Steam is in our DNA
BY MICHAEL PINKUS
Whether you realize it or not, steam plays a big role in our daily lives. It heats buildings, cooks our food, removes wrinkles from our clothes, and sterilizes critical equipment in hospitals.
Steam bathing offers a surprising variety of potential health and wellness benefits, from possibly reducing cold- and allergy-like symptoms to cleansing skin to soothing sore muscles.
One local expert on all things steam is my company, Long Island City-based Sussman Automatic. Widely known today for producing technologically advanced steam shower generators and accessories under the MrSteam brand, Sussman Automatic is the world’s largest manufacturer of electric steam boilers.
The privately held company can trace its history back to 1917, when Arthur Sussman designed the world’s first electric steam iron for New York’s garment industry.
Before Sussman’s innovation, garment industry workers had two unwieldy options for removing wrinkles from new clothing. The first was a heavy piece of metal or stone called a “sad iron” that required constant reheating in a fire or stove.
The other, a “charcoal iron,” was heated with burning coals held in a small box inside the iron.
Sussman invented the first electrostatically powered industrial steam iron, which could supply an endless amount of steam. To produce his new industrial steam irons, Sussman founded the Automatic Steam Corporation, which would eventually become Sussman Automatic.
By the middle of the 20th century, as changes in the garment industry reduced the market for industrial steam irons, Sussman Automatic reinvented itself to begin manufacturing a variety of new steam-generating equipment.
Soon the company was supplying steam power in shipyards for the US Navy and producing innovative new steam boilers and generators for commercial heating. By the mid-1950s, the Manhattan-based company had expanded around the world.
The metamorphosis of Sussman Automatic then continued with the launch of MrSteam in 1960 to produce innovative boilers for both commercial and residential steam showers.
The brainchild of then-president Jay Wilsker, this new division of the company was created with a goal of bringing the wellness benefits of steam bathing to the home.
Bucking the trend of off-shore manufacturing, MrSteam and Sussman Automatic relocated to a new 65,000-square-foot factory in Long Island City in 1969. Today the industrial boilers and the complete line of MrSteam commercial and residential steam generators are still designed, engineered and assembled there.
This facility is also home to the company’s corporate offices, bringing the total number of employees in Queens to about 60. A West Coast sales and service operation of MrSteam opened in the 1980s.
This classic New York City success story was possible because Sussman Automatic was – and continues to be – ready and able to reinvent itself, always looking to adapt to new market demands and opportunities. Today our nimble company is on a growth spurt with demand for our range of products, from highly specialized commercial steam boilers to industry-first touchscreen steam shower controls.
With steam expertise embedded in our DNA, Sussman Automatic is a growing company that continues to drive new innovations in Queens.
Michael Pinkus is president of Sussman Automatic and MrSteam.