Uniroyal, Inc. Records, 1917-1990

Scope and Content Note

Records of the Eau Claire Plant of Uniroyal Inc. consist of nine series: CENTRAL FILES, LABOR RELATIONS, HISTORICAL MATERIALS, MEETINGS, REPORTS, ROYALEERS CLUB, BLUEPRINTS, PHOTOGRAPHS, and FILMS. Among the most thoroughly documented subjects in the collection are labor relations, including the history of collective bargaining from 1940 to 1960, and grievance settlements from 1937 to 1976. Scientific management, technical aspects of tire production, and plant expansion and modernization from 1943 to 1950 are also extensively documented. Subjects such as cost and quality control, worker safety, and shipping and materials handling systems are well represented in the collection. Evidence of the activities of a social club for female salaried employees, the Royaleers Club, while not exhaustive, is present from the date of the Club's founding in 1948 until the factory closed in 1990. Photographs and film loops provide an especially rich visual record of the Eau Claire factory's construction and layout, and tire building technology before and after World War II. The collection primarily documents the Eau Claire plant as a manufacturing facility. Some of the records not included here are personnel files, sales records, advertising materials, and annual reports.

CENTRAL FILES were originally those of Howard O. Hutchens, resident factory manager from 1926 to 1952. Only files concerning the later half of his career, the eight-year period dating from conversion of the plant to ordnance in 1942 through 1950, are present. The series consists of correspondence, memoranda, and reports sent to and received from departments within the Eau Claire plant and from other divisions of the U.S. Rubber Company, including other tire plants and the company's New York headquarters. Also included are incoming letters from persons and organizations outside of the U.S. Rubber Company and the Eau Claire plant. The CENTRAL FILES provide evidence of the major functions and activities of the Eau Claire plant such as the compounding and processing of synthetic rubber stock; tire and tube production, inspection, testing, and quality control; shipping and receiving; industrial relations; public relations; and accounting. The files are arranged alphabetically by sending department, or in a few cases, by subject. For the most part, internal company communications were filed by department and thereunder by individual members of that department. Where possible, individuals have been identified by title in the box list. Incoming non-company or non-interdepartmental communications tended to be filed alphabetically under the general letter of the alphabet by name of sending individual or organization. These files frequently include copies of outgoing responses.

Within the CENTRAL FILES are memoranda and correspondence of the Central Engineering Department. These files concern reconversion of the physical plant in 1943-1945 from ordnance to tire production and detail the construction of new buildings, additions and alterations to existing buildings, and the installation and relocation of equipment and utilities. Included are floor plans illustrating the changes in layout and the placement of machinery. For 1945 there are also graphic progress schedules of the military tire program which track the new construction, machine installation and services required to manufacture war products.

Eau Claire's factory accounting and budgeting systems are documented in the files of the Control Division. In addition to routine correspondence and memoranda, the records include operating budgets and cost reports detailing projected and actual expenditures for materials, supplies, equipment, labor, and overhead, losses due to seconds, and costs per pound of production. Complete plant operating budgets are only present for the years 1945 and 1948.

The identification of technical problems in the tire manufacturing process, and the search for improved methods are reflected in the files of the Eau Claire plant's Development Department. However, materials documenting this subject appear throughout the CENTRAL FILES. For instance, relevant reports and other communications can be found in both the Industrial Engineering and Product Control Department files. The majority of the exchanges with Development concern defective tire molds.

The acquisition, functioning, and maintenance of tire-building machines and equipment, and the supervision of Machine Shop, Mold Shop, and Maintenance Department personnel are topics documented in the Engineering Department correspondence, memoranda, and reports. Also known as Works Engineering, the files include weekly mold and equipment inspection and repair reports, weekly cost reports citing direct labor costs by tire size and brand, and communications concerning defects in tire mold and other equipment. Also included are inventories of equipment on hand, on order, scrapped, or defective; and requests to discard obsolete tools and equipment. Minutes of Power Conservation Committee meetings are filed here as well. T.A. Gustafson's 1942 file concerns military orders and dispersal of Eau Claire's tire-building equipment to other U.S. Rubber Company plants.

Industrial Engineering Department files reflect the functioning of the wage incentive system including such aspects as work measurement and job evaluation, the establishment of labor standards for each operation in the tire production process; and local wage payment policies. The bulk of the files consist of various statistical reports on plant capacity, actual versus projected rates of production, percentage of production schedule met, and percentages of efficiency achieved on a plant-wide and department-wide basis. Many of the tire production reports compare Eau Claire's output to that of other U.S. Rubber Company tire plants such as Chicopee Falls and Detroit. Also included here is a set of weekly progress reports evaluating the activities, total production, and efficiencies of individuals employed in the plant's Mold Shop. Certain responsibilities or functions of the Industrial Engineering Department appear to have overlapped with those of the Industrial Relations Department, as files of the former also include interplant comparisons of wage rates and earnings, and summaries of union wage inequity demands.

The Industrial Relations department was responsible for labor relations at the Eau Claire plant, and materials filed here overlap with the contract negotiation files in the LABOR RELATIONS series. Other activities of the department reflected in the CENTRAL FILES include employee training, public relations, and employee relations matters such as leave policies, and the administration of retirement and insurance programs. Many of the communications in the General files concern safety in the plant, and include accident/injury reports, Wisconsin Industrial Commission hearing decisions concerning Eau Claire plant employees, safety inspection reports, maintenance orders, notices, and agendas of plant safety meetings.

Shipping and receiving, warehouse storage, and inventory control of raw materials, stock, and finished goods at warehouses in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire are documented in the Materials Handling Department files. Memoranda and reports from 1949 reflect the plant's efforts to reduce warehouse and transportation costs and to increase the overall efficiency of materials handling operations. The reports consist of monthly statistics on the quantities of raw materials handled.

The Planning Department appears to have been responsible for scheduling the production of the specific brands and sizes of tires, tubes and casings. Materials documenting this Department are fragmentary but the subject of production scheduling is also reflected in the files of the Sales Production Coordination Department.

Plant Expansion Program files for 1943 detail the company's plans to convert the Eau Claire facility from war to tire production. Included are reports analyzing the material, equipment, and labor requirements, drawings showing proposed new buildings, and appropriation requests related to the project. Similar materials on the subject of plant conversion and expansion are also found in the Central Engineering files.

Development of improved production methods, establishment of specifications, inspection of stock and finished goods, analysis of defects, are among the functions documented in the files of the Product Control Department. Included are detailed and highly technical descriptions of experimental procedures, reports on trips to observe production at the Detroit plant, tire quality reports for the years 1947 and 1949, weekly data on number and types of defects, and a 1947 proposal for a plant-wide quality control program. The tire quality reports total the numbers and percentages of defective, repaired and discarded tires and tubes per month by type of defect; average number of cures per curing bag attained; and number of defective batches of mixed stock.

The Sales Production Coordination division established production schedules and processed orders for rubber and tread stocks shipped to other U.S. Rubber Company plants, orders for finished goods shipped to dealers, and unassembled tire parts such as casings, tubes, and flaps. The files, while not complete, reflect the scheduling of production and shipment to match sales of company and special brand tires, the filling of orders for tires and stock, and handling customer complaints about deliveries and tire quality. Included are reports on the status of orders, forecasts of sales by sales outlet, performance reports comparing scheduled to actual production, and monthly reports on mixed stock production and shipping.

Files of the Safety Director consist mainly of detailed reports on occupational health and safety hazards in the Eau Claire plant, inspection reports on potential hazards issued by the New York headquarters Industrial Relations department, detailed descriptions and analysis of specific lost time accidents, monthly accident summaries, and monthly compensation summaries. Some reports identify injured employees by name, and contain information on age, health, and work history. Monthly accident summaries provide the following information: number of accidents total, cause, lost days, number of weeks of temporary disability, names of injured employees, and remarks. Compensation summaries total the number of cases subject to workman's compensation payments, amounts paid, medical and legal expenses, amount in the company reserve for unpaid claims, and the cost. Memoranda and reports concerning plant safety and employee accidents are also found in the Industrial Relations files.

Traffic Department reports and correspondence concern the transportation of materials and finished goods into and out of the Eau Claire factory, primarily by railroad. Included are monthly and yearly statistics on tonnage, loss and damage claims, and transportation costs.

U.S. Rubber files contain communications between the Eau Claire plant and the other factories in the company's Tire Division, as well as the New York headquarters. There are also carbon copies of communications between the other plants and New York. General files mainly concern the transfer of equipment and personnel between the different plants, joint meetings and management conferences, production problems, Gillette brand advertising, and public relations, particularly the arrangement of plant tours or visits.

The U.S. Rubber Company operated tire factories in Chicago, Illinois; Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Los Angeles, California. The Chicago factory was the site of the Tire Division's District Sales Manager and among the subjects in the Chicago files are promotional advertising, efforts to secure a contract with the State of Wisconsin for tires, and a district sales conference held at Eau Claire in 1950.

The U.S. Rubber Company's factory in Detroit, Michigan was the site of the Tire Division's research and development department and Production Scheduling Unit and the Detroit files primarily reflect the interplant exchange of production data and advice on problems and developments. Included are interplant comparison reports on such issues as defective products, products damaged during shipment, inventory levels, allocations of raw materials, and supervisory earnings. When interplant committee meetings and other special conferences were held at Detroit, the minutes and progress reports were filed here as well. J.I. Martin files contain monthly interplant quality comparisons and memos to plant-level production supervisors about persistent tire quality problems and potential solutions. C.L. Moody was Detroit's factory manager and his files concern production levels throughout the Tire Division. They include regular forecasts of sales, costs and production, daily production totals which Eau Claire teletyped to Moody, and reports on production bottlenecks, failures to meet production schedules, and physical inventory. Also reflected are loans of workers from Eau Claire to other plants, and equipment appropriations, mainly during the reconversion and plant expansion period. Communications from Wanamaker, Tire Division Production Manager, concern some of the same subjects but also document industrial relations, changes in and expansion of production in the Tire Division as a whole and at specific plants, memos on changes in production methods, cost savings measures, and waste and scrap recovery, and lists of production priorities which were issued on a monthly basis. His files also include detailed reports of his visits to various plants.

New York general files contain correspondence, memoranda, reports, circulars and press releases emanating from U.S. Rubber's New York City headquarters and mostly concern matters of overall company policy. Included are reports and memos regarding company-wide safety and traffic consolidation programs, circulars on policy changes and suggested standard practices with regard to production, inventory, orders and distribution, safety, and personnel policies. There are also reports on the status of negotiations with the United Rubber Workers International, and correspondence regarding publicity activities such as plant visits and exhibits. In addition there are press releases, articles, and occasional company publications. Also filed here are approvals for Eau Claire plant appropriations requests and authorizations for equipment and other purchases.

Following the New York general files are communications with F.S. Carpenter and J.W. McGovern, general managers of the Tire Division in 1942 and 1944 respectively. These consist primarily of copies of appropriations requests submitted to the New York office by H.O. Hutchens, for expanding and modernizing the Eau Claire plant, and copies of Hutchen's outgoing correspondence on personnel, physical plant, and production matters. Cushing was U.S. Rubber's Director of Industrial Relations and documents filed here include monthly wage surveys of the Big 4 rubber manufacturers, memoranda regarding negotiations with the United Rubber Workers International, and circulars outlining changes in the administration of the company's benefits plans.

H.O. Hutchens' participation in a Wisconsin regional Labor-Management Committee of the War Manpower Commission is reflected, but not well documented, in the file of meeting summaries and circulars concerning war and post-war labor shortages and allocation problems.

Reflecting some of the contingencies faced by American manufacturers during World War II are materials related to the War Production Board. Included here are copies of mandatory reports submitted by Hutchens detailing the Eau Claire plant's capacity to manufacture ordnance material, copies of the board's orders restricting the rubber supplies, and printed bulletins issued to manufacturers of war products on such subjects as material shortages, the development of substitutes, and compliance with government contracts.

U.S. Rubber's four-year effort to build a new warehouse to store finished goods produced by the Eau Claire plant is extensively documented in the CENTRAL FILES. Included are correspondence, memoranda, and transcribed telephone conversations concerning prospective locations and existing properties, space requirements, and cost. There are also various cost studies, lease proposals from area real estate firms, and building proposals from national contractors. The latter typically include building specifications, quotes, and site plans. The contract for building a new warehouse was awarded to the George Fuller Company. Following this selection are copies of construction progress reports, change bulletins documenting alterations in the project specifications, and summaries of meetings concerning details of the building project. Also filed here is a report issued in 1950, the year construction was completed, entitled “Economic Analysis of Tire Handling and Warehousing from Finishing Through Shipping at the Eau Claire Plant.” Two plans of proposed warehouse buildings are located in the BLUEPRINTS SERIES.

The most complete series in the Uniroyal Collection is LABOR RELATIONS. Two sub-series, contract negotiations and grievance case files, document twenty years of collective bargaining and nearly forty years of grievance settlement at the Eau Claire Plant. The company's set of grievance files document grievances to the third step from 1945 to 1976. Cases which proceeded to arbitration, also from 1945 to 1976, are documented in Eau Claire Mss AA, records of the United Rubber Workers Local #19 (after 1945 the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America). Local #19's files also include the union's minutes of meetings with the company concerning contract negotiations and grievances from 1944 to 1986. The arbitration hearing files parallel and supplement the grievance case files found in the company records. The minutes form a continuation of the company's grievance committee minutes which end in 1976, and for the earlier years, provide a record of the same meetings from the union's point of view.

Records of Contract negotiations begin with 1940, one year after Local #19 of the United Rubber Workers won their first written contract. The files are arranged chronologically by year and then alphabetically by subject. After 1945, both company-wide and local negotiations are documented. Company-wide contract meetings took place at U.S. Rubber headquarters in New York City and involved representatives from all tire manufacturing plants and facilities. Agreements reached at this level formed the basis for subsequent negotiations held in Eau Claire, between Local #19 and management of the Gillette plant. The local contract was often referred to as the local supplement or supplementary agreement. Contract negotiations files include minutes of meetings between company and union officials in New York and Eau Claire, correspondence and memoranda, notifications and requests for bargaining, draft agreements and proposals, and information on local office workers and wage employee strikes. Issues typically subject to negotiation included wage rates, hours, union security, and benefits such as health and hospital insurance, holiday pay, pension plans, and supplemental unemployment benefits. The files document an NLRB election to certify the office workers' unit in 1943, and after 1946 negotiations with Warehouse Employees Union Local #359 which represented workers at the Eau Claire plant's Minneapolis warehouse. Of interest in the 1943 office worker files are lists of non-eligible employees not found elsewhere in the collection. After 1950, under wage data, are detailed interplant comparisons of wage rates and employee earnings prepared by management. A survey conducted by management in 1954 gathered data on employee lay-offs and on lost time due to plant shut-downs and reduced work weeks from 1948 to 1953. Summary reports filed in 1954 cite the date and reasons for layoffs, shut-downs and reductions, and list total numbers of employees involved by department, sex, and seniority; and total days lost. Statistics for years after 1954 are filed under “employment stabilization.”

Grievances brought by members of Local #19 against Eau Claire Plant management from 1945 to 1976 are thoroughly documented in Grievance Case files. Grievances prior to 1945 are documented in minutes of meetings between management representatives and members of the union executive committee. Case files are arranged numerically by case number, which corresponds to the date the grievance was submitted to Eau Claire's Industrial Relations Department. Each file contains a copy of Local #19's official grievance reporting form, minutes of meetings held between management representatives and members of the union's executive and departmental grievance committees, and related correspondence, memoranda, and notes. The grievance form includes the worker's complaint, lists the department and occupation of the worker or workers involved, and summarizes management's disposition of the matter. After 1950 or so, documentation of second and third step answers to grievances are seen more often, and the files include formal notices of Labor Standard changes. Since 1929, the Eau Claire Plant had operated under the Bedaux “wage incentive” plan which set standards for every worker's task and provided extra pay for individual output in excess of the standard. Worker grievances frequently involved protests of the standards established by the time-keeper or the set rates of pay. Other grievances involved safety measures and working conditions. Also represented were issues such as seniority and transfers, the classifications of jobs as male or female, and equal pay for equal work.

HISTORICAL MATERIALS consists largely of miscellaneous artifacts, printed items, and fragmentary portions of records dating from the Gillette Tire Company's earliest years. Most of the materials were gathered by a plant historical committee active in the 1960s. Artifacts with potential exhibit value include guest badges, probably from the 1930s, and tire serial number plates from the first tires completed after plant reconversion in 1944. Also of interest are formulas or recipes handwritten on small cards, for chemical compounds used in processing crude rubber or rubber fabric in 1919; and portions of what is apparently a production supervisor's or engineer's notebook dating from 1919 to 1930. These fragments offer glimpses of the factory's operation in the period before modernization and before the introduction of synthetic rubber during World War II. The latter includes data on tire serial numbers, specifications, diagrams, building instructions, and tire curing times. The earliest records in the collection are Gillette company financial volumes from 1917 to 1919. These are general ledgers listing debits and credits to both individual and controlling accounts such as real estate, machinery, chemicals, payroll, operating expenses, stocks, and taxes with a partial index to account numbers. Volumes from 1920 to 1925 are daily journals listing company financial transactions in chronological order. Also important for researchers are various official accounts of the history of the tire plant. Histories of the Eau Claire Ordnance Plant consist of a series of reports submitted to the U.S. Army detailing its transformation and operation as an ordnance factory. Included is information on capacity and output, personnel, wages, and diagrams of the manufacturing area and powder farm. A history of the reconversion of the plant from the manufacturing of small-caliber ammunition back to tires was compiled by the company's Industrial Relations Department. Also filed here are brief accounts of the Gillette, U.S. Rubber, and Uniroyal companies written at various times for public relations purposes. Related to this are a few files of printed materials consisting of scattered issues of company newsletters, examples of advertisements, and other public relations materials.

Labor efficiency reports from 1944 and 1970 are the most comprehensive and voluminous records in the REPORTS SERIES. These reports, prepared by the Labor Standards Department, on either a monthly or weekly basis, were statistical measures of the percentage of working hours each department of the factory worked “on standard,” and as such reflect the use of the Bedaux wage incentive system at the Eau Claire plant. Each report includes total hours worked, hours on standard, lost hours, percentage efficiency, and percentage on standard that month and the previous week for each department or division. For the year 1945 figures for individual workers are reported and the 1946 reports cite reasons for the increases or decreases in labor efficiency (percent on standard). After 1958 the reports include total numbers of tires scheduled to be produced, cured, and finished, and the number of persons working in each division. Reports from 1953 to 1954 are missing.

Although the remaining files of reports in the REPORTS SERIES are incomplete, they serve as examples of the types of management reports which were probably generated on a more regular basis. Factory managers' monthly reports are available only for part of 1942. These consist of interplant comparisons of tire production, labor productivity, costs, and losses due to defects. Tire Division cost control project files document a 1948 company-wide plan to reduce the cost of tire production through reductions in waste, seconds, and labor costs at various points in the manufacturing process. Included are comparisons of such costs at all tire manufacturing plants from 1946 through 1948 and projections of costs through 1949.

Records of the ROYALEERS CLUB, a social organization for female salaried employees, reflect its activities from 1948 to 1990. Files of the secretary include correspondence, minutes, membership lists, financial statements, notices, and by-laws and are arranged chronologically. Files from 1967 to 1971 are missing. The series documents the membership and activities of the group such as fundraising through candy sales and the like and social events such as parties, picnics, trips, and fashion shows. Photographs depict members at club-sponsored events from 1948 to 1971. The majority are without identification.

The BLUEPRINTS SERIES consists of a small number of site plans, floor plans and elevations of the Eau Claire Plant and finished goods warehouse. Also included is a site plan for the plant's rubber cement and gasoline storage tanks and a diagram of the mechanical system used to paint tires. Of the plant drawings, the most complete are two floor plans showing the location of each department in 1942 prior to conversion and modernization.

The PHOTOGRAPH SERIES contains black and white prints and original nitrate and safety negatives depicting factory interiors, exteriors and aerial views, tire-building equipment, machines and instruments, male and female workers engaged in production, plant reconversion and new construction, company product lines, public relations activities, employee relations, management conferences, and the community and social activities of company employees. They provide excellent visual documentation of complex industrial processes, the evolution of the factory over a thirty year period, and the introduction and use of modern automated equipment into the workplace. The majority of the images date from the 1940s and 1950s, with particular emphasis on the period of new construction and modernization in 1944-1946. The entire process is exhaustively detailed in a series of “plant progress” photographs. These prints are numbered, dated, and captioned and the numbering suggests that certain prints are missing. Also noteworthy are two comprehensive photographic surveys of the factory's machinery and instrumentation done in approximately 1945, and again in 1965. Photographs of rubber workers engaged in all facets of tire production are another strong point. Virtually all of the photographs in the collection were professionally shot, with dates and captions supplied. Some were most likely taken to accompany articles in the U.S. Rubber Company's in-house publication US magazine. A selection of the photographs and negatives are housed in the Visual Material Archive of the State Historical Society in Madison at call number PH 6055. (Additional photographs of the Gillette Tire Company are also located in the Visual Material Archive. PH 626 consists of 28 photoprints of the factory from 1917 to 1939, including aerial and exterior views of the Gillette and Chippewa rubber factories; interior views of the building, calendar, and curing departments; steps in processing; and images of the first experimental tire being built in 1917.)

The FILM SERIES is comprised of very short, eight-millimeter, black and white silent film loops originally produced as Bedaux system time or motion studies. They depict male and female Eau Claire factory employees performing various operations in the manufacture of automobile and bicycle tires from 1934 to 1939. The procedures filmed include mixing batches of rubber; cutting, splicing, and stitching rubber plys, treads and other parts of the tire; and building beads and tires on drums and by conveyor. Interior views of the factory, machinery and equipment are often discernable. For preservation, the 48 original film loops were placed in chronological order by date of filming, spliced together on larger reels, and transferred to ¾-inch and ½-inch videotape. The original films and ¾-inch master videotapes are housed in the Visual Material Archives of the State Historical Society.