Monday, April 26, 2010

Tie-ing it all together


The tie pictured above was sent to me by the lady's dad, and originally belonged to her grandfather. I was the lucky recipient of this heirloom not on account of my natty style, but rather, because it bears a tag that reads "Sam Steuer, Haberdasher 7526 5th Ave, B'klyn NY." My task was to find out how a born-and-raised Minnesotan who spent precious little time in New York City ended up with a necktie from a store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in his possession.

I started with the name and address, which is usually pure gold as far as leads are concerned, but they turned up precious little. The three-story building at 7526 5th Avenue was built in 1930, sits on the northwest corner of 76th and 5th, and contains two apartments and a storefront that currently houses Jean Danet Pastry and Brick Oven Pizza. However, I couldn't find a word about a former tenant or owner anywhere, particularly not a haberdasher, so I'll have to venture down to Bay Ridge and ask around.

As for Sam(uel) Steuer, it isn't the most common name (searches of the historical NYTimes turned up 15 results for Samuel Steuer and 2 for Sam Steuer), but it's common enough to render extrapolation about any individual useless. Several Sam Steuers were born, exchanged property, and died in New York City (one, a founder of the Hector's Cafeteria chain, while waiting to vote), but not one of them was described as a haberdasher. A pair of family trees mentioned Sam Steuers, one of whom lived in Brooklyn, but neither offered any evidence of Sam's employment. So while it seems perfectly possible that a Sam Steuer operated a haberdashery in Bay Ridge, I have no evidence of it save the tag on the necktie.

Speaking of that tag, it's not the only one on the tie. The other reads "An Original by Damon," and as it turns out, Damon crafted quite a few handsome originals in the 1930s and 1940s (scroll down for this image). This gives me a time frame, at least--Gramps must have bought that tie sometime in this period.

This is the key to the story, because like nearly every other American man of his generation, Gramps went to war in the 1940s, and since he went to Europe, there's a very good chance (85%, actually) that he was one of the three million soldiers who shipped out from the Brooklyn Army Terminal between 58th and 65th on 2nd Avenue in Sunset Park, just over a mile from our erstwhile haberdasher. He might not have made as big a splash as Elvis did when he graced the massive terminal with his presence, but he still would have been young and handsome, with money in his pocket and a few hours or days to spend roaming the neighborhood before heading overseas. Maybe he bought the tie at Sam Steuer's to look his best in Europe. Maybe he bought it to impress a local Brooklyn girl (Sam's daughter behind the counter telling him he looked great in it), or maybe he was thinking of the girl back home in Minnesota who would become his wife. Maybe it was just an impulse buy, or a superstitious one, a burgundy tie with embroidered fish that would hopefully bring good luck for his first ocean voyage. Maybe he needed a tie to get into the dance that night, or a dinner at a local men's club, and he never glanced twice at it. But he did buy it, and it traveled to Europe and then made its way back to Minnesota for the intervening 70 years before his granddaughter's blogger boyfriend in Brooklyn got his hands on it.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great story... sure ended up in the right place!

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  2. Well................. you hit pay dirt! Sam Steuer was my Grandfather, who I loved very much. I will talk with my father, Arnold Steuer, who worked in the store and will get you the details that you have been searching for in this blog. My Grandfather was a good man, a good husband and father to two sons and a daughter. There is lots of history that I will share about him and the store. I have fond memories of the store, and their house above the store from my childhood.

    I hope you sill have the Tie!

    With surprise and sincerity,
    Howard Alan Steuer
    hsteuer5@gmail.com

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