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#Inside the vaults
US Rubber Story
U S Rubber Story
Company History and Organisation
The Company behind any product is important since the people logically want to know the standing and competence4 of the organization presenting the product. We want to tell you today something about the Company behind the product and behind North British – The U.SW. Rubber Company Limited. The majority all know the background to our own Company, North British, the story of it’s small start in 1856 and its growth to the present date but we want to tell you to-day something about our friends and colleagues across the sea, of the great Company to which we are affiliated , The United States Rubber Company. The story of its progress is as thrilling as that of our own and more so, for there is nothing to compare with the achievements of the people of the United States Rubber Company. Plant and Machinery are useless without people, it is people who go to make any business great. You only have to read of the rapid stride U.S. Rubber Company has made to understand its top position in the industry today, but no business can accomplish such a position without earning it, achievement is only possible through work, hard work. It is the overall pulling power of a lot of skilled people well led with a good plan behind their efforts. Remember this when you discover the size of U.S. rubber, and remember it takes a lot of really good little ones to make a good big one. United States Rubber Company is a name known to millions throughout the world. It is important therefore that you know some of the pertinent facts relating to its history and organizational structure.
United States Rubber Company is made up of approximately 60,000 people working in more than 50 plants and 70 branches around the world plus nearly 7,000 in the rubber plantations of the Far East.
United States Rubber Company is owned by 25,000 stockholders. For each employee the Company has invested more than $5,000 in plants, machinery and materials.
The Company operates by divisions, which have their headquarters in the 21 story United States Rubber Company building in Rockefeller Centre, New York City. Its 12 divisions are Tyre, Footwear, Fuel Cells, Mechanical Goods, General Products, Lastex Yarn and Rubber Thread, Naugatuck Chemical, Synthetic Rubber, Textile, and Plantations Divisions, and its subsidiaries, Dominion Rubber Company Ltd., and United States Rubber International.
Organized in 1892 from companies which were started more than 100 years ago, United States Rubber Company is the oldest rubber company in America. Our footwear plant at Naugatuck, Conn., was the first plant in the world to make a vulcanized rubber product, a pair of overshoes.
At first operated by Samuel J. Lewis and Company, the plant was renamed Goodyear’s Metallic Rubber Shoe Company because one of its directors, Charles Goodyear, had discovered the vulcanization of rubber. Original Licences under the inventor’s patent were held by the company and by L. Candee & Company of New Haven, Conn., both predecessor companies of United States Rubber Company.
A great deal of work has been done in the past 100 years. The company started by making Vulcanized Rubber overshoes in 1843, although the actual consolidation of a group of ten small New England Footwear Companies to centralize purchasing and improve efficiency of distribution actually marked the inception of U.S. Rubber Company.
Try to imagine 80,000 acres of Rubber Trees under cultivation in Malaya and Sumatra, which eventually lead to the manufacture, by U.S. Rubber Company, of more than 30,000 end products used in the daily lives of everyone. Take Tyres—which are used in almost every country in the world, under all conditions from the torrid heat of the equator to the freezing cold of Alaska. Do you realize how much work is involved in the development of a Tyre, do you know that 600 engineers combine their experience and knowledge in producing a single new model tyre, that vast facilities are available in the field of research for testing new products, improving the textiles that make for better footwear and mechanical items; but we are rushing too fast. Lets go back several years.
ORGANIZATION OF COMPANY
Formation of United States Rubber Company on March 30, 1892 brought together other eastern rubber companies, most of which were engages in the manufacture of waterproof footwear. Their union was prompted by a desire to operate more economically and efficiently.
One of the important functions of the new company in the first few years was to act as a central purchasing agent, with the component companies still maintaining their identities. This system of purchasing in the abnormally high and erratic commodity market of those days resulted in substantial savings.
A lot of dates are marked out as stepping stones for U.S. Rubber Company; it is difficult to pick out any because each year was as important as the last.
In 1904, Naugatuck
Chemical Company was formed—
The first aeroplane tyre was developed by the Company in 1908 and in 1910 they established Rubber Plantations in Sumatra, which eventually became the world’s largest. The United States Rubber Export Company Limited was organized in 1914 to centralize export activities which previously had been handled separately by various departments.
In 1916 U.S. Royal Trade Mark was adopted for tyres: two items interest us in 1917, first, the introduction of U.S. Keds, (a canvas rubber soled shoe with scientific last and other improvements), second, an established pension plan for employees, (one of the first such plans to be adopted by a business firm in the United States).
In 1919, more plantations were established—these being in British Malaya.
In 1920, Company Sales reached a new peak—the highest since the Company’s formation at $256,000,000.
U.S. Rubber Company was now the world’s largest rubber company.
In 1934, U.S. Keylon Foam Cushioning was made experimentally.
From hereon the Company began to prosper and in 1936, U.S. Kedettes, rubber soled shoes for women were announced to the public.
1938, Rayon Cord for Tyres was developed, which led to safer, more durable tyres. In 1941, the U.S. Rubber Plantations were invaded by the Japanese and almost immediately ground was broken for synthetic Rubber Plant in Naugatuck, one of the first three built for the Government. In 1942, Herbert E. Smith was elected as the Company’s President, ground was broken for the new Government munitions plant in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The Eau Claire Tyre Plant was converted to munitions, U.S. Rubber started construction of synthetic plants at West Virginia and Los Angeles, and the textile division built an Asbestos plant in Georgia. The Reid Mill was also purchased in this year. In 1943 war work boosted the number of employees to an all time peak of 89,000. In 1944 U.S. Rubber took over management of the T.N.T. plant in Joliet, Illinois. The Mechanical Goods Division made rubber lined tanks for atomic energy plant. The L.H. Gilmer “V” belt plant in Philadelphia was acquired by the Mechanical Goods Division, and a new family of plastic resins, known as vibrins, were developed by U.S. Scientists. In 1945 a Rayon Tyre Cord Plant in Scottsville, Virginia was purchased from the Government.
Butyl inner tubes were developed during World War II and went into mass production for the civilian market. In 1946 the first low pressure tyre, the U.S. Royal “Air-ride” was developed by U.S. Rubber Company, setting a new tyre pattern for the entire industry. The company resumed operation of its Malayan plantations following the Japanese occupation and additional plants were purchased during this year. The most outstanding feature of 1947 was that the U.S. Rubber Company sales passed the $500,000,000 mark for the first time. The footwear and General Products Division acquired a plant in Chicago for the production of plastics. In 1948, ’49, and ’50 advances were made with synthetic rubber, additional plant purchases were made and Ustex Nylon Conveyor Belt was introduced, incorporating a high strength and low stretch—thus making possible an increase in the span and capacity of Conveyors. Plantation operations in Sumatra were resumed. In 1951 sales totaled $837,000,000, a new record and the Gilmer Timing Belt was also introduced this year. 1952 saw the U.S. Rubber International, a division of the United States Rubber Company, in its placed. In 1953 a new foam rubber plant was constructed at Santa Anna, California, the Company’s interest in a perfume compounds business was sold and the Marvibond process was developed to bond Marvinol Vinyl Resin to sheet steel and aluminum. In 1954 the U.S. Rubber Company purchased a government owned synthetic rubber plant at Naugatuck, Connecticut and formed the Texas—U.S. Chemical Company, a tie-up with the Texas Company for the purchase of Synthetic rubber plant and a half interest in the butadiene plant at Fort Neches, Texas. They introduced the U.S. Royal tubeless tyre as a regular first line tyre and a new trade mark and buying mark was adopted. The U.S. Sealdbin collapsible container was developed for transporting and storing liquid and granular materials.
PRODUCTS FOR INDUSTRY
Con current with expansion in the footwear and tyre industries, the company intensified its interest in mechanical rubber goods, chemicals and natural rubber.
To increase its capacity for making belting, hose, packing and other products for industry, the company acquired, through the purchase of the Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company, a mechanical rubber goods plant at Passaic, New Jersey.
The significance of this step is best illustrated by the importance of the products. Without rubber air-brake hose, American railways would face constant disaster. Without rubber conveyor belting, most of the nation’s coal mines would be unable to operate efficiently. Without rubber-insulated wire, factories would shut down for lack of power and entire cities would be plunged into darkness.
The Company now has six mechanical goods plants serving industry. They are located at Bristol, Rhode Island, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Passaic, New Jersey, Providence, R.I. Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Tacony, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A number of general products such as drug sundries, golf balls, soles and heels and beach wear are also produced in the Providence plant.
The synthetic rubber plants operated by United States rubber Company during the war had a combined rated capacity of 150,000 tons a year, or more than a fourth of the country’s total production of synthetic rubber. The Company has developed more than 100 new varieties of the rubber.
Lastex, an elastic yarn which imparts stretch to all types of fabric, is made at Providence, and also at Burlington, N. Carolina, Central Falls, R.I. Manchester, N.H. and Needham Heights, Mass.
IMPORTANCE OF CHEMICALS
Interest in chemicals stemmed from operation of a rubber reclaiming factory in Naugatuck as early as 1986. Sulphuric acid was needed in the reclaiming process. The Naugatuck Chemical Company was organized in 1904 to fill that need. Subsequently it joined the rubber family.
Rubber chemicals are essential in the production of all rubber products. Accelerators are required in the modern methods of vulcanization. Anti-oxidants must be used to insure the maximum life of rubber products. Special chemicals such as plasticisers and tackifiers are used for top production efficiency and the best possible performance of the finished product.
Most of the Company’s chemicals are produced at Naugatuck. More than one-third of all rubber products made by the industry contain Naugatuck chemicals.
The familiarity with organic chemistry gained in the development of rubber chemicals led the company into other fields. Today Naugatuck products include agricultural chemicals, aromatics, and plastics.
GROWTH OF TEXTILE BUSINESS
As a further step to assure the quality of its finished products, the Company in 1917 entered the textile business by acquiring a controlling interest in the Winnesboro Mills at Winnsboro, S.C. This was a logical move, as textiles are second in importance only to rubber in numerous products, especially tyres.
Through installation of new equipment and increased operating efficiency, the plant quadrupled production of cotton cord in three years. For a decade it supplied all the tyre cord needed by the company. Then, as tyre production mounted, there arose the need for additional textile mills.
After Winnsboro Mills had been made an official member of the rubber family through outright purchase, at varying intervals the following mills came into the textile division: Stark Mills, Hogansville, GA, Shelbyville Mills, Shelbyville, Tenn., Fisk Cord Mills, New Bedford, Mass., Reid Mills and Asbeston Plant, Hogansville, GA.
Rayon and nylon subsequently joined cotton as fibers to be processed in the textile mills. Operation of a government-owned plant for the production of rayon tyre fabric was begun in Scottsville, Va in 1944 and this plant was purchased by the company in 1945.
Combed yarn for Lastex was the principal purpose for the acquisition of Ruby Cotton Mills, Inc. of Gastonia, N.C. in September, 1946.
In February of 1947 the Company purchased the textile plants of Stevens Manufacturing Company and Seaboard Mills, Inc. in Burlington, N.C. now designated as one unit, Seaboard Mills. This brought the total number of the company’s textile plants to nine and greatly increased the capacity to produce a wide variety of new fabrics. United States Rubber Company not only produces tyre cord and textiles for its other rubber products but has developed such new textile products as burn-proof ironing board covers, highly absorbent dish towels and asbestos glass draperies.
The development of new products and the business expansion of the various divisions have resulted in a parallel growth in distribution facilities. Today 48 branches within the United States serve as the principal cog in the distribution of goods from plants to customers.
We mentioned earlier the number of divisions which are controlled from the U.S. Rubber Company building in Rockefeller center, New York City. Here is a list showing the types of plants in U.S.A. controlled by U.S. Rubber:
This year we have learned of a tremendous step taken by U.S. Rubber in the building of a modern research center at Wayne, New Jersey. This is one of the most modern and scientific rubber and technical research centers in the U.S.A.
United States Rubber Company is continuing to grow. It appears that its sales this year may reach an all time high. Its research and development activities continue at a high level. In addition to new product research, continued efforts are devoted to new production methods, new materials, and improvement of quality in existing products. Its approach to all problems is progressive. This should be indicative of successful years ahead.
At the back of this book can be seen a breakdown of the manufactured products which are made by the respective divisions of U.S. Rubber Company.
Well, so much for the U.S. Rubber—now let’s turn to a division of U.S. Rubber Company—The International Division, which is a part of U.S. Rubber Company, and the division of U.S. Rubber in which we, in North British Rubber, belong.
July 13, 2011