The Rubber Men of College Point


    College Point has always been a rubber town. The village in northwest Queens, still very much isolated by the Whitestone Expressway and the old Flushing Airport grounds, was founded by German immigrant Conrad Poppenhusen, who received a patent from Charles Goodyear to produce rubber products and settled into the area in the Civil War era to build a factory, very much like his contemporary, piano manufacturer Henry Steinway. Like Steinway, Poppenhusen formed a company town surrounding his works, combining two forgotten smaller villages, Flammersburg and Strattonport. He founded a railroad to bering workers from the East River ferries to College Point (parts of it are now included in the Long Island Rail Road) as well as the town’s cultural center, the Poppenhusen Institute, which continues its work today.


    Poppenhusen’s success attracted other similar manufacturers to the area. The town also contained may ornamental metal works and ribbon factories employing hundreds from the area. The Isaak B. Kleinert Rubber Works building, 20th Avenue and 127th Street, was among many rubber factories in College Point.  In 1869, Kleinert invented “dress shields” which, in the era before roll-on deodorant, were worn under the arms to prevent embarrassing stains on hot summer days. The company also introduced the shower cap and the shower curtain.


    Kleinert is still around, and still making dress shields, antiperspirants and sweatproof products, though the company is presently based in Elba, Alabama.


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