 years old now and going strong. My stepfather’s mother sewed thumbs on gloves. I do remember the strong odor while driving by the leather mills.
I grew up in Gloversville during the “boom” years. My uncle was a tannery owner and my father spent some time working in the local tanneries. Life was good then…the downtown vibrant and busy, providing a grand social playground…and many happy memories!
LIved on Hoosac street in J Town….can still smell “Karg BRos” tannery was right nearby,,house is gone now…along with the whole plant, Hard to believe,,,
Very well done. My grandparents were glove makers. My father was a shoe designer. I became a leather finish technician. From 1930-2017 the industry has supported 3 generations of my family.
leather is part of glamour like gloves boots thighigh crotchboots
Very well done. Having grown up in the region (johnstown) made this especially interesting. I remember checking out the Cayadutta Creek to see if it was flowing and what color it was. I’m glad to see the area being revitalized.
Comments are closed.