The Boom Years
World War II had given rise to Rosie the Riveter, but with the end of the war came June Cleaver and a new archetype for American women. With limited access to the workplace, middle-class women’s jobs were restricted to their homes. Keeping up a pristine home meant buying the newest and best in household products, and Rubbermaid was happy to provide them. Rubbermaid’s advertisements in the 1950s and 1960s effectively appealed to this growing demographic of suburban housewives.
During Wooster Rubber Company’s first year of postwar production, the company sold $2.5 million worth of household products. By 1949 that number had doubled. As the Rubbermaid line expanded, Wooster Rubber stayed on the cutting edge of housewares technology. In 1955, the company began manufacturing products from molded plastic as well as rubber. Rubbermaid became such a well-known label that in 1957, Wooster Rubber Company adopted the brand name as its own.1
As the Rubbermaid brand grew, so did its presence in Wooster. The number of Woosterites employed by Rubbermaid grew from 731 in 1955 to over 1,000 in 1960.2 In addition to expanding the East Bowman Street plant where Wooster Rubber Company had stood since 1928, Rubbermaid began construction on a vast new headquarters on Akron Road in 1960. As Rubbermaid broke ground on its new premises, CEO Donald Noble explained, “This groundbreaking ceremony is symbolic of our faith in Wooster and the people of this community, and of our desire to continue to be a part of Wooster.”3
Stanley Gault, a former General Electric executive and a Wooster native, took up the mantle of Rubbermaid CEO when Donald Noble retired in 1981. Under his leadership, Rubbermaid became a Fortune 500 company and an internationally recognized brand.
1 Noble, 81.
2 “Rubbermaid Built from Dustpan to $32 Million Annual Business,” The Daily Record, April 28, 1964. See also: “Rubbermaid,” Wayne County Businesses L-R, Binder, WCPL Genealogy and Local History Department.
3 “Rubbermaid Breaks Ground for Plans, Voices Faith in Wooster.” Daily Record. Nov. 11, 1960. 12.