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December 21, 2013

Generosity made Christmas special locally in 1923

The Daily Star

---- — Here’s a hypothetical question for you. If you received a holiday bonus at your workplace, what would you do with it? Some might answer they’d go shopping, give some of it to the needy, or save it for future use. Locally at Christmastime in 1923, all of these possible uses for a bonus were readily available.


“Through the generosity of Julius Kayser and company employes (sic) at the local factory received cash bonuses this year,” it was reported in The Oneonta Star of Thursday, Dec. 20, 1923. For those who had worked at the factory for a year, an $80 bonus was given. An inflation calculator shows that this bonus would be worth nearly $1,096 in 2013. There were 50 employees who received the bonus. The Kayser plant, listed in that year’s Oneonta Directory as 11-15 Wall St., was a manufacturer of silk gloves.

“The payment of this bonus is but one of the many ways in which the company is displaying an interest in the welfare of its employees, mostly girls and women,” the article stated. It went on to describe several amenities of working at the plant. 

If an employee hadn’t worked there a year, there was still a holiday perk, as “This evening the company is giving its local employes a turkey dinner in the building. Caterer Caulkins of the Elks’ club is in charge of the dinner and has promised a rare menu.” As reported the next day, it was an enjoyable event, with entertainment and a gift presented to all employees, as well as encouraging remarks from company management.

If any of the Kayser employees were wise enough to put their bonuses into a savings account, it came in handy in January. It was reported on Thursday, Jan. 24, 1924, that the plant would cease operations within two weeks.

“The news comes as a complete surprise to the business community and summarily throws out of employment 123 women and girls employed in the plant, none of whom had the slightest inkling until yesterday of what was about to happen.”

Any employees who wished to transfer to Kayser plants in Sidney, Cobleskill or Bangor, Pa., near Stroudsburg, would be given employment.

The reason given for the sudden closure was that Oneonta’s plant was manufacturing plain silk gloves, while the present market demanded “fancy gloves.” The U.S. market was reportedly full of plain gloves, made in foreign countries.


Kayser employees and everyone else in Otsego County were encouraged to give money to this annual campaign, used at the time to fight tuberculosis.

The Star reported on Tuesday, Dec. 25, that, “Richfield Springs under the leadership of Mrs. John D. Cary, again has the honor of being the first town in Otsego county to raise its quota in the Christmas Seal campaign.” The quota was $325, and $330 had been raised to date. Oneonta had $1,500 of its $1,750 quota to date.


Tuberculosis patients at the Mount Vision sanatorium weren’t forgotten by area residents, as on Saturday, Dec. 22, “The annual Christmas tree was held with a pretty tree donated by Isaac Gage of Worcester, which was trimmed to perfection and bedecked with presents not ordinarily found or expected in a county institution.”

A Christmas dinner was held for what were called the “inmates” on Tuesday, Dec. 25. Another featured event of the day was hearing Christmas programs broadcasted by radio stations within reach of a radio, still a very new medium at the time. A set with a loudspeaker had been installed at the sanatorium for the celebration.

A pleasant Christmas had been made possible at the TB sanatorium by a very long list of published names in a Star article.


“If putting a measure of the joy which Christmas should bring to everyone in the hearts of 222 children who otherwise would have found little of happiness in the holiday season brings satisfaction,” the Star reported on Dec. 24, “then every member of Oneonta lodge of Elks who had any part, no matter how small in the dinner and Christmas party given yesterday for its unfortunate kiddies of Oneonta is about as satisfied a mortal as can be found on earth.”

The gathering was held at the Elks lodge, then found at today’s 99 Main St.

On Monday: A look back at Christmastime in 1983.

Oneonta City Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorHistorian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at