Hudson County & Bergen County Biographies





JOHN J. KENNEDY, glove manufacturer of West Hoboken, is an example of what one man can accomplish by his own indomitable efforts united with untiring industry, constant application, and original methods. Born and reared in the town, and educated in the local schools, he has paved his way to success and reputation through those channels which would appal a less courageous man, but which, nevertheless, are the only true means of laudable endeavor. His present position, as proprietor of the only glove manufactory of the kind in the country, is all the mroe noteworthy because it is the result of his personal labors, after years of difficulties and perseverance.

He is the oldest son of Andrew and Mary (Kelly) Kennedy, both natives of Ireland, and a grandson of James and Bridget Kennedy, who came from Ireland to this country when Andrew was about nine years old. They settled in Weehawken, N. J. Andrew Kennedy followed the trade of mason and bricklayer during his active life, and is now retired. His wife died May 6, 1897. Their children are John J., Thomas A., and Mary (Mrs. John Curran), all of West Hoboken, N. J. John J. Kennedy was born March 21, 1858, attended th public and parochial schools of his native town, and at the age of fifteen entered the office of the old Highland Sentinel. In West Hoboken, with a view of learning the printer's trade. After an experience of two years in this capacity and another year as a fisherman he turned his attention to fine glove cutting, associating himself with a Dane named Gustav Elgeti, who claimed to be the first man to learn the French glove cutting system in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mr. Kennedy was the first native of this country to learn French glove cutting, and, so far as can be ascertained, is the only man in the trade who has mastered and follows that excellent but little known system in its entirety.

In 1880 he engaged in the manufacture of fine gloves in West Hoboken, on Hill Street, near Palisade Avenue. He started on a very small scale, in one or two rooms, and with only two or three assistants, whom he was obliged to teach the system, as he has, in fact, all those who have ever entered his employ. Numerous difficulties, principally the introduction of his goods, were met, fought, and overcome, but not without indomitable perseeverence and constant endeavor on his part. Competition being keen and general, it was some time before he got his product into the chief centers of the glove trade, but when once it was there no scheming nor maneuvering by rival manufacturers could prevent its instant success. In 1883 he invented and patented a re-inforcement for the opeining slit which proved at once valuable, practical, and economical, and in 1890 he obtained another patent which has become famous as the Kennedy patent cut glove.

Mr. Kennedy steadily overcame all obstacles, numerous though they were, and successfully introduced his gloves into every State and territory in the Union, where they now have a very high reputation, selling side by side with the most celebrated makes in the world. He employs about eighty people and manufactures about $60,000 worth of fine street and driving gloves annually. The product is all sold through Wilson Brothers, of New York, Chicago, and Paris, the largest dealers in men's furnishings in the world. Mr. Kennedy has revolutionized the glove business, both in manufaturing and in selling. His success is due entirely to the genuine merit of his goods, together with his peraon lefforts and tact in placing them before the public. One point of superiority which distinguishes his gloves is the fingers, which are straight and of equal length. In 1883 he originated a picture of two elephants pulling a glove, typifying strength, which has been widely copied by clothing manufacturers and others, though often in different designs. The idea was his.

One can regard Mr. Kennedy's success only with feelings of respect and wonder, for his is one of those very few instances where a man, imbued with a single idea, steadily and persistently hews to the line and eventually achieves the goal of his ambitions. His whole life has been spent in the town of his birth. His labors have been directed toward one object - the manufacture of the best gloves in the market. And the wonderful result of his efforts is seen in his present factory, a large and finely equipped brick building on or near the spot where he made his first start, nearly twenty years ago, and very near the home in which he was born and reared. No man is worthy of more respect than he who carves out his own fortune, unaided save by his hands and brain, and this Mr. Kennedy has done. He stands among the leading glove manufacturers in this country. He has devoted himself strictly to business, to the exclusion of all political or public preferment, and belongs only to St. Michael's Catholic Church, the Holy Name Society, and Palisade Council, No. 387, Knights of Columbus. The object of the Holy Name Society is to suppress swearing. He takes a deep interest, however, in the affairs of his town and county, and never fails to bear the responsibilities of a progressive, patriotic citizen.

Mr. Kennedy was married June 24, 1885, to Nellie, daughter of John and Julin Lucey, of Jersey City Heights, N. J. Of their nine children two died in infacny; the others are John, Mary, Ellen, Julin, Alice, Andrew, and Salome.

Source: Genealogical History of Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey, Editor, Cornelius Burnham Harvey, The New Jersey Genealogical Publishing Company, 1900, page 176-178.

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