The next tailor I have been researching is ‘John David’. I documented a men’s 2-piece nylon suit, dated to the 1950’s (pictured below).
The label, found on the inside of the jacket, (again, pictured below), includes ‘Northcord’ in addition to John David as the tailor name. Northcord could be the name of the material, a mix of acetate, nylon and rayon. When searching Northcord both with and independently from John David, results were limited. I decided to eliminate Northcord from the search to begin with, and intend to return to it later.
Again, searching ‘John David tailor’ was equally as limited, suggesting the name is no longer in use or in business. The combination of name and location – Fifth Avenue New York – seemed to be the remaining option. Initially, I read about the history of the tailoring business on Fifth Avenue. German and Central European immigrants to America around the mid-19th century arrived on the scene with relevant business experience and skills just as garment production was passing from a proto-industrial phase to a more advanced stage of manufacture. […] In the early twentieth-century a largely Eastern European immigrant workforce powered the garment trades. (wikipedia)
Writing in 1917, Abraham Cahan credited these immigrants with the creation of American style:
Foreigners ourselves, and mostly unable to speak English, we had Americanized the system of providing clothes for the American woman of moderate or humble means. The average American woman is the best-dressed woman in the world, and the Russian Jew has had a good deal to do with making her one.Wikipedia
The date and location of John David as detailed on the label indicates a strong possibility that John David was an immigrant or second generation immigrant, and considering Jewish people dominated not only this business but this geographical area, there’s also a possibility he could also be Jewish.
Whilst looking through the New York Public Library Digital Collections, I found an image of John David’s shop front.
The image came with this caption: 125-127 Broadway – West 32nd Street. Date issued: 1887-1964. Photographer: Wurts Bros. Collection that holds this item: Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local history and genealogy. John David Men’s Clothing. I’m sure this is the same John David, as the logo is the same as on the nylon suit, and this picture was taken in the same location.
I continued to search other free archives including the New York Times archives. I came across the following article, dated July 1964 – JOHN DAVID SELLS ASSETS TO KOBEL; Liquidation of the Stores Depends on Operations.
The article details a deal made to sell the six-store chain of John David men’s wear to Kobel Holding company, an affiliate of Schottenstein Stores Corporation, Columbus, Ohio. According to this article, John David was at the time a 60-year old firm operating four stores in Manhattan, one in White Plains and one in Washington D.C. I continued to search the New York Times archive for further information in regards to the founder of John David. In a short article (pictured below) detailing the election of Ralph E. Ladue Jr as president of John David, Inc. dating March 12 1964, it is listed that John David was founded in 1904, Mr David died in 1937. Another article published much earlier, in September 1938, states that John David was founded in 1903.
Having discovered the year John David died, I searched this in the New York Times archive and came across an article announcing his death, with a short account of his life and family.
The article states: Started to work when 12. Began in father’s business at Pittston, Pa.- Opened first of 13 stores here in 1903. […] Mr. David and his wife had been living at the hotel (Hotel Claridge) since May of 1934, Mr. David commuting to New York on occasions.[…] Mr. David, whose home was at 375 Park Avenue, established his first store in 1903 in a basement of an old brownstone building on Forty-second Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. His business prospered steadily and in 1929′ he opened his twelfth store in the $1,000,000 John David Greeley Square Building at Thirty-second Street and Broadway, built on the site of his second store, which, like the first, had been located in the basement. The Merchant was born in Pittston, Pa., sixty-seven years ago, the son of a not too well-to-do clothier. […] (the opening of the thirteenth store), the founder’s fifty-ninth birthday, and his quarter of a century in business in New York were all celebrated by 300 representative leaders of the city’s industrial, banking and advertising worlds at a dinner in the grand ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton. […] Mr. David is survived by his widow, Vera B. David; two stepchildren, Mrs. George David and Rowena Hendricks of New York; a brother and three sisters, Charles David, Annie Abrahams, Minnie Oppenheimer and Reginal Goldstein, all of Philadelphia.
I’ve learnt from this article that John David was born in 1870 in Pittston Philadelphia, where he lived (375 Park Avenue), his siblings names, and his widows name. After searching some of these details on the ancestry sight ‘Geni’ I discovered his father’s name: Gabriel David, born 1837 in Bundesrepublik, Germany. Whilst the site does not specifically detail the David’s faith, the profile manager is named Frank Fineshriber, a Jewish man living in the United States, involved with the project ‘Jewish Genealogy Portal: A Guide to Jewish Projects and Resources on Geni’. This connects John David to a large Jewish genealogical database – combined with his Hebrew surname, and those of his siblings, (Oppenheimer is a German and Jewish habitational name, from a place on the Rhine, the location of an important Jewish settlement before the holocaust), and the fact that his father immigrated from Germany to the U.S, strongly indicates that John David is of Jewish ancestry.
Additionally, when searching for Gabriel (Abel) David (John David’s father) in Ancestry.com, I found that his name is included in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent Obituary Index, 1887-2006. This data base is an index of more than 63,500 obituary notices which appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent (a weekly community newspaper), compiled by volunteers from the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia (JGSGP).