Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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August 12, 2010

Andover Stories: Andover company that started as Tyer Rubber produced Converse shoes, NHL pucks

In 1856, English emigrant Henry G. Tyer established the Tyer Rubber Company and over the next 100 years or so, produced a vast array of products ranging from rubber cement and shoes, to larger products like gas masks and automobile tires. In the process, the Tyer family left a lasting legacy - which still serves Andover today.

Born near London, England in 1812, Henry moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey as a young man and got involved in the rubber business that was still in its infancy. Tyer took out several patents that endured well into the 20th century. He was one of the first to experiment with zinc oxide as an additive, which allowed for the manufacture of a durable white rubber. This new rubber was recognized as having great value in the production of medical sundries like rubber stoppers at the top of syringes. His next contrivance would allow for the huge expansion of his company.

Tyer patented his invention for rubber shoes, called "Compos," and established his first site in Ballardvale. Two years later he moved to North Main Street. Today, the Andover Public Safety Center occupies the site. Over the next few years, Tyer began to manufacture many different rubber products. By the end of the 19th century, the Main Street facility's 150 employees were churning out hot water bottles, crutch tips, nipples and bulbs, mainly for the pharmaceutical industry. The shoe business remained at the forefront though.

Henry Tyer died in 1880 and in 1882, his son Horace became president of the company. Under the direction of the younger Tyer, the company expanded both its inventory and manufacturing capabilities. Built in 1912, a new site on Railroad Street began to produce tires for the infant automotive industry. It would do so until the mid-1920s, when it switched to other products. During World War I, the company made gas masks for Allied troops in Europe. During both World War II and the Korean War, the company made a vast array of products from rubber boats to raincoats and of course, footwear.

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