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James McQuay

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Information about James McQuay

Profile image of James McQuay

Profession

Category:
StyleMakers
Occupation(s):
Furrier

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken Salad
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Fishing
Favorite Quote:
If You Change The Way You Look At Things, Things Change The Way They Look.

Birthplace

Born:
11/15/1924
Birth Location:
Baltimore, Maryland

Profession

Category:
StyleMakers
Occupation(s):
Furrier

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken Salad
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Fishing
Favorite Quote:
If You Change The Way You Look At Things, Things Change The Way They Look.

Birthplace

Born:
11/15/1924
Birth Location:
Baltimore
See how James McQuay is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Furrier James McQuay was born on November 15, 1924 in Baltimore, Maryland to Sarah and Thomas McQuay. Shortly after birth, McQuay and his family moved to Yonkers, New York. He grew up in a small black community on the second floor of a three-family housing unit. Heavily influenced by his mother and grandmother, they provided him with examples of hard-work and determination. He attended Hawthorne Junior High School and graduated in 1943 from Yonkers High School. Prior to graduation, McQuay began working for Nathan Ginsburg in 1939, a local Yonkers furrier. McQuay and Ginsburg cultivated a friendship that lasted generations. It was through Ginsburg that McQuay realized that he had a dream to own a fur shop.

Immediately after graduating from Yonkers High School, McQuay was drafted into World War II, where he served in the South Pacific until 1946. Upon McQuay’s return, he went back to school working for Nathan Ginsburg, before venturing out on his own four years later. In 1950, McQuay opened his first shop in 1950, Furs by James. He became one of, if not the only, African American furriers in New York City. The store remained open for six years before McQuay closed it in 1956 to open another store of the same name in Mt. Vernon, New York. Furs by James stayed open for seven years, until he closed it in 1963 to pursue freelance opportunities. By the early 1970s, McQuay’s furs could be seen in many blaxploitation films of the time, including Cleopatra Jones and Foxy Brown. In the early 1980s, McQuay participated in the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual fashion show as the only furrier.

Throughout his career, McQuay has received numerous accolades for his achievements, including being featured in Essence magazine and in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s “Furs, the Final Touch” fashion show.

He passed away on June 23, 2012 at the age of 87.

James McQuay was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 21, 2007.

See how James McQuay is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James McQuay's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James McQuay lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James McQuay talks about his mother and maternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James McQuay describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James McQuay remembers the holidays
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James McQuay describes his home in Yonkers, New York
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James McQuay describes the smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James McQuay remembers School 3 in Yonkers, New York
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James McQuay recalls his childhood responsibilities
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James McQuay remembers working at the Exclusive Fur Shop in Yonkers, New York, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James McQuay remembers working at the Exclusive Fur Shop in Yonkers, New York, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James McQuay describes his U.S. Army service
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James McQuay describes race relations in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James McQuay remembers his salary in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James McQuay recalls his apprenticeship under Nathan Ginsberg
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James McQuay describes the furrier industry in Yonkers, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James McQuay describes his relationship with Nathan Ginsberg
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James McQuay remembers his storefront in New York City's Harlem neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James McQuay describes the opening of James Furs in New York City's Harlem neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James McQuay remembers his early business at James Furs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James McQuay describes his early fashion shows
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - James McQuay remembers the community in New York City's Harlem neighborhood
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James McQuay remembers the support of Ed Smalls
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James McQuay recalls his exclusion from the furriers union
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James McQuay remembers opening a fur shop in New York City's Garment District
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James McQuay recalls the impact of the Ebony Fashion Fair on his business
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James McQuay describes his business operations
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James McQuay remembers meeting his wife
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James McQuay remembers opening a fur shop in Mount Vernon, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James McQuay talks about his clientele
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James McQuay describes the impact of the animal rights movement on the fur business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James McQuay remembers his brother's career at the Yonkers Fire Department
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James McQuay talks about the history of segregation in Yonkers, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James McQuay describes the African American community in Mount Vernon, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James McQuay recalls the productions that showcased his fur coats
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James McQuay reflects upon his success
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James McQuay talks about his mentorship of young employees
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James McQuay narrates his photographs