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Rubbermaid History

I just started working at Rubbermaid and am absolutely fascinated by its history. Here are somethings that I have learned about the company. (This is basically what I find interesting and not a full history like the one you can find here)

The company started in 1927 when two men from the Wear-Ever pots and pans company bought The Wooster Rubber Company that made toy balloons. The two men continued to work full time at Wear-Ever dreaming of being able to run their company full time. I am so inspired by people who work this hard to achieve their dreams! Photo-WoosterRubberCo-1  

Meanwhile, James Caldwell and his wife Madeline wanted to make new, rubber products that could be Dustpan brightly colored thanks to a new technique. In 1933, they recieved a patent for their brightly colored red rubber dustpan. Understanding consumer's lives and needs, the caldwell's dustpan did not get bent out of shape easily or chip plaster walls when hung in the pantry like metal dustpans did. They called their line of rubber kitchen products Rubbermaid. (Can you imagine trying to keep a house clean back then? You'd probably have no dishwasher or washing machine…AHHHH!)

In 1934, Caldwell joined the Wooster Rubber Company bringing his Rubbermaid products with him. The company continued to grow until WWII when it converted to military manufactoring making goods like rubber parts for a self-sealing fuel tank, life jackets and rubber tourniquets. (I really wish we had a picture from the war, but I couldn't find one :( After the war, Wooster went back to making rubber household products and continued to grow its business.RbmdAd_0001 
 This is a Rubbermaid advertisement from the 1950s!

Dishpan In 1956, Wooster introduced its first plastic product…the plastic dish pan. A year later, the company changed its name from Wooster Rubber Company to Rubbermaid Incorporated. 

In 1962, Rubbermaid changed the way Americans handle trash by introducing the first plastic trashcan. This is one of those revolutionary things that you don't think about but has affected EVERY ONE OF YOU READING THIS.  Outdoor waste-march1959
This actually is not the plastic trashcan we released but one similar. Plus it says it's a collector's item and if you have one it probably is a collector's item :)

The 1970's was an interesting time for Rubbermaid. The company added sales partiesParty plan copy to its marketing efforts and products like motorboats and skiis to its catalog.

Skiis copy 

In the 1980's, Rubbermaid introduced microwave cookware and a line of brightly colored storage containers. 

In 1999, Rubbermaid merged with Newell to create Newell Rubbermaid.

And now Rubbermaid is interacting on Twitter and through its blog to bring organizing advice to its customers! So there are the highlights of Rubbermaid's history. I hope you have enjoyed the ride :)

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48 Responses to Rubbermaid History

  1. Triller October 18, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Independent movie companies are proving the huge studios will no longer are the lone judges of the things people really want. If you happen to add to that distribution on the web and, news flash, online sites, from gossip to complete videos. It’s a really brand new world. A lot of it great, some not.

  2. Sally Gautier June 20, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    i have 2 laundry baskets bought in 1974 # 2966. They are both round and one is avocado green and the other is burnt orange. there is a crack in the rim of each one. My son is 37 yrs. old now and he has never seen another laundry basket in our home, only those two. i will use them until they are totally worn out. Would love to have another two of those. Anyone know where I can get some?

  3. Jim May 9, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    I have a red Rubbermaid drain board whose label was dated “1963.” I used to work at a hardware store in Brooklyn in the 1970s and was fascinated as a kid by the “vintage” Rubbermaid still on the shelved: Turquoise, Beige, Red, Yellow… When I went back on a visit years after the original owner sold, the red drain board was STILL sitting there, so I bought it!

  4. Chris April 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    It would be great if Rubbermaid went back to the colors. The dusty blue, green, mauve were amazing. As stated in another message, the colors now are too bland. We need to bring color into a kitchen.

  5. A. Eller January 22, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Hi. Any idea if Rubbermaid’s laundry baskets were around in the late 50s, early 60s? Thanks in advance.

  6. Erin Gentry November 2, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Hi Patrick – thank you for wanting to work with us on your new idea for traffic lights. Please follow the link below for more information on how to submit new product ideas and to submit this idea. Thanks!
    http://www.rubbermaid.com/MediaCenter/aboutUS/Pages/newIdeas.aspx

  7. Delaney June 2, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    I am the great grand daughter of James R. Caldwell and came across your blog entry while researching the life of the man I have always known as the founder of Rubbermaid. His history is fascinating, as well as his family history after Rubbermaid. I never met him, but have heard countless stories about him and his start in Rubbermaid, as well as his eventual decision to leave behind the company he built (Really the best story of all in the Rubbermaid history.). It is so interesting to search him on the web and compare the info I read with the family stories that I have heard for years. Thank you for providing the post!

    • Jen April 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

      I am the great niece of James R. Caldwell; he was my grandmother’s brother. I too have heard numerous family stories over the years and did have the pleasure of meeting my great Uncle as a child a few times. He was incredibly kind and generous, always brought us gifts when he visited, and always had a smile on his face. He used to visit us in Greenfield, Mass. and took us to the then “Famous Bill’s” Restaurant, one of his favorites. My parents visited him many times and remembered one visit where he could name every staff person as he walked through the factory, while searching for one remaining item made of rubber, and they had none – everything at that point was plastic. My understanding is Uncle Jim worked with my other Uncle, Ray Caldwell, in his Newfaine, VT cabin making wooden handles for the rubber scrapers Rubbermaid later produced.

  8. Beverly January 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I still have a complete set of the Rubbermaid microwave “Cookables”. There was a recipe booklet that came with the set (which I just uncovered doing a clean-out last weekend, but my husband threw it out!!). It had a recipe for THE best chocolate cake and I was wondering if anyone out there has it. I would be very grateful as I would like to make the cake this weekend for a friend’s birthday. If only I had checked the recycling bin before it went out. *sigh*

    • Beverly January 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      N/M…I found it! Silly me…I actually put it away.

      If anyone would like the recipe, here it is:

      Favorite Cocoa Cake (makes 8 servings)

      1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
      1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
      1 cup milk
      1/2 cup vegetable oil
      1 teaspoon vanilla

      1. Grease 2-quart microwaveable tube pan or 8×2 inch round microwavable-safe cake dish with a small microwave-safe drinking glass about 2 in. in diameter upside-down in center.

      2. Combine flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, vinegar and 1/2 cup of the milk in medium-size bowl. Stir with spoon about 100 strokes, until batter is smooth and stiff. Stir in remaining milk, oil and vanilla until smooth and well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

      3. Microwave at full power for 7 to 9 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean; rotating pan half turn every 3 minutes. (This is for older microwaves, so not sure how long with newer wattage and with turntable.)

      4. Let cake stand directly on heatproof board or counter until completely cool; the retained heat completes the cooking process.

      5. Sprinkle the top decoratively with confectioners’ sugar through a doily or frost with your favorite icing or serve plain with ice cream or whipped cream. (I usually serve with ice cream and strawberries.)

      Store cake, covered, at room temperature.

  9. tim December 5, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    Hi !
    We are french and we have to make a statement wich deals with NEWELL RUBBERMAID .
    We meet many problems in our research and we need informations about each business segments…
    Please help us, it’s a subject to validate our diploma of business school.
    If someone can help us , we would be grateful.

    Thanks,
    Tim

    • Erin Gentry December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

      Please reach out to our corporate team. The Newell Rubbermaid site can be found here: http://www.newellrubbermaid.com/public/index.aspx and contact information can be found here: http://www.newellrubbermaid.com/public/Press-Room/Contact.aspx

      • heisenberg December 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

        Erin, I know you mentioned you were not doing a full history (the link you provided is a history of newell btw not rubbermaid) but you did mention there were two guys and you just mentioned caldwell. Do you know the name of the other guy?

        • Erin Gentry December 15, 2011 at 9:43 am #

          Unfortunately, I do not know the names of the two men that bought the Wooster Rubber Balloon company. Most of our history does focus on Caldwell (not one of the original two men) who invented the rubber dust pan that gave Rubbermaid it’s start. As we are a part of Newell Rubbermaid, we do share a history and that is the link I provided. I am sorry I was not able to help more.

      • heisenberg December 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

        Erin, did you go to wooster college? I am just curious

        • Erin Gentry December 14, 2011 at 11:33 am #

          I did not attend Wooster College. I actually went to the University of Georgia. Thanks.

  10. Jeff Sawyer November 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    James Caldwell was my great uncle Jim. A wonderful, sweet guy who used to magically pull silver dollars out of my ears when I was about five. His brother Ray made the wooden sticks that were handles for the still ubiquitous white rubber spatulas, in a mill in Newfane, Vermont. I was given boxes of rejected wooden sticks and made little log cabins out of them.

    I remember Jim giving me a chunk of raw rubber for an elementary school project in which I described how it was processed into dustpans. Wish I still had it…

    • Erin Gentry November 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories! It is so great to hear them :)

      Thanks,
      Erin

  11. Erin Gentry January 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Hi Jonathan,
    We do not have an official archive. I do apologize. I would try the local archives in Wooster for more information.
    Thanks,
    Erin

    • robert smith April 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      Erin,
      Where can I buy a vintage clear plastic food container #4 with lid????? Rubbermaid does not make them anymare and I’ve tried e-bay, etc.

      Thanks, Bob

  12. Erin Gentry January 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi Robin,
    That was way before my time and I have asked around and no one seems to know any details! I do apologize.
    Thanks,
    Erin

  13. Robin Thorne January 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    Any information on the melamine dinner ware and beverage wares that Rubbermaid made and sold? (Dates when it started, when the different lines were introduced, the different pieces and when they ceased production?)
    I have dinner plates, salad plates, soup/cereal bowls, 3 sizes of mugs, salt and pepper shakers, butter dish, pitchers and even a spring-loaded paper cup dispenser that pops one up every time one is taken! Colors range from white, black, blue, red, yellow, green, orange, brown, almond, mauve, dusty blue and even some that are white with gray and brown grain.
    There were at least 3 distinctively different lines (shapes). ANY other info would be greatly appreciated, especially name(s) of the designer(s) of this dinnerware.
    Great site! Thanks!

  14. Rubbermaid Lover December 7, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Cool! I never knew they made the first plastic trash can… Interesting read.

  15. Madge October 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    I totally missed out and sold Fuller Brush door to door in the late 60′s.

  16. Sally Peers August 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Just a little bit of info……I have been using Rubbermaid laundry baskets for the last 30 years…amazing how the baskets have stood up under wear and tear….basket # is 2966….goes way back…thanks Rubbermaid for a great product…

  17. Jonathan August 12, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    I have been doing some family research and I found one of my grandfather’s business cards showing that he was a chief chemist for rubbermaid. I know he worked on several of the early products in Wooster like the self-sealing fuel tank that you mentioned. Also I think he worked on the material that coats the metal in the inside of dishwashers. Is there a company archive to learn more about early employees? I think he worked for rubbermaid from about 1930 to 1960.

  18. Erin Gentry August 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    I’m not sure when we made those. Anyone else have any idea?

  19. Miriam Zech August 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    I’m trying to narrow down a manufacturing year(s) for a rubber spatula. It was an early one. This spatula is all rubber, including the handle. It’s one continuous piece of rubber. It is green and beige marbled.

  20. Erin Gentry August 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Hi Kassi,
    Of course we read all these comments!!!! We love to hear from consumers. I’m so glad that you love our vintage items :)
    I’ll definitely pass along this comment to some of our engineers.

  21. Kassi July 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    I would love for Rubbermaid to get back to it’s roots and start producing items that were made when the company first started. The colours the company produces today are so bland. Black, clear, white – BORING. You could market it as Retro Rubbermaid. Without a doubt, your older customers would appreciate you bringing back the items they found most useful 40 years ago as well as us 20 and 30 somethings who want something fresh and bright.
    I’m always on the hunt for the classic 50′s Rubbermaid and it’s very difficult to find. The products that were produced back then were awesome-even some of the stuff from the early 70′s. Stove mats?!? Hello?!? Those are SO useful! I have your plastic plant pots in bright yellowy orange and avocado green. You don’t make those anymore. Beverage coasters? Tissue boxes? Cutting boards? SHELF-KUSHIONS!!!
    Where’s the excitement, the eye candy?
    Bah, I’m probably just wasting my breath. No one’s going to read this anyway. Good article though. I wish you had more blog posts on vintage Rubbermaid.

    • Lesley LeBlanc December 17, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      We bought a house in about 2005 that was built in 1964 and that had the shelf-kushions in the kitchen. I LOVE THEM. It is time to replace them, but, have several strips that are still good if you are interested. I wish they would return to these; however, since they last so long they probably won’t for business financial reasons….. I cannot find anything in the market that even compares to these! They are great for my husbands cast iron pans. If you find something please let me know.

  22. Erin Gentry May 25, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Hi Faithe,
    We do not make those products any more. I am not sure why but I can say I do not think it is because they don’t wear out – we always try to make durable products :)
    Check out our other food storage containers that can be found here – http://www.rubbermaid.com/Category/Pages/Category.aspx?CatName=FoodStorage
    Thanks,
    Erin

    • Georgea October 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      I also have some of the hard Rubbermaid dishes that were great for the microwave (they said that they could be used in oven up to 400 degrees but I never did that). They had a hard plastic lid as well. One that I have is 3 pieces with a 1 qt solid dish, a larger 3ish quart dish with a steamer insert and the hard clear plastic lid fits them all. I also have several of the creamy tan single serving size side dishes in hard plastic. Do I have to worry about using them now with all the concerns about BPA and the things that plastics from yesteryear contained? Thank you.

  23. Faithe May 25, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    I used to have several of the Rubbermaid Microwave Heatables, but somehow over the years have lost at least 2 of them. I’m down to having only one and wish I knew where to get more of them. They are a hard plastic which holds up well after repeated use. Just a thought, maybe that’s why they quit making them…they don’t wear out. They are about 10″ square (with rounded corners), and have one large compartment and 2 small ones.

  24. Shelving Galore March 9, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    I love my Rubbermaid storage bins, and never had the faintest notion that there is such a long and colourful history behind the brand. Thanks for sharing the tale with us!

  25. James Van Dyke February 25, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Why doesn’t Rubbermaid make a rubber dustpan anymore?

  26. Erin Gentry October 21, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi Cindy,
    I just started working here and actually have no idea when we started selling our storage containers. I know we make color changes often that fit into popular color schemes at the time. We also have researchers who ask people what size storage bin they need and based on our sales determine what sizes are most popular. To tell you the truth our storage containers have been numerous colors and sizes as we keep innovating them to meet consumer needs.
    Sorry that we don’t have more specific information on that

  27. Cindy Scott Day October 21, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    So, can anyone tell me when Rubbermaid started selling those great stackable storage bins? What colors and sizes? Any changes through the years?

  28. Erin Gentry September 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm #

    Mary, that is a great story! It made me chuckle during this very busy Monday!

  29. Mary Karshner September 20, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    True, funny story….my brother worked for Rubbermaid for about 35 years. Back in the late 60′s to early 70′s, they made car floor mats in a paisley design. This design came from material. Whenever there was any material left over, they threw it out. My brother knowing I loved to sew, would save it for me….I made dresses for myself and children.
    One time on a visit to the factory, he took me through that department and lo and behold, there were the car mats and I was standing there in the exact same color dress made from the same material. Needless to say, I was in a big hurry to get out of there. We all had a good laugh afterwards.

  30. Erin Gentry September 14, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Unfortunately, Rubbermaid does not have a consolidated place to sell these items mainly because we do not make a majority of them any more. You might be able to find some on eBay, amazon, or Craig’s List

  31. jacksonmom.blogspot.com September 14, 2009 at 7:23 am #

    I realize this is off-topic, but is there any consolidated place to purchase old party plan items? There was a spoon rest made during the party plan era that had a pot lid holder on the back. It was INGENIOUS. My mom still has one (though it is almost dead) and we’d like to get our hands on more. Thanks!

  32. Erin Gentry August 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Wow! It is so great to hear from both of you that sold Rubbermaid. I have so much fun working here and blogging about our products that I know it must have been exciting to be a part of the party plan.

  33. Arlene Wilson August 22, 2009 at 3:45 am #

    I sold Rubbermaid products via Party Plan. I still have some of the pieces. I really enjoyed selling for Rubbermaid because it was a great product and one everyone could use. I believe it was in the 70′s when I worked for Rubbermaid Party Plan. I wish I would have kept some of the catalogs just to look back at those days. I was the 3rd or 4th party plan consultant hired in the Seattle/Tacoma area in Washington State. I remember going to a Rally in California. It was certainly a fun time. From Rubbermaid I went to work for House of Lloyd Toys & Gifts Party Plan. I helped build the West Coast and stayed with them for 23 years. Arlene Wilson

  34. Judy July 15, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    I use to sell rubbermaid and sure wish I could still do so.

  35. Angela Marshall July 15, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    Wow! This is awesome – so cool to see where it all started!

  36. Jim Deitzel July 15, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    This is such a fun post. It’s amazing the things Rubbermaid has invented. About a month ago I learned we invented the rubber spatula. Now that’s innovation.

    • Kenn Eley April 2, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Back in about 1969, I worked at a freight forwarding company in Mimico (Etobicoke) Toronto Canada. The dock supervisor, Ted Simpson wanted to get a rubber mat for under the steering wheel. He didn’t want to buy it, just some Rubbermaid dish mat tray that didn’t form up properly, that would be thrown out as waste. He was so disappointed when he asked the Rubbermaid driver, the driver said there was no waste. If the product, did not form up correctly, then it would go back in the vat. I found the advertisement posted interesting-it listed Rubbermaid in Cooksville, Ontario. That would be Mississauga, Ont, just west of Toronto today. I still have a large book, of companies that were here in the Toronto area at that time. So, the sleuthing is on now, I’m going to try to find out where the plant was located. (How did I find this post)Very nice post-job well done, Thank You.I bought chocolate brownies, I should have bought Sara Lee– Sara Lee, to Tupperware, then to Rubbermaid, then to Rubbermaid Canada

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