Nine local businessmen, including T.E. Rice, A.L. Ebert, and Clyde Gault, founded the Wooster Rubber Company in 1920. Hoping to take advantage of the booming rubber industry, these founders began by manufacturing toy balloons. Horatio Ebert and Errett Grable, two executives of the Aluminum Cooking Utensil Company looking for a new business venture, bought Wooster Rubber in 1926. The balloon business proved moderately successful for Ebert and Grable through the end of the 1920s, but when the stock market crashed in October 1929, plunging the nation into the Great Depression, Wooster Rubber began to lose money. In the early 1930s, they were searching for a way to rejuvenate their faltering business. The answer to Wooster Rubber Company’s woes came in the form of James Caldwell and his rubber dustpan.1
James Caldwell and his wife Madeleine began experimenting with making household products from colorful rubber in the 1920s. The first of these inventions that they decided to patent and sell was a rubber dustpan. Caldwell started by selling his dustpans door to door, and they soon became so popular that he began looking for a plant where he could manufacture them full time.2
Fortunes collided in 1934, when James Caldwell met with Horatio Ebert to discuss a new partnership. Caldwell moved to Wooster that year and became the President of Wooster Rubber Company; meanwhile Ebert and Grable stopped manufacturing balloons and retooled their factory to begin producing Caldwell’s new line of household products, which he had named “Rubbermaid.”3
1 Donald E. Noble, Like Only Yesterday: The Memoirs of Donald E. Noble, (Wooster: The Wooster Book Company, 1996), 54-63. See also: “TE Rice Heads Concern Which Will Make Toy Balloons Here,” the Daily Record, Mar. 12, 1977.
2 Noble, 61-62.
3 Noble, 62.