Our 140 Years of History

Upon hearing our company name, many people ask us, “Were Gustavo and Preston two individuals?”

In 1881, Gustavo Preston founded the business in Boston, which still bears his name. Mr. Preston was the son of a “State of Maine Yankee” who was Consul of the United States to Puerto Rico when the island was a Spanish possession. His mother was the daughter of an old Spanish family on the island, who named him “Gustavo”, the Spanish equivalent of Gustave and Gustavus. Gustavo’s father sent him to the Blue Hill School in Maine, where he received his education.

Mr. Preston first acted as an agent for a producer of Malaga grapes in Spain and then for a Puerto Rican manufacturer of those long, black, cooked dry, but mild, cigars. He was also a principal supplier of molasses, to the famed rum distilleries of Medford and Newburyport, a by product of the Puerto Rican sugar centrals. Soon Mr. Preston was operating his own fleet of schooners between Boston and Puerto Rico carrying coal to the island with return cargoes of molasses, bay rum, cigars and tobacco, raw sugar to the South Boston refineries and salt, from an evaporative process, to the New England fisheries.

The firm also acted as a purchasing and sales agent, exporting industrial processing equipment for sugar mills; pumps, boilers, engines, condensers, commercial control valves and fittings, sugar bags from India, fertilizer and other plantation and sugar mill supplies as there was little direct representation on the island. Soon Mr. Preston had interests in several sugar centrals, a bay rum distillery, a cigar factory, and planted and operated a large grape fruit plantation. He was a pioneer in the first canning of grapefruit.

Upon Mr. Preston’s death in 1918, E. Harold Newhall, his business associate of 20 years, became managing partner and continued the firm’s activities in importing Puerto Rican products and exporting machinery and supplies to the island. In the meantime, changes had occurred in many of the firm’s markets. There was more direct representation on the island for machinery and supplies; the volume of business in this area had diminished; refrigeration had changed the grapefruit marketing and diminished the use of salt to the fishing industry; oil began to take over the market for coal; sailing ships were losing out to the larger and faster freighters; prohibition had eliminated the huge consumption of molasses; bay rum, which used to be in every household as an universal mendicant, was no longer being distilled from bay leaves in the same manner as distilling gin from juniper berries; and Puerto Rican cigars were in less demand. One positive area of imports was its increase in volume of honey which had grown from a single barrel, which one of the schooner captains had tossed in the hold, along with barrels of molasses. This honey was enthusiastically used by a large candy manufacturer in Boston which subsequently created a demand for other types of foreign and domestic honey and soon the firm was supplying upwards of a million pounds of honey annually to the New England market to candy manufacturers, confectioners, and bakeries. Unfortunately, this activity was discontinued in 1941 when World War II began.

In 1928, the Puerto Rican hurricanes devastated the properties in which Mr. Preston had interests and for whom the firm acted as agents. The decision was made to incorporate the firm using the name of its founder in the title and augment its sales engineering staff for the sale of compressors, pumps, heat exchangers, air and liquid filters, and allied equipment in the New England area.

In 1935, following the death of F. Harold Newhall, William E. Doll became President and was succeeded on his death by Joel W. Reynolds, RE, who served as Vice President and Treasurer since the firm was incorporated in 1928. Upon retirement of Joel W. Reynolds in January, 1968, his interests were conveyed to Rudolph L. Helgeson, RE, as President and Treasurer, and Richard H. Pierce, P.E., as Vice President and Secretary, both of whom had been associated with the Company for more than 20 years and Tufts University engineering graduates.

For the next 25 years Gustavo Preston Company flourished in the Commercial, Municipal, and Industrial markets selling pumps, compressors, heat exchangers and filtration products. The Company had a service division repairing air compressors and a sales force and administration staff of over 25-30 people. Upon the death of Rudy Helgeson, the service division was sold off and Dick Pierce concentrated the company’s efforts on equipment sales. After many years of service, Dick Pierce, who was responsible for much of the company’s reputation of quality engineering and service, sold the company in 1990 to Roberta Spence, a long-time trusted employee.

Roberta Spence directed the company until early 1994, at which time she approached her sales engineer, Maureen Pellegrini, a graduate of Mass. Maritime Academy, in search of a buyer. It was at this point that Maureen and David Pellegrini, also a graduate of Mass. Maritime Academy and Babson College, already experienced in the agency sales business, bought the company.

In 1997 Gustavo Preston Service Company was formed to service pumping systems for commercial buildings and golf course irrigation systems. Hundreds of preventative maintenance contracts for pumping equipment were established throughout New England at this time, along with 24-hour emergency service.

Currently located in its own 12,000 sq. ft. building with 65 employees, Gustavo Preston Company, founded 140 years ago, continues with the tradition of selling and servicing of quality fluid handling products. Throughout our 140 years of history, our name has remained the same while our expertise and level of service have continued to grow.