Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Finck Building. (Across from which I work.)
For the time being (what in advertising isn't for the time being?) I work across from the Finck Building. I got in at 7AM this morning and did a bit of research on the edifice.
Moshe Finck was 12 when he arrived at Ellis Island just before the Great War broke out, with his father Bensalem, an itinerant bootmaker from the eponymous Finck, Austria. Like so many poor, immigrant Jews before them, Finck pere and fils settled on the Lower East Side and began scrounging for work.
Bootmaking, being a heavily unionized trade, was closed to the Fincks so they applied their manual skills to the garment trade, originally working at the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory. The Fincks survived the famous fire at that factory only to see the elder Finck crushed to death when a seamstress fleeing the fire leapt 13 stories to her death and landed on Bensalem, killing him.
Undaunted by this horrible tragedy and still only a teenager, Moshe redoubled his efforts, sewing night and day. Eventually after five years of working eighteen hour days, Finck had saved enough money to open a small garment factory on Avenue D and 11th Street, specializing in "dickies, ascots and other affairs of the neck."
Fortune shined on the young Finck. He entered the dickie manufacturing business just as the Roaring 20s Dickie Boom began. Dickies were all the rage--everyone from Babe Ruth to Warren Harding were wearing Finck Dickies. In fact "Lucky" Lindy was wearing a custom-designed Finck dickie when the Spirit of St. Louis crossed the Atlantic.
Finck left the Lower East Side for a 12-room apartment on upper 5th Avenue. He was driven to work in a Dusenberg and was seen at Toots Shor's with high-rollers like Abe Rothstein, Bugsy Siegel and Toots himself. In 1928, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a story purportedly about Finck, "A Dickie As Big As The Ritz."
Then came the crash. And the dickie bubble had burst. Suddenly destitute men were selling dickies on street corners for a nickel a piece. Finck watched as all he worked for went down the tubes. He survived the Depression pressing clothes in Wo Hop's hand laundry.
However, with World War II, Finck's fortunes returned. Suddenly the Army-Air Force's demand for aviator's scarves sky-rocketed. It was Lindbergh who remembered Finck. "He's a fuckin' immigrant Jew," the good-natured pilot grumbled "but he can sew like Jesus Christ."
Soon Finck Aviator Scarves were supplying 25% of all scarves to Allied pilots. Then 40%. By war's end, Finck was making 75% of all Allied aviator scarves and was employing over 1,000 scarf-makers.
Finck built the Finck Building in 1943 to house his massive operation.
Finck Aviator Scarves and its subsidiaries closed in 1961 bowing to both closed cockpit aircraft and Japanese competition.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 4:20 PM