Robert Gair, a Scottish-born immigrant, invented the folding carton in 1890 in Brooklyn. He was a printer and paper bag maker in the 1870s. He invented the paperboard folding carton by accident: a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut the bag. Gair found that by cutting and creasing paperboard in one operation, he could make prefabricated cartons. He ultimately got into the corrugated fiberboard shipping container business in the 1900s.
Before cardboard, he served in the Civil War and returned to NYC to open a paper factory on Reade Street in Manhattan. He moved to Brooklyn after his cardboard became popular and he needed more room and better shipping options via boat.
Around 1904, Gair met the engineers from the newly formed Turner Construction Company and saw possibilities in the use of concrete. The engineers persuaded Gair to adopt the new concrete system and eventually built 10 buildings in the area including the famous Clock Tower in DUMBO. Many buildings in the area still bear his name between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The old factories’ distinctive concrete facades have written in stone: ”Robert Gair Company,” ”Gair Bvilding No. 6,” ”Gair Building.”
In 1926, the Gair Company moved to Piermont, N.Y., in Rockland County, and the next year its Robert Gair died at age 88. The Brooklyn Real Estate was handled by his son and offered as factory space to various companies.
All the Gair buildings are currently residential.