Internet Horology Club 185
The man who owned this watch...

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August 21, 2007, 14:21
Irwin Foreman
The man who owned this watch...
Folllowing on from Stephanie's posting from some months ago, I too am fascinated by conjecturing about who previously owned a watch that I may possess. Though watch dealers, and I am not a dealer only a mere collector, usually put less value on a watch that bears an inscription, personally, I think an inscription adds more interest and history and I like it when there is an inscription.

I have posted a watch that was owned by a gentleman named Samuel Rosoff - see pics. He apparently was the contractor who built a large section of the New York subway system and had previously done the same thing for the Moscow subway system. An internet search turns up his name as a friend of prominent US gangsters, a man who dropped a hundred thousand dollars in Las Vegas in an evening. Evidently a hard player, or a high roller in the American phrase..

According to the inscription (see below) the wtach was a gift from District 39 on January 9 1923. Not being an American I don't know what District 39 could have been - my guess is maybe a labor union. Can anybody explain?

I have thought that perhaps he has descendants who would be interested in knowing the watch is still around. The watch itself, is 18 ct gold and was made by Longines for Tiffany. District 39 whoever they were must have been showing a lot of respect when they gave him this watch.

Here's pics:

August 21, 2007, 14:23
Irwin Foreman
Correction - District 38.

Next pic

August 21, 2007, 14:31
Irwin Foreman
Now the watch mechanics...

Next pic

August 23, 2007, 18:34
Stephanie O'Neil
Very interesting thread! I know you have to be thrilled to have in your possession, a watch with history thanks to an inscription. That's great!

Mr. Rosoff was a very interesting man from the read.

I did a little research for you regarding District 38. Long shot but maybe somehow there is a connection to district 38 Toastmasters. They formed around 1923-24 according to my read. Maybe Mr. Rosoff was interested or thought he needed refinement in the way of public speaking.

I provided a link for your reading enjoyment!

Again, congratulations!

BTW - Beautiful watch!

Stephanie O'Neil

August 24, 2007, 08:41
Irwin Foreman
Thanks Stephanie for this thoughtful lead.
I am going to follow it up with the toastmasters. Their website gives 1923/4 as a start date, so they may have records.
Meanwhile, if anybody meets a 'Rosoff' in their travels, you can mention that there is a watch.....
Great. Thank you.
September 01, 2007, 00:05
Irwin Foreman
Stephanie, Just to update you, I followed up on your suggestion re the toastmasters District 38. Their response was negative. Despite what their website says about 1923 being the year of their inauguration, the reply I received said they started in the early 1950's. The contradiction wasn't clear to me, but there you are...

I think the only course of action left to me is to search the New York phone book looking for a Rosoff...

If you think of any other possibilities please let me know. And Thank you.
September 02, 2007, 15:18
Stephanie O'Neil
Hi Irwin,
Thanks for the follow up. That's a shame, I thought we were on to something with Toastmasters. Maybe you can search a little further about Toastmasters, maybe thru a public library? Also maybe search the name thru a geneology website? Keep us posted!

Stephanie O'Neil

November 19, 2007, 11:34
Elijah Glenn Howell, III
Maybe District 38 is a voting district that the subway section runs through? And the people of the district with help of the councilmen bought the watch? Or a lot of the workers came out of that area to work the project? Could also be a teamsters union...That may be a bit of a stretch, they would probably put the unoin name in there.
Just some new ideas, from a new face! Wink

Glenn Howell
February 08, 2008, 23:05
Tom Brown
Just reading here & thought I would do some looking. I found this info on the web

Monday, Apr. 08, 1935
Samuel Rufus Rosoff was born in Minsk, Russia, 53 years ago. Aged u, he worked his way to the U. S. as a potato-peeler on an immigrant ship. A tough, dirty little boy who had never been inside a school, he sold newspapers, slept on warm sidewalk gratings, learned to read at the Public Library. One job led to another until Samuel Rosoff was building New York City subways, operating bus lines, brewing King's beer, buying race horses and making money hand over fist. Today he often carries $50,000 cash in his pockets, tells competitors: "Money talks." Shrewd at dealing with all kinds of politicians, he boasts: "I'm a member of Tammany Hall and proud of it. I'm also a Republican and proud of that. ... I haven't got education. What I got is what it takes to make guys with education do the job I want done."

This is the link to the article,9171,748764...html?promoid=googlep
February 08, 2008, 23:17
Tom Brown
Here is another article;

Railroad Man's Magazine, September, 1943

"Then Sam Rosoff got interested," Harry Eckert took up the story. "Subway Sam. Born in Minsk, Russia, left it in the steerage, began life in New York as a newsboy, and now was just back from building the great Moscow subway system. He knew our history, he'd built the state improved highway through here ten years before. The most generous man I ever saw. In a way, he was another D&N triumph. He bought us on December 20th, complete with all sixty pieces of rolling stock, the depots, right-of-way, track; and took over on the 27th. That was 1928. Things began to hum."

The Downsville News announced the sale with a remark that Rosoff had undoubtedly acquired the road "not so much for speculative purposes"—there was talk that he intended a $9,000,000,000 squeeze. play on the City of New York—"as to have the same as his own in hauling material for construction work on the dam to be built by the New York Board of Water Supply," and concluded with a careful aside to the effect that Rosoff undoubtedly had the contract for building the dam in his pocket before he invested in the half-defunct D&N. Much speculation as to the price paid for the road was voiced in all quarters. The Walton Reporter repeated the often suggested sum of $750,000.

"Actually," Jim Welch remarked, "the price was $70,000. The bigger amount shows the speculative value, ownership of the road appeared to have. It did look as if Rosoff were gambling on a sure thing. The reservoir was slated, the dam had to come; a man who owned the railroad could underbid every other contractor. Nobody could guess that war was coming, with shortage of materials and practically complete stoppage of such projects."

The New York Times gave Rosoff's price as ten cents on the dollar. The fact that he was sole owner, the article continued in a tone of enmity obviated the approval of the Public Service Commission. Two days, later the World intimated that an investigation was due; Governor Roosevelt (now the President) should inquire minutely into the question "whether the state's interest in the development of the Delaware water resources would be jeopardized in any way by Rosoff's purchase."
December 27, 2009, 23:50
Tom Brunton
as you will notice below District 38 is a Teamsters district in New York,perhaps ???

Teamsters New York City
... 35: Tish James District 36: Al Vann District 37: Erik Dilan District 38: Sarah ... Representing a diversity of industries, the Teamsters are one of the ... - Cached
December 28, 2009, 01:10
Tom Brown
After Tom posted his new information, it got me to doing some more looking.

Found this WWII Draft card for Samuel


December 28, 2009, 01:13
Tom Brown
Here is his WWI Draft

wwi draft

December 29, 2009, 23:57
Tom Brunton
Those are 2 nice pieces of documentation,Tom. If he built the infrastructure projects in NY ,he would have created many, many jobs for the Teamsters Union ,hence their gratitude and thanks being shown with the presentation to him of a beautiful gold watch: Happy New Year , Tom
December 30, 2009, 01:03
Tom Brown
I also found an article where he was arrested for the murder of the head of the Sand Hogs of NYC. Apparently there was a strike of the Sand Hogs & he had made the statement that he would kill the head of their union & then the Union leader ended up shot to death in his car, but nothing ever came of the charges. Reminds me of when I was a Homicide Detective in New Jersey!

December 30, 2009, 23:06
Tom Brunton
the last line in your reply tells me why you're so good at digging up details and documents , I wondered about you while looking at the stuff you find LOL,Happy New Year
December 31, 2009, 00:08
Tom Brown
Yeah, I think I am now on my 36 or 37 year of doing this kind of work. I have always liked puzzles.

Happy New Year to you to, I also lived in Baumholder for a short time.

December 31, 2009, 12:07
Tom Brunton
I also lived in Soest Westphalia for two years Big Grin