The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

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The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Irwin » Sat Jul 12, 2008 9:10 am

I posted this on the old site, but I think it can stand another viewing.

This watch was owned by the man who bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad.
It is an 'owner's' watch, rather than a railroad worker's watch. Definitely a watch for the Board room.

Sam Rosoff was an impoverished, uneducated Russian immigrant to the US at the turn of the century, who went from rags to riches in the American tradition and became a contractor. A Google search turned up information that he built sections of the New York subway and also the Moscow subway. Sam also had friends from the gangster fraternity and was known to spend a $100,000 a night gambling in Las Vegas.

At one stage he bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad.

http://www.catskillarchive.com/rrextra/dnrust.Html

The watch, as befitting a railroad owner, is a 18k Longines made for Tiffany. It seems that Sam didn't need a Hamilton to keep the trains on time, just a bank manager...

I tried to find out who "District 38" were, but didn't succeed. If anyone has any leads please let me know.

It is 17j and 5 adj.

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IF
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby IMHO » Sun Jul 13, 2008 3:06 am

Irwin,

Thanks for the interesting story. And nice watch!
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Stephan » Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:47 pm

I recently sold a silver medal that had an inscription on it that was from a region. I forget the actual number.
I had origionally thought this to be a masonic medal but it turned out to be from
"The Independant Order Of Oddfellows"
This may be usless information but there it is.
Learning all the time.
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Irwin » Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:46 am

I checked out if District 38 was a Toastmasters club. Indeed, there is such a club in the US and I contacted them but they said Sam wasn't on their records.
I thought maybe District 38 could be a construction labor union branch?
It seems feasible that a labor union, with vested interests for its members, might have given him a classy watch for favors given or promised.
IF
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Glyn Meredith » Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:53 pm

Interesting to me that "district" is lower case.
Have you posted on GH recently? Your posts keep us going.

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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Irwin » Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:02 pm

Yes, I wondered about that. I don't know if it is significant or not. I thought maybe it was a fault of the engraver.
I think we need the Americans here to wade in on that.
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Tom Seymour » Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:36 am

I would have expected "district" to begin with an upper case letter. Very interesting watch.
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Irwin » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:57 am

I allso checked the serial no. with Longines in Switzerland and they confirmed from their records, that the watch was sent in 1922 to Wittnauer in New York (I think) who were their US agents.
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby 4thdimension » Sun Jul 20, 2008 3:24 am

Irwin,
I think the lower case "d" was possibly an artistic decision by the engraver. On the reverse side of a U.S. penny is" UNITED STATES oF AMERICA". A decision was made that "oF" looked better than "OF" or "of". It's hard to explain why but I actually agree :shock: .

I enjoyed the Catskill Archive site that you linked too. I didn't find any relatives there but the more of these sites I peruse the more I learn about the big picture regarding the railroad biz back then. Some of my "great-great " family bought up some railroads about 100 years ago including the Rock Island line :o . Sad to say their tenure is not fondly remembered by the R-I historians.
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby Irwin » Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:07 am

More on Sam.
From Time magazine April 1947.
It seems that Sam was indeed in cahoots with the labor unions. Here it says that he discovered Tamanny Hall in 1923 and was into labor politics.
The date on the watch is 1923, so we seem to have a match, and to my mind, district 38 seems likely to be a labor union.
The watch was probably given as some kind of a 'sweetener' or mark of respect.
I see also that he bought another railway, the 500-mile-long Mexico North-Western Railway, which runs from Juarez to Chihuahua.

Now, I wonder if he has any living descendents who might be interested in buying his watch for a million or so...?
I could be persuaded....

Sandhogs—the tough, clannish men who burrow tunnels and subways under rivers and streets—don't startle easily. But a contract awarded in Baltimore last week startled them. What made them blink was the name of the successful bidder: Sam Rosoff, the world's No. 1 subway builder. The job, digging a $9 million, seven-mile-long water tunnel under Baltimore, will be Rosoff's first important contract within the U.S. since 1939. Sandhogs had thought that "Subway Sam" had finished with digging.

Samuel Rufus Rosoff had dug $50,000,000 worth (25%) of New York City's complex subway system, largely by virtue of his shrewd tunneling into Tammany and labor politics. Then loud-voiced Rosoff, whose short, fat (200-lb.) body conceals a lot of muscle and mustard, practically disappeared from the Manhattan scene just before the war. No one wanted tunnels built then. He popped up only in occasional newspaper dispatches from Mexico City.

Down Mexico Way. But Subway Sam had not quit. From his three-room suite in Mexico City's gaudy Hotel Reforma, Rosoff continued digging into 1) the earth and 2) politics. Last July he completed a $10 million aqueduct in Puebla, Mexico for the Mexican Government. Now he is building a $45 million steel mill for Paul Shields, another contractor, who will own and operate the mill. He bought controlling interest in a lumber company in Chihuahua. Last summer he teamed up with Mexican bankers, raised $3½ million and bought control of the 500-mile-long Mexico North-Western Railway, which runs from Juarez to Chihuahua.

In off hours' Subway Sam, 64, who fancies himself as a ladies' man, has made himself conspicuous in Mexico City's night life. A great party-giver, gambler and promoter of sport and charities, he has found Mexican politicos as susceptible to his loud charms as Tammany Hall was.

Down Under. An immigrant from Russia, Subway Sam peddled papers on the tough streets of lower Manhattan, learned to use his fists so well that he has been using them ever since. (Last summer at Saratoga he flattened a Latin American who objected to his favorite song, South America, Take It Away.)

When Sam got into the contracting business, he had had so little schooling that he could hardly read contracts. But that did not bother him. As he once said: "What the hell, I can always hire college graduates to do the pencil-&-paper work." Now he can read well enough for his purposes: he just skips the big words.

Rosoff quickly branched out into building roads and canals, raising sunken ships, running bus lines, etc. He made and lost several fortunes. It was not until 1923, when he discovered Tammany Hall and the political technique of wangling subway contracts, that he really hit the jackpot.

Up on a Horse. In a few years, he made millions, cut a wide swath on Broadway. He sank $40,000 in a play, acquired a swank Fifth Avenue apartment, took to horseback riding in Central Park and dealing with such labor racketeers as Joey Fay. In 1937 the murder of a striking sandhog labor leader, whom Sam had supposedly threatened to kill, almost toppled him from his throne. Police held Sam as a material witness, but freed him for lack of evidence.

After that, Sam began to fade from the public eye. He did win a $47,000,000 contract to build a third set of Panama Canal locks, but the war canceled it. But now Subway Sam hopes, by showing he has lost none of his drive, to start winning some juicy contracts again. The Baltimore job was down on the books for completion in 900 working days. Rosoff was out to better that by a good margin.
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Re: The Man Who Bought the Delaware & Northern Railroad

New postby 4thdimension » Mon Jul 21, 2008 5:09 am

Irwin,
Great story! Your time spent sleuthing was rewarded in grand style with this provenance for your watch. Wow!
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