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My interest increased when I saw the names "Straiton and Storm" on the side of the box, for I knew those names played a part in Bayside's history in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. The largest cigar company at the time began right here in Bayside on the corner of Bell Boulevard and 43rd Avenue. Frederick Storm, its founder, was a Bayside resident who left his mark upon this community as businessman, banker, builder and developer, nurseryman and eventually as congressman.Storm was known for so many enterprises, it is hard to know where to begin. Born in Alsace Lorraine on July 2, 1844, he was brought to America in 1845. When he was only 21, he started the Straiton and Storm Tobacco Company in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. It was to become the largest cigar factory in America by the 1870s. However, it also produced cigars under the name "Owl Commercial Company," as my old box indicated. Needless to say, I emptied out its flotsam and jetsam contents and gave it the place it deserves. As a collectible it is a scarce and fairly valuable find. One of the early Straiton and Storm wooden boxes designed for the Christmas season is described and pictured in the collection of the National Cigar Museum.Storm also owned Hillbright Greenhouses selling seeds, which he ordered from the J.M. Thornburn Co., established in 1802 and considered the leading seed house in America at the time. The Bayside Historical Society has a copy of the ad, which shows that Storm's business also specialized in kitchen gardens and flowerbeds and sold seed to Long Island's farmers.Later, Frederick Storm became a builder and developer and bought a large tract of land beginning at Bell Boulevard and developing south of the LIRR tracks and east of Bell Boulevard. Among his other contributions to the area's growth was starting the first private bank in Bayside. It was to become the first "National" bank in Queens County.Frederick Storm donated the land on which the now unfortunately absent Women's Club once stood. He did this in honor of his wife, the former Annie Lawrence Bell, who was an active member of that organization.As noteworthy as his business career was his role in politics. In 1894 he served as a member of the New York State Constitutional Convention and in 1896 he became a New York state assemblyman. By 1900 he had become a U.S. congressman.The Storm family residence at 221st Street and 43rd Avenue was named "Hillbright" and was owned by the family for 85 years. Frederick Storm died in the 1930s and is buried in Flushing Cemetery.Joan Brown Wettingfeld is a historian and free-lance writer.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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