As one of the oldest cities in America, Boston has reinvented itself several times over the centuries. Between its founding as a port city and its current reputation as an academic and tech innovation hub, Boston was an industrial manufacturing powerhouse. For nearly a century (1884-1981), Cogo Labs' Cambridge home in One Kendall Square was dominated by a single factory complex: the Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Company. Already producing a million feet of hose per year by 1893, they were truly a titan of manufacturing with a state-of-the-art facility. The company weathered economic depression, the changing state of industrial manufacturing, and two World Wars.

An old map of the Kendall Square area we have in the office, with Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Co located bottom-center and the old Broad Canal bottom-right.

Firehose, one of Boston Woven Hose's key products, is a solution to a problem that has plagued crowded cities for millennia. Cambridge is right on the ocean, and waterways criss-cross the city in many places (including the now-filled Broad Canal that ran parallel to Broadway, right up to One Kendall Square), but close proximity to these water resources hasn't completely shielded Boston from fire: in the 12 hours before it was contained, the Great Fire of Boston of 1872 burned through 62 acres and 776 buildings downtown.

The main firefighting challenge wasn't volume or access, but the effective utilization of water: the horses that pulled wagons and pumps had been crippled by illness, and the leaky, poorly-maintained pipe system couldn't keep enough water pressure to reach upper stories. All the water in the Charles River can't help you put out a fire if it's still in the Charles. In the past, ad-hoc bucket brigades would relay individual pails of water to dish onto fires, but it was far from an optimal tactic. Hoses are a much more elegant, efficient, and effective way to channel water and take advantage of this abundant firefighting resource.

Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Co's hose catalog

After Cambridge's business shifted away from industrial manufacturing, Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Co.'s factory space, like many former factories and warehouses, began its successful afterlife as a cradle for startups. The large, flexible space is well-suited for rapidly-growing companies, and industrial brick-steel-and-wood architecture has become very trendy in the tech startup world. Kendall Square these days is still a major business hub, but the nature of that business has changed dramatically.

Today, Cogo Labs is running a very different type of business than Boston Woven Hose's 19th-century founders could have envisioned. Our raw materials and products move in and out through wires, not canal barges, and you'll probably see more MacBooks than machinery on our 100k ft2 of old factory floor these days. Nevertheless, we've carried on the innovation mentality, and we value where we've been as much as where we're going.