Every time I use the restroom in the Blanchard House, I see this photograph hanging on the wall, among other framed black-and-whites. I’ve always wondered what’s happening in this picture: why are they carrying a hose and a tennis racket?
This is a photo from the Tyer Rubber Company fashion show, probably held circa 1950. They are modeling just a few of the hundreds of rubber items the company produced, including shoes, outdoor equipment, and sports supplies.
Henry G. Tyer, founder of the company, experimented with zinc oxide to patent a white rubber. He started his business in 1856 by making shoes. The factory was first located in Ballardvale, but it moved to North Main Street two years later. 150 employees made everything from water bottles to pharmaceutical supplies. After Henry’s death in 1880, his son Horace became president of the company in 1882. In 1912, Horace opened a new location on Railroad Street to make tires for the growing automobile industry. During WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, Tyer Rubber produced gas masks, rain jackets, and boots for the soldiers.
In 1961, Converse Shoes purchased the company and used it primarily for their shoes. Converse also produced hockey pucks for the NHL for a long time. Sadly, in 1977, Converse closed the factory on Railroad Street to cut costs. In 1978, however, a group of former workers bought the building and produced rubber rolls for a number of years. The smaller company didn’t last very long, and it was bought by an English company who moved the business to New Hampshire.
Now the old rubber building houses Andover residents in the Andover Commons, with the smoke stacks still standing high on the roof.
Andover Stories to the rescue again: