Goldwyn once lived in Gloversville
Samuel Goldwyn, one of the movie moguls who led Metro Goldwyn Mayer, or MGM, in the last century, lived in Gloversville as a young man.
Born Schmuel Gelbfish in Warsaw, Poland’s Jewish ghetto around 1879, he made his way to the United States in 1898. Samuel Goldfish, as he was known by then, had learned the glove trade in Europe and heard that Gloversville was a center of that business and home to many Jewish glove cutters.
According to historian Peter Betz, Goldfish’s first Gloversville job was as a sweeper at the Louis Meyers and Son glove factory at West Pine and South Main streets. He earned $3 a week. He earned more money when he became a glove cutter at Joseph Moses Bacmo Gloves. He went to Gloversville Business College to improve his manners and speaking skills.
He became a foreman for the Elite Glove Co. and eventually a salesman for Elite. Before he was 30, he was earning $15,000 a year. He sent money to his family in Europe, and his two younger brothers came to America and also sold gloves.
Goldfish was promoted to sales manager for Elite and transferred his offices to New York City, where he was exposed to the first productions of the movie industry. He started Goldwyn pictures in 1917 and changed his name to Samuel Goldwyn.
Goldwyn did not produce films for MGM, but did produce movies for his own company, Samuel Goldwyn Productions. Among them were “Hans Christian Anderson,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Porgy and Bess” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Goldwyn died in 1974.
On Oct. 30, 1945, Goldwyn came back to Gloversville and attended a dinner at the Kingsborough Hotel. He told the Leader Herald, “I have a great affection for this town. This is the place that gave me my first start in life.” He had not been there, he said, since 1906.
Goldwyn originally came to Gloversville as a teenager. “I not only got my first job here, but stayed long enough to get my citizenship papers, which is perhaps the greatest gift to any man to become a citizen of this great country,” he said.
Goldwyn was invited to Gloversville in 1945 by Vern Steele, program chairman for the men’s club of the Kingsborough Presbyterian Church. Steele had sent the invitation to the movie mogul when Goldwyn was visiting Saratoga Springs.
Goldwyn was eager to return. He and writer Alexander Woollcott had planned a trip to Gloversville some years back but Woollcott died in 1943 before the trip could take place. Woollcott apparently had spent some time in Gloversville when Goldwyn lived there.
At the hotel, Goldwyn met with Albert Aaron, who had provided Goldwyn his first job in Gloversville. Also on hand was Jacob Liebglid, who taught a penniless Goldwyn the glove trade in Hamburg, Germany, after Goldwyn had run away from his Warsaw home. Liebglid also raised enough money from the Jewish community in Hamburg to get Goldwyn a ticket to England, first stop on Goldwyn’s passage to America. In 1945, Liebglid lived at the Kingsborough Hotel.
Goldwyn said, “When I was a boy, my one outstanding ambition was to get enough money to have dinner in the Hotel Kingsborough. And after that, I wanted to stroll through the lobby, back and forth in front of the window and watch the pretty girls as they walked up and down the street. I realized my ambition but couldn’t resist the impulse to do it again tonight when I was in the lobby.”
The hotel closed many years ago and the building on South Main Street today is the Kingsboro Apartments.