Sam Bless & Co. Bindery was located at 13th and Wood Streets, center city, Philadelphia.
I worked there from June 1980 until it was bought by General Bindery in December of 1983. Iam sure everyone remembers the meeting on the 4th floor when we were told the news. Gene Heller stated "For years the name Sam Bless has been synonymous with the bindery industry of Philadelphia," and the quite over the room as we listened. Alex Bless said "If he was younger they would have continued."
My last pay stub is dated Jan. 17, 1984. This was a week or two after everybody else mostly left as a few men and a few younger guys like myself stayed on and skid carton packed up all the banders, tape machines, etc...
The first, of two, Sam Bless Reunion dinners was at a Chinese restaurant called the Lotus on Race Street, and held about 6 months after the company went out of business. The photo backs are dated as developed June 1984.
The second reunion was in either 1992 or 1994, probably the later date being the ten year renuion time. It was better attended even by office- manager level people such as Alex Bless' wife (Alex had died since), etc...
This was held at the Packard Building on Broad Street and was free of charge as somebody footed the bill. It had many sentimental moments, such as someone announcing "It looks like we have the makings of a bindery right here."
I took photos at the first Sam Bless Reunion and with the age of computers and digital cameras and scanners,etc... I finally got around to thinking I could throw them on a Cd disc and give them out, but then thought I should do something one up and draw some floor plans and a list of people who worked there.
If anyone has photos of the second reunion maybe you could scan those and pass those back around to those still alive. I know many have passed on now. There is alot of love and we fondly remember all who worked at the company.-Dennis Weaver
The old Sam Bless building at 13th and Wood Sts.,
Philadelphia, Pa, is now a U-Haul Self Storage.
I made some floor plan sketches and went over Jim Heisler's house to confirm things and to fill out some fuzzy areas. I only worked there the last 3 years so he remembers the machinery, many previous people who worked there, as well as knowing the company's history.
Lou Bless had Bless Bindery. Lou's brother was Sam Bless. Their nephew was Alex Bless.
Lou's son was Bernie Bless and had Bernie Bless Bindery. Sam Bless worked there as a salesman. Late in life, in his fifties, Sam started Sam Bless Bindery around 1953. Towards the end it was run by Alex Bless.
Sam Bless and Co.- Here is where the others, like Gene Heller who was a part owner come in- Mrs. Cohen was a part owner of the company. Her son-in-law is Gene Heller. Irv Goldstein is Sam Bless' son-in-law.
The first bindery foreman was Harry Dingler. The second bindery foreman was Leonard Brisbois. Towards the end Jim Heisler was the bindery foreman with Rita being supervisor over the women. The night shift supervisor was Frank Lipinski.
When they started, the company had the second floor, then later on, they got the third floor, then later the fourth floor. They also had the basement. (Cage Printing was renting the first floor at the end.)
During the sixties, etc... the company was very busy and much O.T. was worked by the employees. Every Saturday there was work.
Early on, they did T.V. Guide, but that became so big the company couldn't handle it. A job towards the end was The Counselor.
A few of the earlier people were Harry Dingler, Len Brisbois, Tom Ferguson, Joe Skelly, and Barney Efelbine.
In the beginning the stitchers didn't have trimmers so that is one reason there were so many trucks and cribs (skid with two sides) for transporting the work from one operation to another.
Sam Bless had 25 folders, 7 cutters, 3 automatic stitchers, 3 Christensen hand fed stitchers, etc...
The last year or so Sam Bless was slow and a new customer was TK Solver, a computer software package. The fourth floor had a large room built on it taking up almost half the floor for it and half the basement was chain link fenced off for it as well. Many young people such as girls from Carl Kroscellek's south Philly neighborhood were hired for this job.
Lou Bless started Bless Bindery about 1913 at 12th or 10th and Arch Streets on the second floor of the building. Sam Bless was his brother and was a salesman for the company. Lou's son was Bernie. Alex Bless was their nephew.
Alex left the company first to start his own, and moved to 13th and Wood Streets and his bindery was called Ace Bindery. After Lou died, Bernie was getting a little "too big," and him and Sam had a outing and Sam left. A secretary there at Bernie Bless was Mrs. Cohen.
Alex Bless, Sam Bless, and Mrs. Cohen formed Sam Bless & Company around 1953. They named it after Sam because he was the best salesman around.
Leon Bless was another brother to Lou and Sam. He worked at Sam Bless on the drills.
Gene Heller is Mrs. Cohen's son-in-law and Irv Goldstein is Sam Bless' son-in-law. They were salesmen.
Some of the previous people-
Harry Dingler, Tommy Ferguson, Tom Riley- cutter, Joe Skelly, Barney Ofield, shippers- Sol- head shipper, Ike, and Stanley, Julie Pearl, Bill Cox, Abe Snapper- pads, hand numbering. Alot of the women (and some men also) originally worked at Stern's Bindery 6th Street, between Arch and Race Streets.
In December of 1983 after it was known they were selling the company, Sam Bless visited and was talking to Tony DiMartino and was crying and said "For so long there has always been a Bless Bindery in Philadelphia."
When they sold the business the people scattered. Some went to General.
The machine photos are not from Sam Bless but added to give a better feel of the industry in which we worked. Many names aren't listed. Please don't be offended if a name is left out. At least I tried. Tony DiMartino added about ten names that I had forgotten or not known. Jim Heisler stated that there were many people from over the years as well who worked there.
Many of the women are listed for this floor, as I do not know where everyone worked, except mostly for the third floor. They would get their assignments and work on the different floors. Some always went to certain places.
At left is a Didde Glaser "Gather All" collator.
There wasn't alot of equipment on the fourth floor. At the front of the building were the offices. There was a large section with tables for handwork. The machines were the Didde Glaser, Shrink wrapper, two cutters (one had a large bed and had a jogging machine next to it), and a Muller saddle stitcher.
Shrink wrap heat tunnel
Just repeating this once more- The machine photos are not from Sam Bless but added to give a better feel of the industry in which we worked.
Wait a minute, there is an announcement coming over the intercom, "Send the elevator to the 3rd floor, hot job. Elevator 3rd floor, hot job."
The 3rd floor had three large folders. A baum like this one, a Cleveland KS, and a Cleveland RS. Bob Kennedy mostly ran the KS folder. Jim Heisler remembers himself running it fast when it was brand new. Other operators who ran the big folders on the 3rd floor were Alvin Adams, and Fred Wertz on night shift.
Third Floor was sort of a quiet floor with one or two large folders running and several small to mid sized folders folding away. Several ladies sat in chairs and took out from the small folders.
But... when there was a perfect bound book in progress, Jim Cody would operate the Sheridan gathering machine. The books would then be glued and covered at the Binder by Jamie Riveria and son Jimmy and helpers. The Rapid trimmer was next used to trim the head, foot, and tail off of the books. Johnny Repco or Bob Hayes or Johnny Reynolds worked the various trimmers.
The second floor was the workhorse of the building with alot of activity. If you were a floorman/boy on this floor you might have had to deal with picking up alot of stitcher/trimmer paper trimmings. The shipping department was the rear of the floor near the elevator.
Down the side of the room were folders. The two stitchers and maybe a gang stitcher were almost always going. There was a Brackett trimmer and a "Chopper," (An old, manual, three knife, lever activated trimmer.) I remember reaching my hands under the knives hanging down to pull out the trimmed books. The main cutting department was at the back of this floor as well as shipping.
|Gathering chain and pockets on a Muller JGV saddle stitcher. This would be a similar stitcher to the two Mullers at Sam Bless.|
All those paper trimmings from the saddle stitchers and cutters, etc... goes somewhere. It went into tied bails for paper recycling. The bailer was in the basement.
This page was a part of the "Sam Bless Project" which contained this report on PDF file, as well as floor maps of Sam Bless & Co., and photos from the first reunion (Chinese restaurant).-Dennis Weaver