Robert Gair

DUMBO, History

55 Washington Street in 1907, courtesy of the Skyscaper Museum

New Yorkers are known for their innovative thinking: Inventions like Scrabble, credit cards, and even Baked Alaska all came from local creators. A little less exciting, but still a crucial contraption, the cardboard box was also invented in New York City. Like many discoveries, the box came to be only after a careless mistake. Scottish-born entrepreneur Robert Gair owned a paper bag factory on Reade Street in Manhattan. One day in 1879, a pressman accidentally cut through thousands of small seed bags, instead of pressing them. Following the accident, Gair, who moved headquarters to Dumbo, developed a method for the mass production of cardboard boxes and later supplied major companies like Kellogg and Nabisco.

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