Old Setauket Industries

Footnotes to Long Island History

Old Setauket Industries


Thomas R. Bayles


Back in 1886 the factory of the L. B. Smith Rubber Co. was a flourishing industry in Setauket, with about 700 employees, and a weekly payroll of $4,500 which was a lot of money in those days, and was all spent in Setauket and Port Jefferson.  This brought great prosperity to both villages.

The original factory building was formerly the old Nunn’s piano factory, and later, the Long Island Rubber Co., which was a failure and brought loss to hundreds of stockholders.  It was reorganized as the L. B. Smith Rubber Co. under the management of J. W. and Edwin Elberson, young men of tireless energy and enthusiasm, and became very successful.

The original building was enlarged several times until the big five and six story brick structures covered about three acres of ground.  In the basement the huge machines for grinding the rubber worked with a ceaseless roar, while the work of stamping, cutting, eyeleting and finishing was performed in the upper floors.  A five hundred horsepower engine furnished power for the factory operations.

As the business grew a large brick building was built in the valley half a mile east of the main buildings.  A three hundred horse power engine was installed here and much of the rubber ground and prepared for use.  Another building contained the packing and shipping department, and a lumber mill where nine thousand feet of boards were made into packing boxes daily.

Over 9,000 pairs of boots and shoes were turned out daily in 1886 and the manufacture of lawn tennis shoes was at its height then.  Mr. Elberson established a factory in Brooklyn, where 150 people were employed in cutting out and sewing the canvas uppers for these tennis shoes.  Another factory for this work was located at Northport, and still another one at Greenport.  These uppers were shipped to Setauket where they were eyeleted and the rubber soles put on.

Mr. Elberson also established a factory at Port Jefferson for making leather shoes, which employed about 60 people.  The output of all these factories amounted to over a million and a half dollars annually.  

The Rubber Company was a good customer of Long Island Rail Road Co., and an average of a car a day of the finished products and two cars a day of raw materials were shipped over their line, also about 7,000 tons of coal a year.

The competition in this line was stiff, and the company considered they were doing well if they made a profit of a cent and a half on a pair of rubbers, and many times it was less than that.

Mr. Elberson erected six double tenement houses for employees near the factory and bought the Ridgeway farm in 1888.  He planned to open a road through to the Stony Brook road and open it up for building lots.

This successful enterprise owed its growth to the Elberson brothers, who bought the property of L. B. Smith several years before this for $50,000 and went in debt for the whole amount, which within a few years they paid off and also put back $300,000 in new buildings and machinery.

The material from which this article has been written appeared in a local newspaper on April 28, 1888 and at that time the company held a contract with Fargo & Co. of Chicago for their entire output, and they were increasing production as fast as possible.  The writer concluded his article; “That it may continue to grow as it has in the past five years and bring greater prosperity than ever to the residents of Setauket and Port Jefferson is the wish of everyone.”

            The Setauket news in the Port Jefferson Times for Nov. 27, 1893, carried the following paragraph.  “The Setauket rubber factory is now manufacturing and shipping a larger amount of boots and shoes than ever before.  Over 400 cases of goods are shipped out daily from the depot.  They are consigned to various sections in the west and south.”

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