Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Continental Rubber Works 19th and Liberty Street Erie PA

Continental Rubber Works, 19th and Liberty St., Erie PA. From 50th anniversary booklet. The building along West 20th Street still stands, as does the building on the left, 2000 Liberty St., which is now Triangle Tech.
Continental Rubber Works started operation on November 26, 1903 in the same factory where the Black Manufacturing Company made the Tribune bicycle on 19th and Liberty Street. Click here to read more about Black Mfg. Co. 

Continental Rubber was chartered in August 1903 in Pennsylvania. Theron R. Palmer, founder of the company, was President and General Manager. Alex Jarecki was Vice President, Charles S. Coleman was Treasurer and Charles Jarecki served as Secretary. (Alex Jarecki was also the superintendent of the Jarecki Manufacturing Co., which was co-founded by Charles Jarecki. Learn more about Jarecki's here. 

"Mr. Palmer had found an ideal plant location at 19th and Liberty Streets. The new plant, formerly 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 an important part in the fight to 'save democracy.' Tires, tubes, gas masks and scores of other rubber products for the armed forces were turned out as Continental's 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." -Fifty Years of Service booklet.

The booklet failed to mention that workers went on strike April 2, 1941. "Officials of the Continental Rubber Works' Erie, PA, and of United Rubber Workers (CIO) union were asked to meet a mediation board panel here Friday to try and end the five week old tie up of the plant, which was making synthetic rubber for airplane engines. The union asked wage increases, a union shop, and vacations with pay, for the 840 plant employees."-Ellensburg Daily Record, Wednesday, May 7, 1941.

"The Continental Rubber Works...was reopened today with 100 men returning to their jobs. A seven cents an hour wage increase was negotiated at a Defense Mediation Board hearing. Of the 700 workers who went on strike, asking a 10 cents an hour increase, more than 300 are employed on other jobs, it was said." -Pittsburgh Press, May 14, 1941,

When the anniversary booklet was printed in 1953, John Beecher and Rose Pongratz had worked for Continental Rubber Works for 45 to 50 years each.

Pasquale DiMarco, Lena Hartline, F. R. McCarty and Fred Wolf had worked for the company for 40 to 45 years each.

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 Continental Rubber to Continental Copper & Steel Industries, Inc in 1963. The Liberty Street plant closed many years ago.

Five hundred workers at Continental Rubber were on strike from July 1 to September 13, 1963.

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.

Enjoy more historical facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome. Lots of history at this Liberty Street location.

    2. Debbi,didn't they have one of the most violet strikes in the early 60's?I remember walking home from Columbus school when I was about six years old .right in front of Hectors cafe the horse mounted state police charging into the crowd of striker and beating the hell out of them with clubs and arresting many of them.I will never forget that for the rest of my life.Can you elaborate on that?

    3. my dad worked at Continental Rubber Works in 1946 and retired in the early 1960's. He was an inspector and told me how hot it was in there and how they would find these large "rubber beetles" in the rubber sent to them to mold. I remember that he and some of the fellas' at work made a mold and made rubber elephants for their kids. I loved them but after a month or two, they were told they couldn't do that but I had a red and a black elephant and played with them for a long time.

  2. My grandfather worked here during the war. He was a farmer from Girard and i remember him telling me stories about the factory. I didnt know they had a ball room. Is the building still around?

  3. My grandmother worked there during WW2 and I was wondering if the company records exist/are available for genealogical purposes. No more than one would get these days if you called to check resume references... Like the years worked and job title for instance?

  4. Hi Debbie, you helped me research when my husband and I were in Erie in July. Contacted a retiree from the Continental who remembered my Dad Joe Luciano who was union president during the early formation of the union..He told me some very interesting stories about the continental and the strikes that went on there. We talked about the 1941 strike in particular and how hard they fought for the 7 cent an hour raise. His personal insight was great! alot more info than what was printed in the article.Thank you again for your help.We'll stop back and see you the next time we're in town.

  5. I worked at Continental for about one year when I got out of the Air Force in 1966. Many of the employees spent their entire working life there. I remember that they made fire hoses, rubber mallets, and tarp straps. These were rubber straps with "S" hooks on each end to hold canvas tarps on an open bodied truck. Another interesting story of one of the industries that were so common in our area.

  6. My Uncle Mike worked there, in the sixties he put a lot of hours in. I can't remember him ever working any place else.

  7. My father, Joe Baniszewski, worked at Continental Rubber Company most of his adult life. I don't know when he started there but he was born in 1907 and worked there before joining the Army in 1941 and after his discharge in 1944. He retired in the early 1970s and was a foreman in the Hose Department for many years before he retired. Most people knew him as "Joe Bananas." I worked there in the summer of 1969 after my first year at Pitt, and again in the summer of 1971 after my third year. My brother John also worked during summer vacation from Michigan State. Most of the times I worked in the basement Press Department, operating hydraulic presses that made vulcanized rubber products such as the "S" shaped tarp straps that are referred to by Anonymous in the January 2015 post above. The Press Department was very hot because of the steam-heated presses and an operator had to reach into the presses when they opened to remove the finished items. I learned a lot about my Dad while working at Continental, it was apparent to me that he had earned the respect and trust of his co-workers and managers. It was a hard job, he seldom missed a day's work, but he and my Mom were able to build a house, put two kids through college, and have a good life in Erie. Continental Rubber was an essential part of my family's story. Joe Baniszewski, Baltimore MD