L. M. Bickett Papers, 1921-1958

Summary Information
Title: L. M. Bickett Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1921-1958

  • Bickett, L. M., 1883-1958
Call Number: Whitewater Mss BF

Quantity: 0.4 c.f. (1 archives box)

Archival Locations:
UW-Whitewater Library / Whitewater Area Research Ctr. (Map)

Fragmentary records of Bickett, and of Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co., Watertown, Wisconsin, rubber products manufacturing firms which he founded in 1920 and operated until 1955. The companies manufactured stair treads, shoe heels, and seat cushions. The few personal papers include family letters, financial records, a speech, an open letter to the Watertown business community, and objections to the probate of Bickett's will. Corporate records contain Bickett's historical summary of his companies, articles of organization and by-laws, minutes, audit reports, balance sheets, legal documents, stockholder subscription lists, product descriptions and costs, an inventory, promotional correspondence, salary records, and a retrospective appraisal of the L.M. Bickett Co., which went into bad standing in the mid-1960s.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-whit00bf
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L. M. Bickett was born May 1, 1883, in Xenia, Ohio, to George and Elizabeth S. Bickett. Although little is known of his educational background and early years, Bickett was first identified with the rubber industry in 1908. On June 8, 1911, he married Gertrude Barker. Two years later, Bickett organized the Xenia Rubber Manufacturing Co., in Xenia, Ohio. In 1917, he sold the Xenia company to a group of Milwaukee businessmen who then reorganized it as the Ever Wear Rubber Co. in Wisconsin, with Bickett as general manager. Rubtex Products, Inc., Indianapolis, bought Ever Wear in 1920 and transferred the business to Indiana. Bickett decided to remain in Wisconsin.

In the fall of 1920, Bickett accepted an offer from a group of Watertown, Wisconsin businessmen who had recently purchased the Pan American Rubber Co., West Allis, to organize the company in Watertown. In April 1921, the Bickett Rubber Products Corporation was formed, with Bickett as chief stockholder, director, and manager of the company. He held these positions until 1955.

From 1921 to 1930 the Bickett Rubber Products Corp. manufactured various products, specializing in stair treads and rubber heels. The company's main market was chain stores such as S.S. Kresge and Woolworth, and much of its product was shipped to the eastern part of the country. In order to expedite its shipping, the company established warehouses in Buffalo and Albany, New York, and in Pittsburgh.

In 1930 the company accepted an offer from a group of businessmen in Anderson, Indiana, to purchase a quarter interest in the company for 100,000 dollars. The next year the company moved to Anderson in expectation of receiving this new capital and to eliminate some of its warehouses. But, in October 1931, the Citizens Bank of Anderson, Indiana, the source of the new funds, failed, and Bickett decided to return to Wisconsin. He secured a release for the building and equipment that had remained in Watertown, and resumed manufacturing operations there.

In order to secure this release and to re-equip the Watertown plant, Bickett personally assumed a debt of 73,000 dollars and borrowed 17,000 dollars more from the Falk Corp. in Milwaukee, which owned the diesel engine generating the power at the plant. In April 1932, the Bickett Rubber Products Corp. was reorganized under the new name of L.M. Bickett Co. The stock of the Bickett Rubber Products Corp. was exchanged for that of the new company without further investment required. This reorganization later became the basis of a long battle over taxes assessed on the profits of the L.M. Bickett Co.

In 1934 Bickett secured a patent on a new type of ventilated seat cushion called the “Respirator” and within a few years the company's business was on the increase. In 1938 Bickett purchased the interests of the Falk Co. and the equipment and real estate held by several bond holders, and thus became not only the chief stockholder of the company, but also its landlord. The upward trend in business continued until World War II brought production of commercial rubber products to a halt in 1941. During the war essential orders were obtained to keep the plant in operation, but the disruption of business both during and after the war brought serious financial problems to the company.

Sometime in 1943 or 1944 both the L.M. Bickett Co. and Bickett personally were assessed additional taxes. According to Helen Bickett Fiegel, Bickett's daughter, his personal tax problems involved a tax deduction unrelated to the operation of the company. The dispute over the company's taxes involved a basis for computing the net profits of the company after its reorganization.

Bickett maintained that until the financial statement of the L.M. Bickett Co. equaled the value of the investments of the original stockholders of the Bickett Rubber Products Corp. plus the value of the newly invested capital at the time of reorganization in 1932, there could be no net profits on which taxes were due. This issue remained unsettled until the fall of 1953, when an arrangement for payment was made. Payment was completed by the end of 1955.

The financial problems of the company were compounded by a series of internal organizational, management, and control problems during the early 1950s. The outcome of these problems was Bickett's resignation as president and director in January 1955. He severed his relationship with the company except as its landlord, although the company continued operation under the direction of his daughter and son-in-law, Ruth G. and W. A. Larson.

L.M. Bickett died May 4, 1958, and the company he founded went into bad standing sometime during the mid-1960s.

Scope and Content Note

Most of the records of Bickett's companies remained with the L.M. Bickett Co. when Bickett retired. This collection includes only scattered personal papers and corporate records of both Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co.

Within the PERSONAL PAPERS are a small file of family correspondence, mainly pertaining to company organizational problems involving family members; personal financial records, including worksheets of debits, credits, and accounts, and a list of personal property sold as of December 31, 1955; and Ruth G. Larson's objections to probate of L. M. Bickett's will. There is also a speech, possibly delivered by Bickett at a graduation ceremony, and an open letter for Watertown's centennial (1954) urging promotion of industry in the community.

The CORPORATE RECORDS contain a historical summary of L.M. Bickett Co. and its predecessors, written by L. M. Bickett; articles of organization and by-laws; balance sheets and other financial records, including a list of creditors of the failed company, 1931; leases and legal papers; and stockholder subscription lists of both Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co.; minutes of board of directors and stockholders meetings of Bickett Rubber Products Corp.; and audit reports of the L.M. Bickett Co., with additional notes and related financial data. Records of products and sales include the only illustrations and descriptions of the company's products, with a calculation of costs and profits on individual products produced by the Bickett Rubber Products Corp. There is also an inventory of machinery and equipment not shipped to Anderson, Indiana in 1931; promotional sales correspondence, mainly humorous annual Christmas letters written by Bickett under the pseudonym of Jim Brown; and salary data, consisting of a letter concerning salary policy, wage rate schedules, comparative salary summaries, and a record of past salaries. Also included is the retrospective appraisal of replacement values, depreciation and net sound values as of April 18, 1941, of the L.M. Bickett Co. There is little documentation of the company's lengthy tax problems.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Presented by Helen Bickett Fiegel, Elkhorn, Wisconsin, 1975. Accession Number: M75-226

Processing Information

Processed by Richard A. Cameron and Joanne Hohler, 1975, and by Bill Beaudreau and Menzi Behrnd-Klodt, 1986.

Contents List
Series: Personal Papers
Box   1
Folder   1
Family Correspondence, 1949-1955
Box   1
Folder   2
Personal Financial Records, 1946-1958
Box   1
Folder   3
Objections to Probate of Will of L. M. Bickett by Ruth G. Larson, July 15, 1958
Box   1
Folder   4
“What Kind of an Education Present Day Business Requires” - Speech and Open Letter to Watertown Community
Series: Corporate Records
Box   1
Folder   5
Historical Summaries of L.M. Bickett Co. and Predecessors, 1920-1955, prepared by L. M. Bickett
Box   1
Folder   6
Articles of Organization and By-Laws of Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co., 1921
Minutes of Bickett Rubber Products Corp.
Box   1
Folder   7
Board of Directors Meetings, 1921-1935
Box   1
Folder   8
Stockholders, 1921-1935
Box   1
Folder   9
Audit Reports of L.M. Bickett Co., 1952-1957
Box   1
Folder   10
Balance Sheets and Other Financial Records of Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co. 1921, 1926, 1955
Box   1
Folder   11
Leases and Miscellaneous Legal Records, 1928, 1932, 1952, 1954 of Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co.
Box   1
Folder   12
Stockholder Subscription Lists of Bickett Rubber Products Corp. and L.M. Bickett Co., 1921, 1952
Box   1
Folder   13
Product Descriptions and Costs, Bickett Rubber Products Corp.
Box   1
Folder   14
Equipment and Supplies
Box   1
Folder   15
Sales Correspondence and Promotional Material, 1926-1952
Box   1
Folder   16
Monthly Salaries, Based on Sales, 1945-1953
Box   1
Volume   1
Retrospective Appraisal Prepared by Lloyd Thomas Co. Chicago, 1951-1952, for L.M. Bickett Co., Reflecting Replacement New Values, Depreciation and Net Sound Values as of April 18, 1941