Chapter 1 – “The Old Man” (1873 to 1905)
Our story begins on
a nice summer day in 1831. On June 23rd of that year a
healthy baby boy is born on a farm in the town of Dryden, Tomkins County, New York to proud
parents Elisha & Elizabeth Albright. He is the 7th of 11 children born to the
couple. His name is Andrew Albright and he will be the patriarch
At his point in time the United States is a fledgling nation consisting of only 24 states with Andrew Jackson as the President. [Trivia - Andrew Jackson is the guy on the $20 bill] .
Andrew Albright worked on his father’s farm for the first 35 years of his life. During the last year living there he had been working to find a way to coat metal horse harness trimmings with hard rubber. This is an age before the automobile when the standard mode of transportation was a horse and buggy. In 1867, against his father's wishes, he leaves to work at the Novelty Rubber Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey to pursue this dream. While there he continues experimenting and acquires several patents along the way. He forms the “Rubber-Coated Harness Trimmings Company”, transfers his patents to it, and becomes the company's president.
He marries his wife Elmira in 1868 and they have two children - first a daughter Elizabeth Albright (later Spurr) in 1869, and then a son, Andrew Albright Junior born in 1874. Elmira has two children from a previous marriage - Ida Strong (born in 1857) and Charles Strong (born in 1861).
Elmira's first husband, Philemon B. Strong, had answered his country's noble call and voluntarily enlisted in the Union army on January 5th, 1864 at the age 31, despite having a young wife and two small children at home. Tragically he died within a year from dysentery. The Civil war ended in 1865 and the torn nation that hadn't yet made it to their first centennial was working on rebuilding.
By April of 1868 Andrew needs additional capital to grow his business. Turning first to family he enters into a partnership with his brother-in-law Luther Voorhies whose influx of cash allows for the purchase of equipment and materials. At first they utilized several local companies, including Novelty Rubber Company where Andrew use to work, to perform different stages of production while only doing final assembly in house. In 1870 they built a factory at 56 Ferry Street, on the corner of Prospect and Ferry Streets in Newark, on land owned by Luther's wife, who is also Andrew's older sister. Elizabeth (Albright) Voorhies is a successful medical doctor in New York who has money and assets independent of her husband. This partnership where Andrew and Luther equally split the company's substantial profits was contentious at times. It lasted 4 years before Andrew bought out Luther's interest for $80,000 [This would be $1,902,740 in today's dollars]. Andrew soon after sued Luther claiming fraudulent business withdrawals during their partnership and requesting that the buy-out agreement be set aside. Luther prevailed in this complicated case in which the transcripts are almost 1000 pages long. At this point there is no mention of the company making brushes, only harness trimmings covered with either rubber or celluloid (similar to plastic). In reading through the transcripts one gets a sense that Andrew Sr. is shrewd in his business dealings and is very hands-on in day to day factory operations. Upon taking sole ownership he consolidates several of his companies and forms "The Rubber and Celluloid Harness Trimmings Company".
Andrew was very active with the Democratic party and was twice nominated for political office. First in 1874 he was nominated to represent his district in the legislature and in 1880 he was again nominated, this time to represent his district in Congress. Andrew was a seasoned democrat in a predominately republican area and lost both elections. In 1880 a fellow inventor and politician Silas Kenyan, 75 years old, committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a Pennsylvania railroad train. In his pocket was a note addressed to Andrew Albright thanking him for his favors and stating that he no longer wanted to be a burden to him.
Andrew spent a lot of time in court fervently protecting his patents. He was also sued by others for infringements on their patents. One such case was in 1875 when William M. Welling successfully argued the Rubber Coated Harness Trimmings Company was using dies and a process covered under their patent. Mr. Welling had a company that covered metal rings with artificial ivory. The judge in this case required Andrew to lock up about $20,000 worth of finished inventory that was made using the method in question. Andrew counter sued and then met with Mr. Welling to discuss a settlement. Mr. Welling asked for $10,000 to sell the patent in question to Andrew and settle their case but was refused. Andrew offered $5,000 and it was eventually accepted.
Patent issues wasn't always the reason Andrew found himself in court. In 1899 Andrew, at 68 years old, was arrested for assault and battery on Mr. Franklin W. Lyon of East Orange, NJ. He was also sued by Mr. Lyon for $10,000 in damages.
Andrew Sr. was a successful, wealthy and stubborn man. He was an avid fisherman and in a very famous case in the late 1890's he bought the land under, as well as the rights to, the 3,460 acre Swartswood Lake in New Jersey. Pleased that he owned his very own private lake he became frustrated with the hordes of people who would descend upon it to fish. He decided to charge people $1.00/day for the right to fish on his lake. He hired private security to patrol the lake and arrest those found trespassing. In 1899 a man by the name of James Cortright was arrested. He was bitterly upset at being arrested for something that had been freely available for generations and took the case to court. In1900 the court unanimously decided that those that trespassed on the lake to fish without Andrew's permission were breaking the law. There were still legal wranglings to be had including attempts to seize the lake by eminent domain, but Andrew kept fighting.
In the New York Tribune on November 7, 1902 Andrew Albright was quoted as saying "I will never give up this fight as long as I live. I own the lake, the ground under it, the water of it and the fish in it. I am not selfish about it, any more than the farmer is selfish about the corn in his garden. I don't object to some fisherman; those who fish because they need the fish for food on their table, or those who live in the vicinity and sell the fish for a living. But I object to the excursionists, who are responsible to neither God nor man, who appropriate all they find, and more, too, who either live in Pennsylvania or New York, and regard New Jersey as a place for mischief and riot. No sir, I'll fight these fellows until I'm dead and buried and covered up with six feet of sand."
There was an island in the lake about an acre in size on which Andrew built a small village of about 15 cottages. He also built a summer home there complete with a grand ballroom.
In 1913 a bill was passed mandating that the state of New Jersey purchase bodies of water to be set aside as potable water and for recreation. On June 30, 1915 the state took ownership of the Swartswood Lake after the heirs of Andrew Albright, Sr. agreed to sell it for $30,000. It became the second public park in New Jersey and the first lake in the state with guaranteed public access.
I believe the fishing-themed Rubberset shaving brushes models 10s and 15s are to honor Andrew Sr.'s love for the sport. A hundred years later it is hard to tell if the "S" in the model number stood for Swartswood, but I like to think it does.
Andrew Sr. died from apoplexy (a stroke) on March 18, 1905 at the age of 74 in Sea Breeze, Florida. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, Union County, New Jersey. It is about a 4 mile drive from the Newark Liberty International Airport.
Chapter 2 – “Andy” (1905 to 1929)
Andrew Jr. didn't grow up on a farm; he was born into a life of privilege and luxury. He attended Yale University but didn't graduate. He was well traveled and had a wide variety of interests. He didn't have much to do with his family's companies until his father's passing in 1905. He took the reins of a successful business when he was 31 and was challenged with how to breathe new life and growth to it. The business model needed to change as the automobile began to take over for the horse and buggy and King C. Gillette began selling his disposable safety razor blades. There was an opportunity here as people could more easily shave at home instead of going to the neighborhood barber shop.
The brush division of the Rubber & Celluloid Harness Trimmings Company didn't have it's own name. There was a contest with the employees in the company to pick the best name and "Rubberset Company" was chosen. Andrew Jr. decided to focus on growing this arm of the company and began an extensive and expensive advertising campaign. The first use of the name "Rubberset" was on May 15, 1905, just two months after Andrew Sr's passing.
Andrew married Grace Miriam Bedell in 1895. They had two children: Andrew the 3rd (born in 1897) and Horace (born 1898). Grace passed away in 1912 at the age of 40. Andrew married his second wife Louise (she sometimes spelled it Lois) Vandergraft in 1913. She already has a daughter Julia (born in 1908) from a previous marriage. They go on to have three children together: Dorothy (born in 1915), John (born in 1917) and Jane (born in 1919).
From his draft registration card we know that he was of medium build and height with brown hair and blue eyes. It doesn't take long looking through newspaper archives to see that his passion was show animals and that he was a much sought after and well respected dog show judge.
Lizzie, as she was listed in the federal census, received her education in private schools of Newark.
On February 3, 1890, Elizabeth Albright married Joseph George Spurr, and they were parents of three children: Lorraine (born in 1892), Joseph (born in 1895) and Elmira (born in 1898). Her husband Joseph was the president of the very successful company his grandfather founded, J.J. Spurr and Sons. They were a large scale stone cutting company based in Newark.
During the first World War period she was chairman of the Newark Chapter, American National Red Cross, vice chairman in 1919-33, honorary chairman in 1933-34, and also served on the central committee on volunteer service of the national organization. During 1920-23 she was president of the Newark Young Woman's Christian Association; was one of the founders of the Newark Welfare Federation, also the plant, fruit, and flower guild of New Jersey. She was a member of the Newark branch of the Traveler's Aid Society, and the Newark Art Club, and was chairman of the fund raising committee of the Newark Home for Crippled Children.
In 1919 at age 50 she became Vice President of the Rubberset Company and of the Rubber & Celluloid Product Company.
In 1929 Lizzie took over as President of Rubberset in a reorganization.
Lizzie died at her home in Newark on August 25, 1934 after being ill for several months. She was 64 years old. Notice that in her New York Times obituary that her name "Elizabeth" is not motioned --- just Mrs. Joseph G. Spurr. A sign of the times I guess.
Chapter 4 – "Bristol-Myers" (1934 to 1956)
At the time Bristol-Myers acquired the company the Rubberset toothbrush was likely the primary draw. In1934 the United States was in the midst of the great depression and was also the year the notorious crime duo Bonnie and Clyde died. Berset shaving cream is retired as it was competing against their better-know brand of "Ingrams".
In July of 1956 Bristol-Myers sold Rubberset Company and Rubberset Company, Limited (Canadian division) to Sherwin Williams after owning them for 22 years. I'm sure they were acquired for their innovations and patents in the area of paint brushes.
This is the logo still used today and the stylized "R" in the logo can be used to quickly identify the last generation of the brushes --- post 1956.
The window is short for this logo on their shaving brushes. Rubberset stopped making shaving brushes a little over a year after they were purchased by Sherwin-Williams. All production of Rubberset shaving brushes ceased on August 31, 1957. They sold all of their remaining stock by mid 1958.
Disclaimer: This site is not affiliated or endorsed by Rubberset Company, a division of the Sherwin-Williams Company. Rubberset Company has a website with their summarized history here. This site is exclusively concerned with the early history of the company as it relates to their shaving brushes and was compiled from public information freely available on the web. It is intended to be informational in nature, not commercial.