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New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater

Part Three

New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s:
The Recollections of Walter Goldwater

[bottom of p. 161]

The bindery still exists, and I think it�s called Bennett Book Bindery. If I didn�t mention this before, Bennett is the one who used to joke with me about first editions which were in fine condition. Bennett is the one who got hold of me


one day in an expansive mood and said, "These collectors want Tom Sawyer first issues in mint condition. There are no Tom Sawyer first issues in mint condition, yet these people want it. They are rich, they are my customers, they have a right to have them. Very well, then, I will give them Tom Sawyers in mint condition." So he would take a fine copy of the second or third issue or a later edition, take the binding off it, put it on the insides of a first issue, and produce a mint copy of Tom Sawyer for them as they wanted. Some people felt this was reprehensible, and, in a sense, I do too. But I feel it�s a very mild kind of reprehensibility, and I am perfectly willing to survive it.

INTERVIEWER: You could tell it had been rebacked.

GOLDWATER: If he did it well enough, it was terribly difficult, but not impossible. Usually the way you tell is that you can look at the binding on the inside and say to yourself, "This binding cannot have come with this, because how did this binding get into this condition when this page is foxed, is dog-eared?" and so on. However, if he was lucky and able to do it, very often you couldn�t tell. I do not doubt for a minute that a dozen of these things are in libraries around the country, supposed to be first issues and first editions in fine condition, which are Bennett copies. In fact the words "Bennett copy" became a sort of well-known thing. John Kohn always used to use that -- "That must be a Bennett copy" -- sometimes just not "is" but "it must be," because it looks like that. Randall would call it a "sophisticated copy," but a "Bennett copy" had a better connotation.

Louie Scher, who just died only a couple of months ago, was a Frenchman who came over just after the First World War as a young man and started a book business on West Ninety-sixth Street, between Amsterdam and Broadway, which he called the French Bookman. He may not have started until the late twenties. Sugarman introduced me to him, because he was a good book scout and would buy books in English also -- first editions and so on and particularly erotica. That was how Sugarman got to know him -- partly because certain books at that time were called erotica, as I think I�ve mentioned before, which nowadays we wouldn�t call that at all, particularly books from France entitled "Nu" or pictures of nudes. That kind of thing was not common in New York, but in France it was fairly common. People would use a book of nudes as an erotic book in those days. Scher imported a good deal of material. I don�t think he really knew just how to make a living in the French book business, although he learned fairly quickly. In any case, I remember quite well the day that he changed his style of work. It was quite early in the thirties; I don�t remember just which year. The French franc, which had been at four cents (it had been at two cents in 1926 and 1927 and had gone up to four cents, where it was quite stable for a number of years. In 1933, after Roosevelt came in and closed the banks, the franc, as the pound did for a certain period of time, went up by about 60 percent to correspond to the drop in the American dollar. So the franc for a moment was worth about seven cents. At that time Scher suddenly found that the books which he had purchased at a rate of four cents had to be paid for at the rate of seven cents. Although, as we knew later on, it didn�t last and, in fact, went back to four and then lower in the late thirties, Scher said to me one day, "I�m going to quit this whole importation business. You now have to be not a bookman but an international financier. Everything depends not on whether you can buy a book and sell it at a profit from what you bought but on whether you know how the franc is going to go. I can�t do this any more; I�m not going to do it any more." I think he erred because he did know more about French books than anybody else did, and there was a large market here for them. In a way, it was too much for him, and also, of course, it wasn�t too long from then that 1939 came and importation from France became impossible for six years. So perhaps he was lucky he was in something else. He then set himself up as The Seven Book-hunters and remained The Seven Bookhunters for thirty years until his death just a few months ago.

INTERVIEWER: Did he have seven book hunters?

GOLDWATER: He never had seven, but he did employ two or three people at various times.

INTERVIEWER: Were those French books he was importing erotica?

GOLDWATER: No, just books, just French books. He would import erotica when he could, but that wasn�t his main business. He was sort of like Sugarman, that is, the way to make extra money is sell erotica. So when he was able to import erotica, he did, but it wasn�t his main business. He had a regular bookshop. He later moved away from Ninety-sixth Street and took a large loft on West


Seventeenth Street, I think it is, where he was until just now .... At his death the books were sold to the library. He had several employees during this period. I mentioned already that Noy had come from Stammer�s and that he had fired him abruptly because he found that he was stealing .... Scher later on had a man named [Jeltra] who stayed with him for a long time but who has now gone into another bookshop in Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

George Preston was a lovely man who was a fine tennis player and a bibliographer of Thomas Wolfe. He was no good as a bookseller and never could make a go of it. He worked at odds and ends for people around wherever he could get a job or as a bibliographer wherever he could get a job. He may still be alive; I don�t know. I�ve seen him once or twice since our famous tennis match. At a time when I was priding myself very much on my play -- I don�t know why -- I found out that George played. We decided to play a match. It was one of those hundred-degree days, and our two wives went out to watch. We went out there, and we played 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8. At 12-12 both of us were really in a condition that nobody would have given a cent for our chances of living. Neither of us was giving up, however. Finally I looked at him and saw that he was green. I don�t know what color I was, but my wife said that I was a color which could not be described. The two girls simply marched on the court and stood there so we couldn�t play any more. I believe that was the last time he ever played tennis. He had heart trouble and various things, and his wife said she had to preserve him. So we never played again, and I don�t think he ever did. I�ve spoken to him several times since, but I don�t know if he�s still alive or not. He was a lovely man.

The Rand Bookstore was a bookshop on the ground floor of the Rand School of Social Science on East Fifteenth Street. It was primarily a bookshop for socialist materials and was always run by some member of the Socialist Party, or later on the Social Democratic Federation. Among these was a man who later on ran the Bryant Bookshop up on West Forty-eighth Street. When he started in business, nobody was too surprised to find that his main stock-in-trade was material which had come from the Rand Bookstore. Most people felt that he had not paid for it. Later Charlie Salzman worked there for a long time and then went into business for himself. We also felt that the same thing was the case with Charlie. Charlie is now in business out on the coast, and the Bryant Bookshop has died. There was still a third man who worked there and who we believe did not steal anything, although we�re not sure, and then went into business as a book scout and then went into selling rugs, at which he presumably did much better. The shop had a lot of good material at the time, and then little by little it was stolen, either by the employees or by the customers. It went downhill until it disappeared altogether.

A strange thing has happened to Brooklyn, as I suppose it has to a great many places, particularly on the East Coast. It used to be a very good borough for books. The shops were mainly run by old American families, not by Jews. Of those, I remember three -- Niel Morrow Ladd, Reed and Chappell, and [Somerbell]. There were also some further out -- one run by the man that I already mentioned long ago as being the one who sold Freddie [Brandeis] his stock. Then there was an old German out on Franklin Avenue. All these shops were very good shops and had books at low, low prices. People who lived in Brooklyn, like Ike Brussel and Rosenzweig, would be in there all the time, picking up the sleepers and bringing them into New York to sell. We would go out there now and then. Sugarman introduced me to the section, and it was a pleasure to go there in most cases. Somerbell was an exception; he didn�t like Jews at all. He particularly didn�t like what he called "New York Jew booksellers." When I went there one day as a young man, he immediately told me about the New York Jew booksellers, because apparently he didn�t realize that I was all those things. I sort of escaped as soon as I could, having said that not all New Yorkers were bad, or something of that sort. I believe he had a sign saying that New York Jew booksellers weren�t welcome there; it was something quite specific, but I�ve forgotten the exact wording of it. I think it actually was "New York Jew booksellers stay out."

Niel Morrow Ladd eventually died, and I bought the contents of the shop. I don�t remember how I engineered the thing. I guess I continued to have a sale there for a while and then brought the rest over to my shop. I remember at that time there were remainders of certain histories of Flatbush, which he was selling for ten cents and later on using for backing on shelves, which now bring $10 to $25 on the market. He had simply a vast number of them, perhaps hundreds. They were either published by him or published by some friend of his, and they were in great quantity. There were a number of things of that sort -- histories of Brooklyn -- which we didn�t know anything about and didn�t care about. In fact, they didn�t have any market value at the time. There was a history of Harlem by Riker which he had in great quantity which is now


desirable. But those were the old days, of course, and that�s the typical thing that happened.

Reed and Chappell closed their larger shop, and Mrs. Chappell continued it for very many years on Flatbush Avenue. I used to go there quite often with Eleanor. Eleanor never liked to go there; she never found anything. I�d find something every time I went there, mostly first editions at low prices, also Negro material. She kept it as sort of a modest little shop. She was keeping it because she had some young man who was a protégé; I think you would call him a hippie nowadays. In those days he was simply a hanger-on. She kept that going until only a few years ago. In fact, I thought it was still on two years ago and went out there and found that it was finally gone. I always found things there -- first editions, mild people like H. C. Wells or Kipling, or something would always be there for a dollar. Then the place out on Franklin Avenue also closed. That would have closed for a different reason; that would have closed because it became what is called a decaying neighborhood, and all his books would have been stolen and he would have been broken into. There are at present just two bookshops in Brooklyn, both of which are much more recent and both in the Borough Hall area. One of them is run by an old Socialist; he is called the Boro Bookshop. Then there is Irving Binkin, who has been in it for quite a while. He�s sort of a crazy guy and has a great big bookshop with a lot of stuff in it.

One of the Village characters was Bernard Gilbert Guerney, who was a translator of a book called Yama the Pit. He was also a translator of other books from Russia, including one anthology which he did for the Modern Library. He was a very intelligent and erudite man. He may still be alive. First he had Bernard Guerney�s Bookshop and then he had the Blue Faun Bookshop in various places in the Village and on the East Side. He was a great talker and one of the ones who was very resentful about the way things were going: things always used to be better; people are now illiterate; he can�t stand people coming in; they don�t know anything, and so on. He was very difficult to do business with, but we got


along quite well because we used to talk in Russian or talk about Russia. He was always glad to have somebody who knew something about his Kuprin book and other things which he had done. I sort of had some acquaintance with Russian literature, so I was able at least to make a pretense of knowing something about it, which was all that was necessary. I think he is still alive, but he must be quite old by now.

On East Fourteenth Street a little man had a shop down in the basement -- Edward Lipton. It was the most modest bookshop of all in New York, really. It was between Second and Third avenues. You could hardly tell it was there at all, except that, as you went past, you would notice that he had a little stand outside with about twenty books on it. Then you could go down the flight and there you would find paperbacks and other things. He had, however, been a bookman for many, many years and would sell books at a reasonable price. I bought a lot of Negro stuff and radical things from him. Later on he moved to West Twenty-third Street and eventually moved to his home in Brooklyn, where he now operates from.

Further on West Twenty-third Street, Felix Cornell, who had been an able seaman, opened a shop which was primarily to be for the seamen who would come off the ships over on the West Side (he was near Ninth Avenue) and buy his books on seamanship and that kind of thing. Then he went into the publishing business. He published a great big book called Encyclopedia of Knots, which we thought was tremendously overpriced at ten dollars, but it was not overpriced. It sold well and is still a standard work. He eventually accumulated tremendous stock in the late thirties but then decided he didn�t want to be in the book business anymore. It was his stock which my brother Harry, when he had his auction license, sold at auction. But after the first half of the day of auction took place and whole lots of twenty books were bringing only twenty-five to fifty cents, they called off the auction. Harry was paid his day�s work but no commission, and the whole lot was sold to somebody else. I think that during late 1939 or early 1940, when this was, may have been the worst time of all for the book business. Simply nobody would buy anything at all. That was one of the reasons why Harry did go out of business; nobody was paying anything for books, and nobody knew, due to the war in Europe, what was going to happen. Cornell is still alive, but I don�t know where he is.

On 125th Street, there were several bookshops at one time. One of those, Number One, was on 125th Street, just at the corner of Fifth Avenue. It was run by two brothers who called themselves the Ideal Bookshop. They stayed there for a while until the neighborhood condition deteriorated. Then they moved one flight up on Amsterdam Avenue and 114th Street, right near Columbia. They�ve been there ever since and still have a very good bookshop there. There was a man named Ben Shaw, a kind of schizophrenic, who went around as a book scout and used to make a miserable living. He didn�t know anything about books and yet was a book scout, picking up books one place and going to another. I remember how modest his prices were from the fact that I bought from him for ten cents a first edition of Harold Frederic�s Damnation of Theron Ware, inscribed by Willa Cather. It was true that he didn�t know it was inscribed by Willa Cather. It was true he did not know it was a first edition. To have bought this book and sold it for ten cents and make a profit indicates what kind of a price he was paying for things. I will admit that at that time I probably sold it myself for two or three dollars, whereas now I would probably charge fifty, seventy-five, or even a hundred. Still it was the kind of thing he was selling and I was buying. Later he opened several shops and became a very big dealer in periodicals. Just after the war, with money from some relative of his, he had a tremendous storehouse near Twelfth Street and Broadway, filled with periodicals, a tremendous place. There was a large fire, and a great deal of material was destroyed. It was a very suspicious fire, and all of us who knew Ben felt that he had set it. The people who were the insurers, Dewitt Stern and Company, were the insurers for most of us around town, and we told Dewitt that this was very suspicious. Dewitt, who was not the insurer himself, of course, but just the agent, said it was up to the insurance company, not up to him, to make the point, and he wasn�t going to do anything about it. Shaw received some tens of thousands of dollars, I believe, for this. But shortly afterward he decided to make a confession and made a statement that he had, indeed, set the fire. By this time it was too late for the insurance company to collect any money. All that happened was that we were able to say to Dewitt, "You see? We told you so." Nothing else ever happened to Shaw or about the matter, and he continued in business and continued to be a crook right to this very day. His crookedness was mostly in a different way from others. He simply gave bad checks wherever he went. Eventually people who dealt with him knew that they must not take a check or that they must meet and go to the bank and get it cashed


while they were with him. Later he did buy some stuff from me, and we always demanded cash immediately and, in those cases, very often got it. He became quite big and at a given moment may always be big. It�s just that at certain moments he�s very small again. He doesn�t have a shop, and he varies from California to New York, back and forth, and varies his name a good deal. But he has dealt with Kraus and particularly with Kamin, who was of the same type, and, of course, with the New Jersey fellow who�s still out of jail for some reason -- Rizick. He and Rizick were great pals.

On Eighth Street at that time there were several shops. It astonishes me to think of how many shops there were in the early 1930s. There was Joe Kling, who later moved to Greenwich Avenue and just died a year or so ago. He was also, like Bruno, a publisher of little magazines and a writer of poetry. He published Pagan, but he also published other things. He published his own poetry and was involved in all kinds of little magazine things. There was also Nat Kaplan, who had a shop just east of Fifth Avenue on Eighth Street, in the basement, which was sort of a hangout for the Sugarmans and the Brussells and the other people who dealt in erotica. He was kind of a nut and eventually died a couple of years ago in an institution. Then there was Tim Trace, who also dealt in erotica and was a scout. His idiosyncracy was his way of talking. It was rather a wonderful way; he repeated everything, sometimes two or three times, something like this. He would say, "Walter, Walter, I was down -- Walter, I was down -- I was downtown the other day. Walter, I was downtown the other day, and I tell you what, tell you what. Walter, I was downtown the other day, and I tell you what happened." We used to sit fascinated with this kind of thing. Eventually he married a girl he was going with whose name was Lorraine. They got along together for quite a while, but eventually there was a rupture in the household, and Lorraine married Robert Wilbur. Trace married a rather nice girl whose father was in the antiques business. They moved up to Westchester, had some children, and have been very successful in both the antiques business and in the art-book business ever since then. They�re still in business.

The two Scheinbaum brothers both ran mail-order businesses, but they also had shops. The older one went into mostly remainders and new books up in the Forty-second Street area. The younger one, Al Scheinbaum, who now calls himself the Colonial Book Service, had a bookshop for a while in the Bible House. In fact, I think he took over the Mosks� shop after Mosk died. Then Jje went into business, and he�s on East Twenty-fourth Street now, running a very large and successful out-of-print business. The other brother also ran an out-of-print business for a long time, until quite recently. He had his ups and downs; sometimes he was very well-off, and sometimes he was very poor.

Harvey Brewer had a little shop on Eighth Street, also, at the corner of McDougal Street. He was a friend of George Kurtz and ran into the same business as he had, namely a circulating-library business, plus first editions, and so on. Later he gave up the shop there and worked for E. Weyhe and Company at Lexington Avenue and Sixty-second Street, the greatest art-book shop in the country. He worked there for many years. Eventually he claimed that he had a heart ailment, left Weyhe, and went into business for himself in Jersey, where he has now been for many years. Some people wonder how he managed to accumulate the stock which he got. We have no proof of how that happened, so we assume that everything is OK. He is a very shrewd guy, and we all feel that, although he is very nice, he�s not the kind of person to get involved with in a business deal. Weyhe still exists at the age of almost ninety, I guess, and has been there ever since we remember. He has the greatest art books imaginable. What will happen when he dies, nobody quite knows, because his main assistant is also by now quite old. So it�s not certain what the future of that shop is.

There was a shop first over on Bank Street and then on East Twelfth Street and now upstairs on Fourth Avenue called Orientiala, which specialized in books on the East. It was run by a man named Mr. Brown and a woman named Miss Pickering. As each one of the principals died, somebody else took it over, and it�s still in business. It has just recently moved to a place on Fourth Avenue.

On East Tenth Street, just east of University Place, there�s a large building which is now called Stechert-Haefer and Company. At that time it was called G. E. Steckert and Company. They are importers of German and French material, and had a parent body, presumably in Switzerland, although actually we think in Germany. They always denied their German parentage during the thirties and during the war. Although they never employed a Jew there at all; eventually they may have employed somebody who might have been Jewish, but in general the rule was no Jews.

There had been another company which was very similar to that called B. Westermann and Co. on [24 -- M. M.] West Forty-eighth Street which im-


ported material from Germany and during the war was shut down by the government. At that point Stechert claimed its Swiss ancestry and was let alone. Therefore, they became practically the only people that were importing material from Germany during the 1939-1940 period. It�s a large building there, about ten stories, of which Stechert themselves occupied the first lowest five, later on six. Most people didn�t know about this, but the fourth and fifth floors were entirely given over to used books. So, even though it was a comparatively small part of their business, it was one of the largest and best secondhand bookshops in New York. Since it was rather close to us, we were able to go there quite often and buy material. Their prices were usually reasonable. They had whole sections on any subject imaginable. Once in a while I would buy out the whole African section. Sometimes I would buy out the whole radical section, and so on, American Negro. As their prices went higher, I wasn�t to do that any longer. This went on until quite recently. They kept on expanding and expanding and taking the building next door, and so on. Within the last year they finally were bought by Crowell-Collier or somebody and have gone out of the secondhand business altogether and generally out of the book business. Just what the future holds there, I don�t know.

When I first started in, all the major publishers in the forties had their own bookshops, which were primarily new books but all of which had a rare books section. That included, I definitely remember, Putnam, Dutton, Brentano�s (which, of course, was a publisher at that time, as well as a bookseller), and Scribners. Brentano�s actually had a fine shop at the corner of Twenty-sixth Street and Fifth Avenue. That went out of business during the depression. There was a great sale there, at which everybody made a great deal of hay. Putnam�s also went out of business. They were on West Forty-fifth Street, Dutton�s on Park Avenue, and, as you know, Scribners� is the only one of these which still remains. Lou Cohen, who I mentioned before, had the shop at 45 Fourth Avenue in the Bible House, quit that large place, and went up to Fifty-ninth Street, becoming part of the Fifty-ninth Street complex, which at that time had about half a dozen shops. However, just about the time that he moved up there, all the other ones went out. Although Mr. Cox came from 125th Street down there for a while, eventually Lou Cohen remained the only one on street level. Mr. (David] Kirschenbaum�s Carnegie Bookshop up one flight at a near corner � The Cohn shop has always been called Argosy. As you know, this has become one of the largest shops in the city and perhaps in the country, and very successful. He first only employed his family and friends, and he had a very large number in the family. Even now, I guess he still has the three daughters there and some various cousins. But he�s gotten up to an employee group of perhaps thirty or forty by this time, and he is largely taken up, not only with books, but with prints, maps, and even paintings and has bought the building there. He is very wealthy by this time.

Frances Steloff you know about. She has always had a fine shop on Forty-seventh Street, but she did move once down a few doors from her former shop. She is still alive, as you know, and is in her eighties. The shop has recently been bought by a young man named Andreas Brown.

Of the booksellers who are still in business, I may not have mentioned Biblo and Tannen, who started business just before I did on East Fourteenth Street as poor little creatures and who have since then become quite large, substantial, and have bought their building on Fourth Avenue, and also are publishers. Mr. [Thomas J.] Gerald had a shop called the Friendly Bookstore, which was notorious for buying stolen books and who also specialized in music books. He moved away from Fourth Avenue for a while and now is back on Fourth Avenue again..... It�s still called the Friendly Bookshop. Harry Gold, I may have mentioned, who was involved in the theft of very good books from the New York Public Library, including Edgar Allan Poe and other important works, having served his time in jail, came back to Fourth Avenue and later on became quite big again, mostly by the sale of his shop at the corner of Thirteenth Street and Fourth Avenue. He has just in the last month sold his shop on Fifth Avenue for a very high price, and his books, also, which went to Pennsylvania State University.

The brother of David Kirschenbaum of the Carnegie Bookshop is Louis Kirschenbaum, who is not on speaking terms with his brother and has not been for thirty or forty years. They were the sons of a former Kirschenbaum whom I did not know who was the original person in the book business. Louis Kirschenbaum had a small bookshop on Ninth Street for a long period of time, but he eventually went into the auction business, which he continued for a dozen years or more, but he never made a great success of. He did, however, continue to buy and sell sets and made a living of sorts. Even now, in semiretirement, he continues to do something of this sort.


Ben Swann originally worked, if I remember correctly, for Dauber and Pine for a while, then went into the Americana business for himself -- I think in some other place first and then on Fifty-ninth Street in two places. He had two very fortunate fires -- I think maybe only one very fortunate fire, but I certainly remember that one -- which made him a great deal of money. Eventually he went into the auction business and is now the only other auction place in New York besides Parke-Bernet. He�s been extremely successful, and he calls himself Swann Book Auction. His place, however, has moved a couple of times and is now on East Twenty-fifth Street.

The following people I have listed as being retired, semiretired, or not in the book business any longer, who were in the book business when I started: Laurence Gomme, now probably in his late eighties, who came over from England in about 1910, and worked sometimes for himself and sometimes for Brentano�s. He is considered the doyen of the old book trade and is now doing some appraisal work. He, in my opinion, has a reputation for knowledge which is not justified. I am not sure about this, and some people may know more about it than I do .... He specializes in first editions, and I don�t think he knows much about them. Then what does he know about? Let�s say he knows about English literature, because I don�t know anything else about that.

INTERVIEWER: I was just curious, because everybody seems to think so very, very highly of him. Is it just because he has survived longer?

GOLDWATER: I think it�s because he�s very nice. I don�t really know this for a fact. I think that some of the other people might be able to tell more about it than I. As far as I can see, there�s no proof that he does know anything, but I don�t know.

Edward Lazare, of course, started very early and worked for G. A. Baker and Company, that is Mr. Hartzof, for a period of time. Then he went into business just before the war, after Hartzof �s death, with two other employees of G. A. Baker. They ran the G. A. Baker business for a while and then an auction business, which was called G. A. Baker Company. But when the war came, they sold the thing out, as I mentioned before, to Mr. Rosenzweig of City Book Auction. One man, Mr. Otto, disappeared; I don�t know what happened to him. Kebabian went to work for H. P. Kraus shortly after that. Lazare became the editor of American Book Prices Current, which was his sole job for some twenty years. Recently he finally sold out his rights in the America, Book Prices Current to somebody, presumably Columbia University. Although he still has his hand in and he is doing some other work as well, he is now doing the editing of the big Streeter catalogue.

Jacob Blanck, as I mentioned before, I think, was a freelance scout for a while and was involved in more-or-less shady dealings with Merle Johnson and with Bill Kelleher. In due course, however, he got the job of editing the Bibliography of American Literature, sponsored by Mr. Lilly and the Bibliographical Society of America, and has made a lifetime job of that. I do believe he has done a very good job. He�s not in good health now, but we hope that he�ll be able to finish it. It is practically finished, I believe.

Also, there was always a question with Merle Johnson of manufactured first editions and things of that sort. I mentioned in that respect William Kelleher who is still alive but very old. He lives in New Jersey and still has some Americana and things like that.

Ike Brussel liked to call himself LOGS -- the last of the great scouts. That was a play on words because Buffalo Bill was supposed to be called the last of the great scouts. The great scouts, of course, in this case meant book scouts. He used to go to England and buy things there. He considered that he was well up on all kinds of things. Actually, however, I think he was mainly up on first editions. He wrote the bibliography of James Branch Cabell, which is quite good, as well as two books, one called Anglo-American First Editions: East to West and the other Anglo-American First Editions: West to East, which are books listing the English authors whose first printings were in America and American authors whose first printings were in England. The job has been better done since then, but he was a prime mover in the matter and did a good deal of work on it. I consider him quite a good man as far as this is concerned. He is very noisy!

His brother, Jack Brussel, has been in trouble with the police ever since his earliest days, either for erotica or for stolen books or something else. He has been in jail at least once, I think possibly twice. During the days when something perfectly mild, like Lady Chatterley or other things, was illegal -- whenever there was anything illegal, he seemed to get into it. Later on he became quite successful, particularly with his wife, who was a very active woman, and went into the reprinting of color prints and things of that sort. He is still around and still dabbles in these prints and other things. I believe he


has a collection of Aesop�s Fables which by this time should be quite good. Jack Brussel had a shop until very recently. He had a shop right next door here.

Meyer D. Wechsler, who was on Fourth Avenue for years and years and years and who called himself "Wex," Wechsler�s Bookshop, a dozen years ago moved to Third Avenue because his rent was raised so high on Fourth. He was never liked by anybody and never liked anybody. People avoided going into his shop. Once in a while, however, a person could gain his way into his good graces for a short period of time and buy a few books. He mostly had a rather bad shop made up of fiction and textbooks. He was supposed to have good first editions in the back room, but, at a certain point when he announced that he was willing to sell out, I got into the back room and looked it over, and found that there was nothing decent in the back room either. He lasted until very, very recently. It hasn�t been more than six or eight months now that he finally sold out the shop on Third Avenue. In general, I believe that the shop was supported by his wife Connie, who was a schoolteacher on maximum pension, and that he simply had the shop there to keep himself out of mischief.. He also did have coins and stamps.

Dave Randall you know about. He worked first at Baker and Company, then for himself, then for Scribners, and then got the more-or-less sinecure out at the Lilly Library in Indiana. He has told his own story better than I could tell. John Kohn wanted to remind me about A. B. Schiffrin, who was one of the shops on Fifty-ninth Street, but I did not know him well.

The two Eberstadts are, of course, well known. The father, Edward Eberstadt, had started a very good Americana business on Madison Avenue long ago. It became the best-known Americana shop in the country. The two sons were called Lindley and Charles. I knew them slightly, but they generally dealt in material which was different from my own, although I had some connection with them during my period of interest in Haiti. I always found them too expensive to buy from and too cheap to sell to.

One of the shops on Fourth Avenue, when I first started out, was called the Astor Bookshop, which was run by Abe Klein. He went out of business quite early in my period, and I bought some stuff from him. That was the first time I recognized that, when a bookshop goes out of business, there are always little things to be found in the drawers and around which people have forgotten about. It was the ephemera which was interesting in his shop, just as it would be in my own case if I were to give up. Later he got a job as a salesman for Abraham and Strauss and then did freelance work. He�s still around, doing something of this sort now. He was never particularly liked.

There was a man named William Pearce who was quite nice and worked for Barnes and Noble. He was the rare-book and old-book man there for many years. I think he probably started the department, because Barnes and Noble had only been a textbook place up to that time. I was always very envious of him because he had a beautiful girl working for him. I remember that, during the period when it wasn�t considered proper, he went to Europe along with her. I've met him recently. He�s quite old now. He told me that there actually never was anything between them, and that she was always sweet on a certain longshoreman whom she finally married. He�s still alive, in his eighties, and lives in Delhi, New York, which is quite far up in the state.

INTERVIEWER: Did you know Kebabian very well?

GOLDWATER: Not terribly well. I knew him well enough, and I still know him fairly well. He�s the one, you remember, that was a member of our book club for many, many years, long before I was. Eventually he resigned demonstratively because the person that he wanted to get into the club was not invited in. That was Lucien Goldschmidt. What happened was that there were two people in the club who didn�t want Lucien, one particularly that didn�t want him in. Whenever anybody is very strongly opposed to somebody, we usually don�t get them in.. That was Shatzki. In due course Shatzki said he didn�t feel that way so strongly anymore. By that time we were perfectly willing to have Lucien in. Even though Kebabian was then approached and told that we would now do that, he was angry, and he wouldn�t ever come back. So we never got him back, and we never got Lucien in. I don�t think it matters too much.

One of the small people on Fourth Avenue whom I used to visit during my poorer days was Morris Pomarin. The reason I always visited him was that I was able to see directly somebody who was worse off than myself. So I used to go and visit him almost every day. He had a very small shop; the shop still exists here at number 116.

INTERVIEWER: He�s still in business here?


GOLDWATER: No. He went later on to Morristown, New Jersey, and then finally back to Brooklyn, which was his original home, and is doing business from there. Sy Silverman, who was one of the Geffen boys, has become very wealthy and a great success. He calls himself, among other things, Humanities Press, Hillary House, and various other names, mostly publishing and taking over of English books. He has almost a thousand titles on his list.

Bernie Kraus started a shop called the Raven Bookshop here on Fourth Avenue and stayed in business for fifteen or twenty years. He was a partner with Larry Verry, who became the first and possibly the only Jew ever employed by Barnes and Noble. We all felt that Barnes employed him only because they didn�t know he was a Jew, although most of us couldn�t see how that was possible. Later on Verry got a lot of money from someone else to start in business for himself, went into business on Twenty-third Street, had a grandiose affair for a number of years, and went bankrupt, losing all the money of the other fellow. He, himself, however, seems to have done fairly well out of it and is now in business in Long Island, where he is an importer of English books and has some kind of publishing business. I�m not sure just what .... He�s a rather shady character, in my opinion, but, in any case, we don�t have very much to do with him. I mentioned that Kraus at the Raven Bookshop split up with Verry and later went into his own mail-order business, which he still has in a loft building on Broadway and Eighth Street. He specializes in English and American literature mainly.

Howard Mott, fresh out of Harvard, went into the rare-book and first-editions business on Fortieth Street, a rather high-class place right next to where Lathrop C. Harper had his shop. After struggling for a number of years, he finally became quite successful and then moved to Sheffield, Massachusetts, where he has now been for a dozen years or more.

Montague Hankin was a successful businessman, I think mainly in the oil business, in Summit, New Jersey, who became and has been for forty years or more a dealer mainly in Americana. He is generally liked, and I don�t dislike him, but I�ve never been able to stand his advertisements which he had in the trade journal for twenty years or more, saying, "I sell only to dealers," because we knew very well that he does not sell only to dealers. We knew a great many of his private customers, and Rutgers University was probably his main customer, and Princeton his secondary customer. He�s in Summit, NewJersey, and he specializes in sporting books, chiefly Derrydale Press, and in Americana, chiefly New Jersey and eastern Americana.. But he is a good Americana man. He�s now quite old, and we see him very seldom.

I don�t know just where Peter Decker came from or how long he has been in business. We know it�s been a long time, and he, himself, is quite old. However, I understand that he had been in some other business prior to this. He is known to be one of the most knowledgeable of the Americana men, particularly western Americana.

Jack Bartfield worked for a firm in the forties called Himebaugh and Browne. He tells me now that there was never any Himebaugh, that is, that Himebaugh was Mr. Browne�s wife�s maiden name. I knew Mr. Browne quite well. During the Depression the shop simply went out of business, as so many of them did. They catered to a fancy trade, and it simply didn�t work. The only success that came out of that shop was Mr. Bartfield, who apparently got a number of customers and became a good bookman and was able to sell later on. Mr. Browne I remember chiefly as a seedy, poor thing, going around town, trying to pick up a few dollars here and there by being a scout. He disappeared altogether. I don�t know what happened to him.

Leo Weitz was also mainly in the bindings and fine-looking books. He was a stupid man who had no knowledge of books whatever. He did, however, like, as he said, lovely things. He would fondle a binding as he would a woman�s breast, saying, "Isn�t this wonderful, Walter?" He was on Madison Avenue for a long time, and he is mainly known for two things: one, that he won the Irish Sweepstakes, I think a hundred thousand dollars; and the second, when many of the gangsters, possibly including Capone but certainly many others, were brought up to trial for evading income tax, Mr. Weitz was brought in to testify that he sold them large quantities of fine bindings and sets for their mansions. He�s still alive, still loves nice things, like particularly Arthur Rackham�s, which he tries to buy and then have rebound in full Levant morocco, gilt. He has office space in a shop on upper Lexington Avenue with a man named Feldman (Lov Applefeld], possibly the best chess player in the book business, who has been in the business also for about forty years ... and who has one of the few shops in New York which still is a general secondhand shop and does not put out catalogues. He�s up near the YMHA [Young Men�s Hebrew Association] at Ninety-second Street.

[Louis] Schucman and Schwab graduated from library school about 1934 or 1935 and decided


to go into the out-of-print book business.. After a year or two, Schwab left and has since become extremely successful, having become part of the J. S. Canner organization, finally, I believe, superseding Canner as the owner of the organization in Boston. Canner was a very crooked man who was involved with Williams Company in Boston, which was possibly the most crooked place in the country, with the exception of the American Library Service.

He could almost be gotten on the same principle, only he was even worse. The Williams Company still exists there, but with Miss Williams, Williams�s daughter, in charge. She has kept up her father�s principles. Canner may still be involved in Canner and Company. Schwab, however, who sold the firm to some other large company for a price probably over a million dollars and reputed to be as much as two and a half million dollars, is still involved in certain other things ... in Boston or the Boston neighborhood. He, himself, I understand, is in Israel at the moment with a nineteen-year-old girl. But he has various vicissitudes. I gathered this information from Schucman, who still keeps track of him.

Schucman himself had a number of shops, both upstairs and on the street level, after 1935. He never really made a success of it, but he got along all right, considering that his wife was the main breadwinner of the family. Only in this last week, as you know, finally he sold the whole contents of the shop to Penn State. However, at the moment he intends to go to work for somebody, but in the long run I have no doubt that he will go back into the book business again.

INTERVIEWER: What was the final price on that?

GOLDWATER: Thirty-five thousand dollars, out of which I�m to get a commission .... As a matter of fact, when he started to dig up the stuff, it turned out that he had not the twenty-two thousand books which he thought he had, nor the twenty-two thousand plus the four thousand paperbacks he had, nor the twenty-two thousand plus the four thousand paperbacks plus about four thousand other books that he had, but about thirty thousand books, plus about seven or eight thousand paperbacks, plus some ten thousand prints which he found there.

So the people are really getting a rather tremendous buy because, obviously, we�re not in a position to say "you should pay more," although we might. Simply the idea was they were willing to buy as it was, and we obviously wanted to sell it as it was. He wants the paperbacks because he proposes to have a room where the undergraduates can come. At this moment, be intends to have them check them out. But I suggested to him that he simply have them there, tell them that they should bring them back, but that nobody�s going to check over on them. So the people who want to bring them back so somebody else can have them can do so, but, if anybody takes one and keeps it, he�s paying absolutely nothing for them. Therefore, it�s just a very good room altogether, and I think he�s going to accept that idea, which I think is great.

At Stanford they must have actually bought them and bought them for some price. But here is a case where you�re simply getting them for absolutely nothing, and there�s no harm to be done for anything. I think it�s just a wonderful idea. He doesn�t have to do any cataloguing of them; they�re simply there for this purpose.

Peter Lader started in business late in the thirties over on Fourth Street, just west of Sixth Avenue, right next door, or perhaps in the very same shop where Freddie Brandeis had the shop which he called the Bad Bookshop for a short period. Later on Freddie Brandeis sold it to a man named Richman. Richman died, and Ladcr took it over. Lader has been there ever since. He is a very nice man; everybody likes him. We believe that he does not know anything. He has always had a shop in which every book was a good book, so he can�t be so terribly stupid.

He calls it Martin�s Bookshop. It�s the same now as it has been for the last ten, twenty, or thirty years. It is a small shop with not more than two to three thousand books in it, every one of which, however, is an out-of-print, good, scholarly book. He used to go scouting a great deal with Mr. Scher of The Seven Bookhunters; he used to go to the coast and back. His wife worked and works, but the main thing is that he has always lived on a very, very modest scale. He never bought anything and did anything which cost any money. And he�s still there. He has a very lugubrious view. I�ve never seen him smile or laugh in my whole career with him, which is rather a strong thing to say. The world is always in terrible shape, and everything is always miserable and getting worse.

My friend Larry Maxwell, who, after being in the radical movement, decided to go into the book business on Fourth Avenue, had one of the shops here. That was possibly the one which was least successful of any of the shops on Fourth Avenue. He lived on almost nothing, although he came from a


fairly wealthy family. He used to just get along on selling magazines for five cents apiece and so on. I would lend him money from time to time, and I would buy things from him when I could. He married a nice girl from Texas who had come into the shop one day. Her salary from the Girl Scouts kept them going for a long time, until the beginning of the war.

As soon as the war was over, he came back to New York. He then decided he wanted to be in the book business again, so he came to work for me for a while to get his hand in. Then, with a little money he had saved plus some money his wife had saved, he opened up a very nice little bookshop on Christopher Street, which was going exactly the way he wanted, namely, it was going to specialize in ballet, movies, theater, little magazines, and avant-garde literature. He was also going to have teas, and, besides that, a great many pretty girls were going to come to visit the shop. This all happened exactly as he had planned, and, possibly not as he had planned, his wife fell in love with one of his clients and went off and married him instead. But he had a plethora of beautiful girls who used to hang around his shop anyway. Everything went along perfectly smoothly, except for one thing, and that was that he couldn�t meet his bills. He used to borrow money from me rather regularly for given moments, and eventually he stopped answering the phone because every phone call would be somebody asking for money. Finally somebody decided to put him into bankruptcy, which was rather unfortunate for everybody.


SOURCE: "New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater" [interview], DLB Yearbook, 1993, pp. 139-172.

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A Memorial Tribute to Bill French

Finding Aid: University Place Book Shop Papers, 1968-1988

All praise to R. Dunaway, Bookseller...

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