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Marion Anderson

Master tailor and tailoring instructor Marion William Anderson was born to Ethel and William Anderson on April 18, 1926, in Charleston, South Carolina. Ethel Anderson was a beautician and William Anderson was a presser. Anderson's mother encouraged him to pursue a trade at Burke Industrial High School in Charleston. In 1947, after serving the U.S. Army in Asia for a few months, he graduated from high school, majoring in tailoring. In 1949, Anderson moved to Harlem, New York, in order to look for work. After a few jobs in industrial tailoring, Anderson pursued a teaching career.

After refining his skills at the American Gentleman School of Designing, he started teaching at the Empire Trade School, a school that catered to African American World War II veterans. In 1956, Anderson began instructing prisoners in the tailor shop on Rikers Island. Four years later, he convinced the New York City Board of Education to create a tailoring curriculum, and he was hired at Sterling High School in Brooklyn, New York, where he would teach tailoring for thirty-three years. Anderson was the first African-American to be licensed by the City of New York to teach tailoring.

In 1987, Anderson founded his own school, the Manhattanville Needle Trade School, in Harlem. In 2007, Anderson celebrated his twentieth year as the director at the school. During his lengthy career, he tailored suits for many members of the Harlem elite, and taught a valuable trade to hundreds in Harlem and New York City.

Anderson passed away on February 14, 2015 at age 88.

Accession Number

A2007.193

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/29/2007

Last Name

Anderson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Schools

Henry P. Archer School in Charleston

Burke High School

University of Manila

Adelphi University

American Gentleman School of Design

First Name

Marion

Birth City, State, Country

Charleston

HM ID

AND08

Favorite Season

Summer

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Europe

Favorite Quote

The Highest Value Of Work Is Not That You Earn But What You Become.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/18/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Roasted Chicken, Fish, Macaroni, Cheese

Death Date

2/14/2015

Short Description

Master tailor and tailoring instructor Marion Anderson (1926 - 2015 ) was the first person to teach tailoring at New York public schools and was the director and founder of the Manhattanville Needle Trade School in New York, New York.

Employment

Mark Riley Custom Tailor

Harry Irwing Manufacturing Company

Popular Manufacturing Company

Sam Berlin Men's Shop

John Rughermer Custom Tailors

New York (N.Y.). -- Board of Education

High School of Fashion Industries

New York (State). Department of Corrections

Empire Trade School

Manhattanville Needle Trade School

Sterling High School

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marion Anderson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marion Anderson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marion Anderson describes his clothing designs

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marion Anderson describes his mother's family background and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marion Anderson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marion Anderson describes his homes in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marion Anderson describes his parents' professions

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marion Anderson remembers his schooling

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marion Anderson recalls celebrating the holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marion Anderson describes his start as a tailor

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Marion Anderson remembers his first tailoring position

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Marion Anderson recalls his mentor at Burke Industrial High School in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Marion Anderson remembers being drafted into the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marion Anderson describes his reenlistment in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marion Anderson talks about his marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marion Anderson describes his position as a cook in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marion Anderson describes his experiences as a tailor at John Rugheimer, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marion Anderson describes his experiences as a tailor at John Rugheimer, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marion Anderson recalls managing Berlin's in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marion Anderson remembers working at the Popular Manufacturing Company, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marion Anderson remembers working at the Popular Manufacturing Company, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marion Anderson recalls his decision to attend the American Gentleman School of Design in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marion Anderson talks about New York City's garment industry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marion Anderson describes the American Gentlemen School of Design in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marion Anderson remembers teaching at the Empire Trade School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marion Anderson recalls serving as a trade instructor at the Rikers Island prison in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marion Anderson recalls teaching at P.S. 85 Sterling High School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marion Anderson remembers founding the Manhattanville Needle Trade School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marion Anderson describes his curriculum at the Manhattanville Needle Trade School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marion Anderson describes his curriculum at the Manhattanville Needle Trade School, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marion Anderson recalls his decision to attend Adelphi University in Garden City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marion Anderson talks about teaching his sons to sew

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marion Anderson talks about his daughters' education and careers

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marion Anderson reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marion Anderson narrates his photographs

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marion Anderson describes his garden

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
Marion Anderson describes his experiences as a tailor at John Rugheimer, pt. 2
Marion Anderson describes the American Gentlemen School of Design in New York City
Transcript
What's the difference in the skill level involved in making pants versus making these coats and do the people who you work with making pants, do they know how to make coats?$$That's a good question because some of them probably knew, but since their job is relegated to pants making, so why, why even think about it, you know, because this, this, this is the job for which they're going to be hired. So why, why even think about coat. Some of them probably grew up in, in a situation as, as an apprentice where they were exposed to coat making, but this particular firm hired them as pants makers and the whites were hired as coat makers.$$So when you decided to think about making coats, what did you do? Did you talk to your fellow workers about that?$$I told them that I was thinking about asking the boss to, to start me on coats. And they, some of them took exception because they thought that you're going to upset this boss and we don't want to make the boss mad, as they would say. Anyway I took, I pursued my effort and I made a request and they said they would consider me next spring, but since the request was made they had to allow one of the other workers, black workers, to start, like one of the other blacks, yes.$$To start doing which?$$With the coats. They were going to start somebody on coats, but was I--I wasn't going to be the one. But I, but the, the other black workers didn't make the request, but they said that they would start this person on coats and I would wait until the next spring.$$So when you asked they decided that they needed to take someone senior, or who had been there longer (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, exactly.$$--as a black person up into coats--$$Yes, yes.$$--and then later you would be able to do so?$$Right, right.$$And did you stay there long enough?$$I--$$Did you stay until the spring?$$I told them no. I told them if I was not allowed to work, to be allowed to make coats that I was quitting. And you don't quit Rugheimer [John Rugheimer, Charleston, South Carolina] (laughter).$$No?$$They, they would probably lynch you. (Laughter) At any rate, I, I did quit. Pants making was like slave work. You got paid according to the number of pants you made. And there were many of us who would be working Sundays at home taking those kinds of work, the part of the work that we could do at home, we would take it so we, we could make, make a decent salary at the end of the week. This is piecework. You get paid according to the number of pants that you made. So, I, when I didn't get the request to work on coats. I said I told them that I was quitting. And they made some threatening remark, "Well, you know if you quit we'll consider this when you want a recommendation," da, da, da. So, I didn't care about that either.$So could you continue to tell us about the design school that you went to?$$Oh yes, I went to the American Gentleman designing school [American Gentleman School of Design, New York, New York], that's where I learned how to draft patterns for ladies and men garments. This was one of the schools that cropped up in those, at that time to cater to World War II [WWII] veterans. And I of course, was a World War II veteran, so I was able to attend that school and the tuition of course, was covered by the government.$$Is that something that would have been covered by the G.I. Bill [Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944]?$$It was the G.I. Bill, exactly. Yes, the G.I. Bill.$$And what else was available to you through the G.I. Bill--$$Well--$$--or to you and to others?$$Well, I guess the housing, perhaps, but that was the only thing that I made, made use of, the training. And at the American Gentleman school of designing I met a number of people, weird people because a lot of the students took the course in order to get the money, not because they were--unlike me, in the field professionally. And many of them were drafting patterns and didn't know what they were drafting, but they would ask me, so I became quite friendly with a lot of them. But it's amazing how a friendship could develop because I recall we use to have lunch, during our lunch period we'd go into Union Square [New York, New York], I would talk and many of these guys would tell me about the stories--the street stories about weird happenings, weird to me anyway. And I remember one particular day we'd decided as a group, there were about five of us, to walk over in the east side. Someone said let's walk over in the east side where it's a little more secluded and they started smoking marijuana and I, I realized this was what they were smoking because they started passing it around. When it, when it got to me I said, "No I'll walk ahead of you guys because I don't need that stuff." Now, I told this story because we've got to go back to my, my prison experience at Rikers Island [New York, New York]. I worked at Rikers Island as an institutional trade instructor. This is many years after this American Gentleman's exposure. And at Rikers Island, we had young inmates and I recall telling them this story about my experience at the American Gentleman School and they argued that, how could I be in a position to advise them when I didn't actually use the stuff myself, if I had used it and said well, I don't want it anymore, that's one thing, but to not to use it at all, not to experience it at all, they claimed that I don't have the--they questioned my authority to advise them against it. So I said, "You know, it's very simple. First of all, if I'm going to ignore all that I've read in newspapers and magazines about the ill effects of this thing and I'm going to ignore all of that," I said, "it would be ignorant of me to, to, to then use it." I said, "You used it, you're here as an inmate because you were curious. I'm here as your teacher and I did not use it, didn't have to, didn't think of using it." It was, it was one of those discussions things that we had on Rikers Island.$$So getting back to the American Gentleman School of Design, how long was that training and--$$The training was, it was a six month course, six months, right.$$And you said you learned patterns and--$$Um-hm. Yes, patterns, learned how to draft patterns for ladies and men.$$And when you graduated from there did you have a special title?$$I was, I already had my title as a tailor and being able to, to design patterns is just another aspect of that skill.