Monsey Memories: The History of Dexter Folder Co. in Pearl River

Monsey Memories: The History of Dexter Folder Co. in Pearl River

Yitzy Fried

Last week, we brought you some details about the Dexter Folder Company which revolutionized the way newspapers and books were folded and manufactured. This week, we revisit the story of Dexter Folder and the impact that its first family had on Pearl River, derived from an article in The Journal News.

“Dexter and Griffith families have left an indelible mark. Talbot Dexter built the business that provided the pulse of Pearl River. His nephew, Thomas A. Dexter, worked his way from modest beginnings to become one of the world’s leading postcard manufacturers. Thomas Dexter’s niece, the former Aline Griffith, became actual royalty when she married a Spanish nobleman. Yet, the family’s Rockland County legacy has faded with the passage of time.

“There are few reminders. The former headquarters of Talbot Dexters’s operation, the Dexter Folder Co., sits beside the NJ Transit commuter railroad tracks near Central Avenue in Pearl River.

There are ball fields bearing the Dexter name, which Thomas Dexter funded. Children Park, operated by the town of Ramapo near Pascack Road and the New Jersey border, is often referred to incorrectly as Dexter Park.

“A Pearl River residential street named Dexter Avenue on the west side of Route 304 and another named Griffith Place off South William Street are testaments to the real-estate prowess of Thomas Dexter's brother-in-law and nephew. But these names and places only hint at the family's rich and varied experiences.

“Talbot Dexter arrived in Pearl River around 1890. Dexter held patents on machines he had invented while printing newspapers in Iowa. His devices folded paper automatically, eliminating the need for human labor. With his brother, Thomas C. Dexter, as salesman and minority partner,

“Talbot built the Dexter Folder Co. The business eventually made many different parts for printing presses, including paper feeders. The company's plant was central to Pearl River in more than just location. The business operated a meeting hall that was used for dances, minstrel shows, and other social functions. Dexter Folder sponsored sports teams and even had its own marching band.

“Both brothers died about 1930, but Talbot's son-in-law, William Griffith Sr., stayed on as comptroller under the new management.

“Griffith's son, Mark Griffith Sr., was about eight years old in 1938 when, he said, I became aware that the whole town really functioned according to the Dexter Folder Co. The company's 7 a.m. whistle marked the start of the workday; the noon and 1 p.m. whistles bracketed lunchtime, and the 5 p.m. whistle announced the end of the cycle.

We got to time a lot of things in town by those whistles, Mark Griffith Sr. said. Children who went to work or play after school were often expected home by the plant's final blast.”

“Mark Griffith Sr. professes to be comfortable with the station his clan holds today. As we look to find the importance of the Dexter family in Pearl River, or the Griffith family, whatever we had, it's past. ‘We're in a new era now.

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