History and Memorabilia | Erie Pennsylvania

The History of the City and County of Erie, Pennsylvania.

Lake Erie Gale of 1811

It was September 1811 and Jacob Butler was headed to Sandusky, Ohio as the new Indian Agent. When he arrived in Buffalo, he found it to be a small town of 40-50 houses and little activity. There were but a few ships in the harbor. The Catherine was a new schooner that had set sail the day before, but was now anchored nine miles up the Canadian shore at Point Ebenew. As it had set sail, it encountered a west forcing it to seek shelter. Seeing an opportunity to avoid the long trip around the lake, he crossed the Niagara River and with the help of a guide came upon the ship at anchor after two hours. Soon they were underway with a steady breeze pushing them towards Sandusky.

The ship was packed and every possible space in which a person could find repose was occupied. All night they traveled westward, the ship pushed by the wind and the schooner rocking from side to side. With so many people, so closely packed, many became nauseous. The next day, they traveled westward. As night fell on their second day of travel, they expected to see Sandusky in the morning. Everyone had just settled down for the night, when a commotion arose and a gale blew out of the southwest, nearly tipping the vessel over. If the schooner had not been ‘hove to’ and resting quietly, it would have been capsized. (Without shore lights, lighthouse, or modern navigation equipment, Captains would ‘heave to’ at night if they anticipated approaching land/harbor soon. This prevented them from running aground in the dark.)

Quickly the crew made the Catherine ready for the storm and let her drift before the winds. As daylight came, the captain was able to get his ship behind Presque Isle at Erie, where they rode out the storm for the next 24 hours. The winds persisted so fiercely that everything on deck was swept clear. The crew and passengers remained below deck in the dark, their supply of food gone. On the fourth day of his journey, the gale ended and they were able to resupply from shore. Setting sail for Sandusky, the hope was to make harbor by dark. Once again a gale of lesser force sprang up and pushed the vessel back to Presque Isle. Here, many of the passengers left the ship and hired a wagon for the two-week overland trip. On their next attempt to reach Sandusky, the Catherine made harbor without incident.
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Continental Rubber

Rubber was chartered in August of 1903 in Pennsylvania and started operation on November 26, 1903, in the same factory where the Black Manufacturing Company made the Tribune bicycle at 19th and Liberty Street in Erie. Theron R. Palmer was the founder of the company, President and General Manager. Alex Jarecki was Vice President and Charles S. Coleman was Treasurer, Charles Jarecki served as Secretary. Alex Jarecki was also the superintendent of the Jarecki Manufacturing Company which was co-founded by Charles Jarecki. Mr. Palmer had founded the plant location at 19th and Liberty Streets. The new plant, last occupied by the Tribune Bicycle Works, consisted of four large brick and stone buildings with a floor space of approximately 115,000 square feet, within four years, all the original buildings were occupied by new machinery and other production facilities to meet the ever-growing demand for Continental tires, tubes, hose and other rubber products.

From the beginning, Continental was organized to produce bicycle tires and tubes, industrial hose and various calendared and molded rubber products. It was the bicycle tire, however, that was to provide the vehicle of rapid company progress in those early years.

Within a few short years, Continental bicycle tires under the trade name Vitalic were accepted as the standard of quality not only in the United States but throughout the world. When the nation mobilized for war in 1917, the company was equipped and staffed to take on an important part in the war effort. Tires, tubes, gas masks and scores of other rubber products for the armed forces were turned out as Continental greatly augmented staff worked 'round the clock, seven days a week.

By 1914, it became apparent that still greater plant capacity was needed to keep pace with increasing sales. In that year, a three-story brick building known as Number 6 was erected. In 1923, an addition was made to Number 6 which extended it a full block from Plum to Liberty Streets. The new building almost doubled the manufacturing area.

The workers went on strike on April 2, 1941. Officials of the Continental Rubber Works and the leaders of the United Rubber Workers (Congress of Industrial Organizations) union were asked to meet a mediation board to try to end what had become a five week old tie up of the plant, which was making synthetic rubber for airplane engines at the time. The union asked for wage increases, a union shop, and vacations with pay, for the plant’s 840 employees. When the Continental Rubber Works was reopened, with 100 men returning to their jobs, a seven cents an hour wage increase was negotiated and accepted at a Defense Mediation Board hearing. Of the 700 workers whom went on strike, asking for a 10 cents an hour increase, more than 300 of them were employed on other jobs. People who worked at Continental Rubber Works for 35 to 40 years included: Joseph H. Bohrer, John Brutcher, James Ford, Joseph Hagmann, Dr. Paul H. Henkel, John Kosobucki, H. Edward Mehl, Clacy McNary, Anton Nowak, Delmar Shanks and Rolla Sturgeon.

Erie Forge & Steel bought Continental Rubber Works in 1961, and then sold the company to Continental Copper & Steel Industries, Inc in 1963. Five hundred workers at Continental Rubber were on strike from July 1 to September 13, 1963. After the plant closed a rental hall called the Continental Ballroom operated in the eighties and nineties in a portion of the old Rubber Works on the northeast corner of West 20th and Plum Streets. Today the Triangle Technical school occupies the site.
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