An American Statesman
Grandpa Jacobi Press’ interaction with the Acheson family goes back to the nineteenth century when he got off the boat, a non-English speaking “greenhorn” from Dvinsk, Latvia.
Here’s part of the history I recounted in my tome, Threading The Needle. Jacobi Press arrived at the Boston Piers in 1896, met by his brothers Max and Harry, who had immigrated ten years prior. The Press brothers ran a custom-tailor shop in Middletown, Connecticut. Grandpa bonded with them and quickly mastered the trade. He was a quick learner and mastered English without an accent thanks to Edward Campion Acheson, Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut. Bishop Acheson was a customer at the local family tailor shop. He took a liking to my grandfather mentoring him in both language and WASP culture. When Grandpa confided to him his fiancée didn’t want to live in Middletown, Acheson suggested he consider New Haven, a city with a large population of students from Yale University that might offer great opportunities for the ambitious young man. He knew an elderly tailor in New Haven who might be willing to take him on. Bishop Acheson arranged the Jewish shidduch. Two years later Goldbaum & Press became J. Press Inc.
Dean Acheson, the Bishop’s son left Middletown as a young teenager to attend The Groton School the moment my grandfather began visiting various Eastern preparatory schools to custom tailor young boarding school student wardrobes prior to continuing their Yale patronage. The association became neighborly when Acheson became member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity practically next door to the J. Press store. Historical note: after graduating Yale ’15 he attended Harvard Law School and his first year roomed with fellow Eli classmate Cole Porter who notably dropped out to pursue Anything Goes.
The Acheson-Press affiliation graduated generationally from my grandfather to his son, my father, Paul Press. Dad became his New Haven Railroad chauffeur even as Secretary-of-State traveling to New Haven for meetings of the Yale Corporation that also included stopovers at the 262 York Street Squeeze store. Acheson’s try-ons also occurred at his State Department office in Washington. J. Press Trunk Show traveler Ray Jacobs, witty and endearing New Haven raconteur, was once measuring a suit for the underwear-clad statesman. Ray was going slowly and Acheson had an appointment coming. “Ray,” he said, “you’ll have to hurry up before my appointment comes. It really wouldn’t due for the Secretary-of-State to be caught with his pants down.”
An excerpt from Acheson Country, his son David Acheson’s family memoir is recounted in historian David McCullough’s introduction:
I saw my first authentic, flesh-and-blood personage of history—my first Great Man on the hoof, as it were—on a morning in New Haven, Connecticut, in the fall of 1953. I was a Yale undergraduate on my way to class, heading along York Street, alone and wrapped in my own undergraduate fog, when all at once, at the corner of where the high priced clothing stores were concentrated, out of the door of J. Press stepped Dean Acheson.
The new J. Press shop on 262 Elm Street around the corner from its former York Street location continues the well-dressed Acheson legacy of olden days when to quote his Harvard Law roommate, “A glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking.”
Anything still goes.
Reminiscing about Bulldog past and more specifically, Dean Acheson and musical raconteur Cole Porter, serves to reinforce the image of unmatched intelligence of certain Yale graduates.
Similarly, the unique good taste of JPress in offering such suit fabrics as covert cloth marks the special quality of its products.
Love this quintessentially American story!
Dean Acheson felt he could handle anything that would come along in the rough and tumble of politics with a bishop for a father and a distillery fortune mother in his heritage.
Just a great read about the history of your store. thanks I enjoy you products
Great reminisce! Read present at the creation! Where are all these giants,wise men now?