Howard Clothes Tribute – Epilogue

Howard Clothes Label

It was really nice that so many family members reached out to me and commented on my first Howard Clothes article. This yielded a good deal of insight and information, which inspired the desire to write this epilogue. Based on my communications with family members, I found out Elaine Winik is the sole surviving child of Samuel and Minnie Kappel. I also discovered she wrote a book entitled Still Looking Forward, published in 1996. I decided to purchase a copy on Amazon and gave this to my dad to read first. After all, it was his family with the connection to Howard Clothes and to Minnie and her mother Mollie Sennowitz. Elaine’s book filled in a lot of blanks including first names of people who were unknown to me when I wrote the first article, and had escaped my dad’s memory at this point in life – he is 92 after all. A few weeks later, I had the pleasure of talking to Elaine on the phone, and she graciously sent me a few clippings and photos that I have added to this blog.

My dad got a real kick out of this passage from Elaine’s book:

After living with us, grandma came to my parents and said that although we all were wonderful to her, the house wasn’t kosher, and besides, she missed her Yiddish-speaking contemporaries. If mother and dad would pay rent to “the greenie,” (all immigrants were referred to as greenhorns) her newly arrived cousin from Russia, she would live with him and his wife. Of course we could come and visit her there. She also mentioned that it would be very nice if my parents would furnish the apartment for the “the greenie” as he had no money at all. They did, as they asked.

A few of points of clarification. First of all, my dad is positive that Minnie Kappel was my grandmother’s cousin, not my grandfather’s. Second, while Mollie may have viewed my dad’s parents as greenies, my grandfather came to America for the first time in 1905, and by the time he brought his entire family over in 1921, he was a U.S. citizen. I suppose they could have been viewed as greenies since they primarily spoke Yiddish and maintained a lot of the traditions of the old country. It is true my grandfather had no money. He tried buying and running a little grocery store in Brooklyn right after bringing his entire family to America, but this venture failed. He was an embroiderer in Poland (Part of the Russian Empire until 1918) and worked in the garment industry on his stints in America. Thanks to the generosity of Sam Kappel, he was hired to work at the modern Howard Clothes factory, which must have been a world away from the conditions he worked in years before.

Howard Clothes Ads 1931 - NYPL

Howard Clothes Ads 1934 and 1931 - NYPL

Sam was considered a trailblazer in the garment industry, recognizing the union and providing a clean, safe environment for workers. The first store in Brooklyn opened on Saturday, July 19, 1924, as announced gleefully in the ad below.

Daily Long Island Farmer 1924

Howard Clothes Union Made

The Sennowitz Side

Mollie Sennowitz

Mollie Sennowitz, the woman who came to live with my grandparents, had a tragic, difficult life prior to her son-in-law Sam becoming a wealthy man. Married in Russia, her first husband and two young sons Moshe and Aaron died of an unknown raging fever. Julius Sennowitz met her and fell in love, they married and had a baby boy who died in infancy in Russia. They had another son, Charlie, who accompanied them when they immigrated to America, traveling in awful conditions in steerage class. Mollie was pregnant at the time with Yankel, the first child to be born in America. When Yankel was 2-years-old and Mollie was delivering Minnie, Yankel got hold of a button hook (used to tie shoes) and poked out his eye. What should have been a joyous occasion was overshadowed by this horrific tragedy, as Yankel died of the resulting infection a week after the ghastly accident.

Julius saved enough money to buy a live chicken market in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. My grandmother’s brother Yankel worked at the store. Both sides of the family were generous and employed any relatives who needed work. I enjoyed reading about Mollie working at the store well into her ninth month of pregnancy, still waiting on customers, hand and foot. The event that led to Mollie coming to live with my grandparents was also tragic. Julius had already been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which sparked his devout faith in Judaism. He was leaving his synagogue deep in prayer, did not look across the street while crossing, and was hit and killed by a truck. Elaine said that she was about age 8 when this happened and age 11 when Grandma Sennowitz died. Elaine is five months older than my dad, so we now know that my dad was nearly age 8 when Mollie came to live with them, likely in 1931. Mollie had a stroke and died at my grandparents’ house after living with them for about three years.

The Kappel Side

The Young Sam Kappel

Sam Kappel was age 16 when he and his older brother Louis immigrated to America. Given my calculations, this would have been around 1905, the same year my grandfather came to America the first time. Sam and Louis must have done quite well because they were able to fund the trip for the rest of the large family to come over, some years later. The photo above was taken before Sam developed acromegaly – the date is smeared, so hard to decipher.

Elaine refers to her paternal grandparents as Bubba and Zayda, which is Yiddish for grandma and grandpa. As Elaine recounted, “…they lived in Bensonhurst which was about ten minutes and many light years away from ours.” Zayda worked for his son at the Howard Clothes factory – in fact, Elaine stated that, “Going to my father’s huge factory where they manufactured men’s clothing was like going to a family reunion.” Elaine was age 10 when Bubba and Zayda Kappel died within 24 hours of each other.

Howard Clothes Ad 1966

Sam did incredibly well for himself – a true rags to riches story. He was able to move his family out of an apartment and into a rather nice house in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. They built an addition when sharing a bathroom with four daughters became too much. Elaine recounts riding in a chauffeur-driven Packard and later a Cadillac, and always having housekeepers. Elaine’s two older sisters were married at the elegant Waldorf Astoria. When Elaine was married at age 18 on August 15, 1941, she chose the garden of their palatial Mount Kisco home as the setting, which inevitably had to be moved inside due to a rainstorm.

When I spoke to Elaine on the phone, she clarified the residence discrepancies between her book and my dad’s recollection. The Kappels only lived in Great Neck for two years, which would indeed have been at the end of Mollie’s stay with my grandparents. Their primary residence was a luxurious apartment at Central Park West, while the Mount Kisco abode was a summer home on 72 acres of land. At the time of his death, Sam and Minnie had an apartment at the Lombardy, a residence in Palm Beach, as well as their home in Larchmont, which Elaine told me had a connection to Edward Albee’s family.

The Chicago Connection

Howard Clothes 220 S. State Street

While I was looking for an unrelated vintage photograph of Chicago, lo and behold, this wonderful photograph by Gordon Coster popped up in my Google search. When I was writing the first Howard Clothes article, I searched in vain for the location of the Chicago store. My dad claimed that it was at 230 South State Street, but I had already researched and written about the Benson-Rixson store at that location. It turned out my dad was pretty darn close. I not only found the photograph, but a Chicago Tribune article dated June 2, 1936 that yielded invaluable information. Howard Clothes made its first foray into the Midwest market with a store at the northwest corner of State and Quincy Streets in the Consumers Building at 220 South State Street. I don’t know what the numbering system was back in 1936, but the article stated that Benson-Rixson, the store that occupied this space, would move to 206-12 South State Street to make way for Howard Clothes. Sam and his partners must have envisioned great success in Chicago, because they signed a 15-year lease with the option to cancel after completion of the 10th year. Benson-Rixson moved to 230 South State Street at a later date. The odd thing is that the Consumers Building, completed in 1913, is 21 stories and the 1940 photo with Howard Clothes looks like a low building.

The Legacy

Howard Clothes Tweed Blazer 1940s

Howard Clothes Pinstripe Blazer 1940s-50s

Kappel Obituary

The reason I could not find anything but the small obituary is because they have not been digitized. Thanks to Elaine, I have added The New York Times obituary and a tribute to this post. Although it does not state the cause of death, Elaine confirmed that Sam died of cancer. Minnie remarried and lived another 25 years, dying at the age of 85.

As I mentioned in my first article, the massive Brooklyn-based Howard Clothes factory is being put to an admirable use as the Chapel Street Community Based Outreach Center, a hub for services related to homelessness, primary care, substance abuse, and mental health. Although modestly priced, Howard clothes were so well made, many of them have survived in immaculate condition and are being offered on eBay and Etsy!

The real legacy, however, is Sam and Minnie’s family members who have endeavored to live a great life and make a difference in the lives of others.  A Brandeis Fellow, Sam was devoted to the Jewish community,  embracing values of fairness and social justice – a noble tradition that continues into subsequent generations.

Kappel Memoriam


  1. Penny Goldsmith

    This is so interesting — thanks so much for sharing !!!!

    • Hi Penny: Just today, I found some wonderful ads from the NY Public Library Digital Archives – I have added them to the blog. Glad you enjoyed reading this.

  2. I am grateful that I discovered this website while researching my family genealogy. My great-grandfather Morris, an immigrant from Russia living on NYC’s Lower East Side, worked as a tailor for Howard Clothes beginning in 1930, to support himself, his wife and 5 children. The 1936 photo attached to his Petition for Naturalization shows him wearing a dapper suit and tie from Howard Clothes. He died before I was born and without this tribute website, I would not know anything about his work. So, thank you.

    • Hi Alice:

      So glad you found this article and it helped fill in the blanks about where your great-grandfather worked. I don’t know how many tailors Howard Clothes employed, but it is likely Morris and my grandfather Abraham knew each other. If you wish and are willing to email me the photo and Morris’ last name, I will add it to the article.

  3. I am reading “Flatbush Odyssey, A Journey Through the Heart of Brooklyn”, by Allen Abel, published in 1995. He explores Flatbush Ave from beginning to end, with history and changes noted along the way. The beginning of Chapter 2 “Downtown Nowhere” – Right off Manhattan Bridge, he sees an enormous whitewashed factory, with an ad for Howard Clothes on top. You all might enjoy this reference and the entire book. Best wishes, thanks for post.

    • Hi Ruth: Thanks for sharing this – you have piqued my interest and I’m going to pick up a copy of the book. The reviews sound great and since my dad grew up in Brooklyn, I have no doubt I’ll enjoy it! Glad you read the Howard Clothes Tribute!

      • Betsy, I left out the best part from Allen Abel. QUOTE: Howard Clothes had once been so common in closets around here that my father would joke, “I have my own private tailor,” and when asked his tailor’s name, would delightfully reply, “H. O. Ward.”

  4. Found your pieces most interesting. I am a grandson of the late Henry C. Marks and vividly remember Howard Clothes. Your piece(s) are remarkable. I am certain you know that Elaine Winik passed away this year.

    Again, thanks for the read !


    • Hi Steven – Thanks so much for commenting – glad you enjoyed the articles. Yes, I knew Elaine Winik passed away in September – an extraordinary and inspirational woman – indeed, a life well lived!

  5. Carol Greenwald Sternlieb

    To whom it may concern:

    My first husband, Emanuel (Manny) Greenwald’s mother (Lena Kappel Greenwald) was Sam Kappel’s sister.

    Manny Greenwald worked for his uncle, Sam Kappel, from the time he was 18 until the business was sold after Sam’s demise. Manny started in Brooklyn and then managed Howard’s South Philadelphia manufacturing operation for a number of years before returning to NYC around 1948.

    Manny told me a funny story about a moth ball vendor who met with Sam Kappel to sell him moth balls. Sam told the vendor, “Get out of here!! The moth is the only friend we have in the clothing industry!!”

    Glad to hear that Manny’s cousin, Elaine, is alive and well. Manny always had such wonderful memories of his cousins.

    Look Magazine did a photo op of the Howard Brooklyn plant with a Hollywood celebrity and Manny Greenwald. I gave the magazine/article to Manny’s youngest grandson, Eric Greenwald of Miami Beach, Fl.

    Wish we were able to retain more manufacturing operations like Howard Clothes in the USA. They really made quality clothes.

    Keep up the good work of keeping these great memories alive.


    Carol Greenwald Sternlieb

  6. Betsy, I am so glad I found this part of the story as well. My Grams, Elaine Kappel was just about my favorite person in the world until my daughter Emily Kappel was born. I live here in Palm Beach and was with my Grams to the very end. As I commented about the first article, I would love to get in touch with you. Let me know.

  7. Apparently most of my Mom’s family worked for Howard Clothes over the years. I was always told that Sam was some kind of relative. My maternal grandfather and cousin both came from a town called Lechovich (or Lycovacky) in what is now Belarus. Family names were Kaplan, Lipkis, Finkelstein. Any idea if that is where Sam came from? Thank you.

    • Hi Dan: I re-read passages of Elaine Winik’s book, Still Looking Forward, which provides in-depth details about her father Sam Kappel. There are quite a few references to the old country, but only that the family immigrated from Russia, with Sam and the oldest son Louis coming over from Russia before their parents and the rest of the siblings.

    • My grandfather was William Silverman. His mother was Mina Finkelstein. My grandfather was married to Rose Kappel. I know a lot about the Kappel Family. They owned Howard Clothes. Sam was my mother’s uncle.

      But the Silverman family I know very little about except that my grandfather William Silverman came with his brother from Russia. I think the same town that you mention. I don’t know his brother’s name. And I don’t know exactly what year he came, but I have a picture of him and my grandmother in 1909, which was their engagement picture. One of the young cousins is trying to put together all this information. Don’t seem to have anything on the Silverman’s, whose mother was Mina Finkelstein.

  8. A few points of clarification about the Kappels (this fits in nicely with the previous thread, ha ha). Louis came over first (around 1900), his father, Mordecai (Max), came over next (1902, I think), and the entire rest of the family came over in 1905 (I have the manifest). They were indeed from Lyakhavichy, present-day Belarus, and according to Sam’s and Joseph’s younger sister Mary, the reason they emigrated was that they saw WWI coming and didn’t want to eat non-Kosher food in the Tsar’s army. Seems kind of simplistic and it obviously didn’t work out in that respect – I suspect there was much more to it.

    Bubba (Chaia Sora (Sarah, née Gulitzky)) and Zayda died within three days of each other, not 24 hours. According to my grandfather, whoever went second didn’t know the first one died. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Sam’s granddaughter Andrea Morrison (who has her own Wikipedia article at: married Charles Bronfman of Seagram’s fame. They remained married until she was tragically struck and killed by a taxi in NYC in 2006. Sam also did a lot to help Jewish displaced persons and refugees after WWII. Elaine, with whom my grandfather managed to reconnect several years before she died, shared a story about this with him. I’ll take a look and let you know what it says.

    • Hi Jason: Thank you for the additional details. I relied on information provided by other family members and Elaine’s book, some of which may not have been completely accurate. I did know about Andrea Bronfman’s tragic death and found several articles in addition to the Wikipedia page back when I was doing research.

      • Hi Betsy, sorry for the delay. I found it and it turns out it has nothing to do with the Holocaust – my grandfather must still have that. It’s just a letter from Elaine to her father (well after he died – 56 years later, to be exact) in which she tells stories about his kindness and generosity and things like that. Two things stood out:

        1) When they were about to emigrate, he didn’t have a pair of shoes because he outgrew his old pair and they didn’t have the money to buy new ones. His neighbor gave him a pair of rubbers (whatever that is), and that was what he wore to America. Years later when he was a successful businessman, he was scouting for locations in Philly when his sister Lena (Manny Greenwald’s mother) told him that his old neighbor now lived down the street. Sam went to see him and after he told him he sold bananas from a pushcart, he found a grocery store for rent, rented it in his name, and paid the first five years’ rent.

        2) During an industrial dispute, a very young Elaine was initially angered because her parents might not have the money to send her to summer camp. Her father then told her, “I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise that you will never cross a picket line because just as I am trying to do the best for you, they are trying to do the best for their children.”

        My god – for a businessman, a successful businessman, no less, to side with the union against his own self-interest (public virtue from private vice, right?) is basically unheard of. I never met Sam, but I really wish I had – he sounds like a wonderful man.

  9. Interesting. There was a David Finklestein born about 1890. His mother was my great grandmother’s twin sister. His father was Morris (Mosheh) Finklestein. Possibly David had a sister named Mina. I have access to a couple of census of the town in Belarus. If I find a Silverman, I will let you know.

  10. Betsy,

    I found this by accident – and have no idea why no one ever mentioned it to me. It is extraordinary.

    My name is Peter Siris – I am the son of Elaine Winik and the grandson of Sam Kappel. Because I am the second oldest surviving member of my generation and a man (Howard Clothes was a men’s store), I knew most of the people you – and others talked about. I spent a lot of time in the Howard Clothes factory and got to meet my grandfather’s partners and coworkers. It is amazing how some of the names mentioned above bring back so many wonderful memories.

    Thank you so much. I will close with a little jingle that I can never get out of my head –

    “I’m the little Howard label and I’m proud as proud can be.
    To be sewn in every garment at the Howard factory.
    Bankers, workers, clerks, and salesmen all are suited to a tee,
    Cause Howard clothes are low in price and high in quality.”

    • Hi Peter – Glad you liked this – you actually did comment on my first Howard Clothes article! Don’t know if you read the final article: Your mother and grandfather were extraordinary people.

      Since writing the last article, I discovered many photos of the Howard Clothes in Times Square. This happened after I started my Instagram page @nycinthe1970s devoted to NYC. The two Howard Clothes signs on Broadway and Seventh Avenue were prominent fixtures. I may post another article – this time primarily a photo essay.

  11. Marshall Zucker

    My father Arthur Zucker worked for Howard Clothes as did his Father Samuel Zucker. I remember many of the men with whom he worked. He was a member of the Executive Board of Amalgamated Clothing Workers.

  12. Recently I bought a very old coat with a label “HOWARD CLOTHES”. I would like to know when this coat was made.

    The label simply looks much smaller and placed around he center of the upper shoulders. The color is orange brown. The fabric of the coat is most likely gabardine.

    • Hi: I would need to see a photos of the coat and one of the label to help date it. The company opened in 1924 and was in business for many decades. But just based on what you said, it could be from the 1940s-50s.

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