THE GLOVERS OF FULTON COUNTY

 

Scenes from Fulton County Glove Industry


leather glovesThe Glovers of Fulton County is a research and documentation project that examines the glove industry of Fulton County, New York. Fulton County was long a center of world glove production. During the late 1800s and early decades of this century the county produced more than 90% of all fine leather gloves manufactured in the United States. Documents noted below are a sample of what will ultimately be a comprehensive multimedia exploration of this important Mohawk Valley industry, examining its evolution from the 1700s through the late 20th century. The final installation will contain over a thousand images and thousands of pages of text documents (letters, reports, wage and census data, newspaper accounts, photographs, miscellaneous archival sources, government documents, business records, and oral histories—interview transcripts, along with audio and video excerpts). The Glovers of Fulton County is the first of the University at Albany Department of History History and Media Initiatives and is directed by Professor Gerald Zahavi and doctoral student Susan McCormick. Follow the links below to preview materials that illustrate some of the resources that are a part of The Glovers of Fulton County Project.


New York State Board of Mediation Hearings - The Glove Cutters' Strike of 1914

glovecuttersOn August 21, 1914, the 1500-1600 glove cutters of Fulton County struck en masse over a wage dispute with local employers. At the time, Fulton County was the center of glove manufacturing in the U.S. The industry was also the heart and soul of the local economy. The County's 150 glove firms—located in Gloversville, Johnstown, and surrounding communities—employed approximately 15,000 workers. Because the strike devastated the regional economy, the New York State Department of Labor stepped into the fray. The New York State Board of Mediation and Arbitration of the Department of Labor convened hearings on the strike in Gloversville, New York on October 5, 1914 and began taking testimony from workers and manufacturers on the following day. Click on the picture of glove cutters, right, to read the full hearing transcript. This document contains fascinating insights into the glove industry and the working lives of thousands of workers.

A Bitter Year: The Glove Cutters' Strike of 1914

"The year 1914 was one of those that millions of humans would have wished, through a miracle, had been skipped over. Certainly, it began as a bad year for Lucius Littauer; it would end as a catastrophe for Gloversville's cutters. For Europeans, 1914 meant the outbreak of a war that, like a celestial black hole, sucked in all the great powers and ultimately much of the world. For Littauer, 1914 commenced disastrously as he stood before the court, a convicted felon, listening to the judge's harsh (and accurate) tongue lashing .... Back in 1902, Littauer's imaginative mind was drawn to the need for a measure of unity and discipline among his fellow glove industrialists. From Littauer's viewpoint, it became obvious that the cutters possessed too much clout, especially since their successful 1897 strike."

So begins Herbert M. Engel's account of the Glovecutter's Strike, from his book Shtetl in the Adirondacks: The Story of Gloversville and Its Jews (Purple Mountain Press, 1991). It is reprinted with the permission of the author and publisher.


Banning Homework: a Case Study of Community, Class, and State in the Fulton County Glove Industry

Banning Homework examines the history of women glovemakers in the fine leather glove industry in upstate New York. The majority of workers in the industry were women, nearly all working in the home. Despite sustained community resistance, in 1941 New York State outlawed homework in the glove industry. By the twentieth century, efforts to institute industrial reform and workplace protection—begun in Progressive Era tenements, factories, and sweatshops—found their way to Fulton County. Middle and upper class women reformers, now part of a well-established network of New Deal professionals, were determined to solidify and extend earlier reforms achieved in other industries. Banning Homework looks at women's roles in a previously unstudied industry: it examines the complexities of relationships between and among women that were the result of class, cultural, educational, and geographic differences, and it probes the influence of related factors—the sewing machine, advertising, trade and tariff policy, and war—on women's work in the glove industry. When completed, Banning Homework will include an traditional text narrative, an audio documentary, and primary source materials—including pictures, newspapers articles, industry publications, public hearing testimony, government documents, and oral history transcripts, and audio and video excerpts. This link offers a preview of Banning Homework.

An autobiographical account by Giorgiana Cole Halloran of life and labor in early 20th-century Fulton County, NY.

Our thanks to Barbara McMartin and Herbert M. Engel for bringing this item to our attention and facilitating our access to it. Giorgiana Cole Halloran was the niece of Johnstown glove manufacturer George Cole. In this account, Giorgiana Cole (who grew up in Cohoes, NY but spent summers in Johnstown) recalls life and labor in Johnstown in the first two decades of the 20th century.

Ireland Bros. Glovemakers -circa 1911The Glovers of Fulton County, New York (A Documentary Video Production)

The Glover's of Fulton County Project includes a video documentary that chronicles the glove industry, the workers and the community. A historical documentary on the glove workers is currently in production. Follow this link to see a sampling of "clips" from the documentary.

Coming Soon ~ The Interviews

Oral history audio and video interviews are a significant part of The Glovers of Fulton County Project. Complete interview transcripts, along with extended audio and video segments will be permanently archived here. The interviews enrich the history of the glove industry and the Fulton County community. They will also be a valuable resource for teachers and researchers.

Here is an excerpt from one of our interviews. In this June 25, 1997 interview Joseph Pagano talks about his father's entry into the leather business and his own early career. This is a segment of a 90 minute interview. Click on Pagano's picture to the left to view the 6 minute, 40 second excerpt. You will need at least a 56 Kb/sec. internet connection to view this clip--as well as the latest RealPlayer compatible software. Click here to obtain free RealNetworks' RealPlayer software (G2): RealPlayer.

 

Watch for The Glovers of Fulton County site to grow with additional links to primary source materials: including pictures of the industry and community, newspaper articles, industry publications, public hearing testimony, government documents, and audio and video interview excerpts and transcripts.

 

The Glovers of Fulton County is a part of the History and Media Initiatives of the
Department of History, University at Albany, State University of New York

For further information contact:
Professor Gerald Zahavi, gz580@albany.edu
or
Susan McCormick, sm0712@albany.edu

This page was last updated January 23, 2002