WILKOFF. Luck and success are not so closely
allied as many people suppose. When a man is
apparently lucky his good fortune is usually attributable to
efforts on his part which are not known to the general
This is the opinion of the majority of men who have won
their own way in the world. Such a man is Mr.
Samuel Wilkoff, of Youngstown, Ohio, who was born in
Alitta, Suwalki, Guberne, Russia, in 1862, the son of a
prominent Rabbi and Shochet.
At the age of thirty-seven, Mr. Wilkoff decided
to come to America, and landed in this country with but one
cent in his pocket. He peddled tinware for three
months, and then went to Beaver Falls, Pa., where he at last
was able to buy a horse an wagon and continue peddling on a
larger scale. Then followed a year in Barberton,
Kans., where he tried his hand at farming, but decided that
he did not want to make this his life work. He
returned to Beaver Falls and peddled junk for three years,
going from there to Akron, where he started to scrap iron
yard in partnership with his brother and a Mr. Charles
Wisbutsky. After eight months Mr. Wilkoff
bought over the interest of Mr. Wisbutsky, and
continued the yard fro thirteen years. He then went to
Youngstown, and in partnership with his brother operated a
yard under the firm name of Wilkoff Brothers.
Later he organized a company, composed of his brothers
William and Dave and his son Isaac, where
they are at the present item doing a fine business.
One year after Mr. Wilkoff arrived in America he
was married to Miss Wilkoff arrived in America he was
married to Miss wilkowsky of Beaver Falls, Pa., and
they have four children, two sons and two daughters.
One of the sons is in business with his father, and a
daughter is attending Beaver Falls College.
Mr. Wilkoff is a member of Hungarian Schule, was
formerly Vice-president of Manuel Schule, and Western Star,
and former Treasurer of O. B. A. He is very charitable
and subscribes to all worthy institutions.
Source: Prominent Jewish Americans -
S. B. Goodkind,
American Hebrew Publishing Co., Toledo, Ohio - Page 322
WILKOFF. This is the story of a man who was
always doing something, and whatever he did he did in a big
way; of a man who went through life undaunted and always
remained true to himself; a man who never gave up an attempt
if he saw that he was right; a man who, through foreign born
and comparatively mature when he landed on these shores,
became the head of a remarkable and new industry; whose
shining example one cannot but wish to emulate, and whose
persistent, hard work and a spirit of "go to it" are so
remarkable and so unusual. To read of the
accomplishments of William Wilkoff is like recalling
to mind again the exploits of mediaevel knights, who fought
a battalion of devils, but through obstacles stood in their
way and though the work was hard and reward by no means
certain, still in the end they won their laurel-crown,
simply because they would not give up.
He was born on Sept. 14th, 1864, at Alita, Government
of Suvalk, Russia, the son of Judah and Lippe Wilkofsky,
both since deceased. His father was a scholar and
Shochet and the traditions of the family were rabbinical.
One of his uncles was also a Shochet, so that it seemed most
natural that the subject of our sketch should follow the
same vocation. But fates decreed otherwise.
In 1882 the young Russian immigrant landed in New York.
He was eighteen years old and escaped from the country that
gave him no opportunity for developing his natural talents,
hoping that in this land of opportunity he would be finally
able to secure a foothold and establish himself in life.
The first job he found was work on a railroad in the
vicinity of Pittsburgh at $1.50 per day. Her
considered this a very munificent wage and felt thrills of
delight at being able to make so much money. A little
later, however, he exchanged this occupation for that of a
peddler, selling forks and knives and then dry goods in the
many country towns around Pittsburgh. Soon afterwards
he bought a team and a horse and started collecting and
selling rags. In 1886 he went to Kansas with a
brother, and the two young men attempted to become farmers.
The venture did not prove a success, and they returned to
Pittsburgh. They went to peddling again, this time to
Beaver Falls, Pa., where, after two years, they saved about
$1,000, which enabled the brothers to go into the junk
business. The business had a steady development and
some twenty years ago it was removed to Youngstown, the city
of iron and steel.
Youngstown is a remarkable community, being the mining
center of the iron and steel industry, the principal site of
some of the largest foundries in the country, and rapidly
grown city which owes everything to its natural location,
and is no place for idlers or people who are anxious to lead
a life of pleasure, but is the city of the hard worker, the
man of brain and industry, the man of energy and diligence.
Mr. Wilkoff found the place congenial for his type of
character and with the wonted energy the Wilkoff
Company was started, a remarkable concern, manufacturing
iron and steel, and another, The Youngstown Steel Car
Company, a concern manufacturing industrial cars.
Mr. William Wilkoff is the President of both
corporations, the two brothers being members of the firm.
Mr. Wilkoff is one of the incorporators of the
Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, capitalized at
$50,000,000 The original capital was but $600,000, but
the rapid growth of the firm necessitated an enlargement of
its activities so that the capital was increased. For
some time Mr. Wilkoff served as a director of this
corporation, but recently he gave it up, being two much
taken up by the other industrial concerns over which he
Mr. Wilkoff is proud of the fact that the
Russian Jew has risen so high in American Jewry. He is
a typical instance of the enterprising spirit of the Russian
Jew with his indomitable and ever-striving ambition.
It is this ambition that enabled him to suffer want and
privation in the dreary days of his stay at Beaver Falls,
and it is this ambition that placed him so high in the
business and social life of Youngstown.
Mr. Wilkoff is by no means satisfied with a mere
business success. He strove to fit himself into the
communal life of Youngstown, and is an active member of many
charitable organizations. True, he never found time to
hold office in any of the innumerable societies and lodges
to which he belongs, but wherever he comes, he is warmly
welcomed and universally admired and esteemed. Mr.
Wilkoff is a member of the Rodeph Sholom Congregation;
he is not a reformer, but a liberal Orthodox, believing as
he does that it would be much better for the younger
generation to have Reform Judaism that to have nothing.
He himself has had a Jewish religious training of the
highest possible type and he was a Yeshiba Bochur in "the
On Jan. 16, 1894, he was married to Fannie Cohen,
born in Cleveland, Ohio. there are three sons, of whom
the oldest, Louis, is married; Ralph is a
student at the Culver Military Academy at Culver, Ind., and
Arthur attends school. Mr. Wilkoff is a
very active charity worker, sharing with her husband his
interest in communal work and being a member of every
organization to which he belongs.
Mr. Wilkoff looks young for his age and his
presence radiates a spirit of confidence and self-possession
and success, which he attributes largely to hard work and
absolute honesty in all his dealings with others.
Source: Prominent Jewish Americans -
S. B. Goodkind,
American Hebrew Publishing Co., Toledo, Ohio - Page 323