Herman W. Osborn was operating a small tire retread shop in Bedford when he learned that the two partners who were producing rubber heels for shoes were interested in selling their small enterprise; and so, in 1920, Mr. Osborn acquired the Stalwart Rubber Co.
Barely 24 years old at the time, Mr. Osborn had vision for growth. Beginning with six employees, he set up shop in the barn behind the family home on Broadway in Maple Heights. By the late 1920’s the company had moved to Bedford and had expanded to include extruded and lathe cut as well as molded products. It was already on its way to a position of importance in the custom rubber products field.
In 1937 the south wing of the former McMyler-Interstate machine shop building on Northfield Road was purchased, with adjacent land for further expansion. Floor space in the building totaled 40,000 square feet. Employment at Stalwart Rubber Co. by this time had grown to 50 people. In 1941 the Cleveland Press noted that the Stalwart Rubber Company was one of 13 large, diversified industries in Bedford and the township.
By the late 1940’s employment had reached 150 people. The “Who’s Who” booklet which was published by the company stated that for twenty-nine years Stalwart Rubber had had uninterrupted plant operations. This was achieved through three difficult decades: the early growth years of the 1920’s; the depression years of the 1930’s; and the war years of the 1940’s.
A major step toward further growth was taken in 1953. It was learned that the Jasper Rubber Company of Jasper, Georgia was idle and available for sale. After a long and careful evaluation it was decided that the Stalwart Rubber Co. would purchase this facility and return it to production. After a period of start-up, indoctrination, and training by Bedford personnel, the plant was managed and operated locally as the Jasper Rubber Division of the Stalwart Rubber Co. By 1958 employment at the Jasper plant had reached 100 people.
By the late 1950’s the company was manufacturing products in five major fields: automotive, appliance, aircraft and missiles, electronics, and chemical. Parts produced by Stalwart Rubber included seals, gaskets, washers, caps, hoses, rings, bellows, bushings, and tubing, and could be found in automobiles, ranges, refrigerators, washers, dryers, aircraft, missiles, and many other applications.
Herman Osborn died on March 10, 1961, just short of age 65. He was succeeded as president by A. W. MacAlonan. Mr. MacAlonan continued the extensive research and development work which had been an integral part of the company over the years, and continued to pursue vigorous marketing programs.
The new management also continued to be active in the community. As part of Bedford’s 125th anniversary of incorporation, the Stalwart Rubber Co. was one of 11 companies which held open houses during “Business and Industry” day on Friday, June 15, 1962. The company also placed an ad in the 125th Anniversary publication in which “the personnel of the Stalwart Rubber Company join in Wishing their fellow citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead”.
In September 1969 the Stalwart Rubber Company merged with Blasius Industries. The decision to do this resulted from the need for greater financial resources to continue expansion. In the following year the 50th anniversary of the company was celebrated: 1920 to 1970 — five decades of growth. “Hundreds of employees” were then working at three plants, according to “The Old Timers Club” booklet in 1970.
As happens so often with changes in ownership, changes in operations and even in locations of companies often occur. On April 3, 1980 the Bedford Times-Register reported that the Stalwart Rubber Company was leaving. The company had been sold, and was moving out of Bedford. For sixty years Stalwart provided employment for hundreds of people–for some, life-time employment–but now was gone.
Written by R.W.Bell
Herman W. Osborn, the son of Herman and Julia Osborn, was born May 1896 in Bedford Township. When Herman was 4 months old his father, Herman Osborn, died about September 1896 at the age of 34 and is buried in Bedford Cemetery.
Several U.S. Patents were assigned to Stalwart Rubber including: 3,124,832, 3,195,175, 3,719,443, 4,204,741, 4,223,660.