Rubbermaid, originally known as the Wooster Rubber Company, was founded in Wooster, Ohio, in 1920. The company originally manufactured toy balloons, but in the 1930s branched out into household products. The company started manufacturing rubber dustpans in 1934. Although Wooster Rubber Company was successful during the 1930s, its management faced serious challenges during World War II, when rubber was rationed for the war effort. This setback proved to be temporary, and the company began producing other household products in the years following the Second World War.
The major turning point for Wooster Rubber Company came in the 1950s, when the company started manufacturing products made from plastic as well as rubber. This new material offered a wealth of opportunities for creating new household products. In addition, the company patented a rubber bath mat that had suction cups to stick to the bottom of the bathtub, a product that appealed to hotels especially. Because of its success, Wooster Rubber Company became a publicly traded company in 1955, and two years later changed its name to Rubbermaid, Incorporated.
In the decades that followed, Rubbermaid continued to prosper. In 1967, its operations were divided into two parts: Rubbermaid Home Products, which was still based in Wooster, and Rubbermaid Commercial Products, whose headquarters were located in Winchester, Virginia.
In the 1980s, Rubbermaid saw continued success. The company was named to the Fortune 500 list in 1983, and the following years became one of Fortune 500s most admired companies. Rubbermaid acquired Little Tikes Company, a manufacturer of children's backyard toys, in 1984. Rubbermaid's leadership earned accolades for its management style, and the company continued to appear on Fortune 500s list of most admired companies. The company also began to expand internationally at this time.
By the mid-1990s, Rubbermaid faced difficulties. Its management was increasingly criticized for poor decision-making, and other companies had begun to compete successfully with Rubbermaid products. In an attempt to solve its problems, Rubbermaid went through a series of reorganizations, which led to employee layoffs.
In 1999, the Newell Company, with headquarters in Freeport, Illinois, purchased Rubbermaid Incorporated. The merger created Newell Rubbermaid Incorporated, now headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Both Rubbermaid Home Products and Rubbermaid Commercial Products are divisions of this new company. Newell also owns a number of other major brand names, including Sharpie®, Paper Mate®, Parker®, Waterman®, Rubbermaid®, Calphalon®, Little Tikes®, Graco®/Century®, and Levolor®. The reorganization did not solve all of Rubbermaid's problems, and the company still struggled with high production costs and management issues. Some of Rubbermaid's manufacturing line was moved to Mexico, and in November 2003 Newell Rubbermaid Incorporated announced that it was pulling its operations out of Wooster, ending Rubbermaid's long relationship with that community.