Dominion Rubber Company

In 1854 the beginnings of what would become Dominion Rubber, and the accompanying Rubber Machinery Shops were laid. It was in this year that William Brown, Ashley Hibbard and George Bourn met in Montreal to start Brown, Hubbard, Bourn & Co., the first manufacturer of Caoutchouc (Indian rubber) footwear in Canada. The company grew and in 1866 became the Canadian Rubber Company, manufacturing not just rubber footwear but also springs, machinery belts, and rubberized cloth.

By 1906 the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company, as it was now known, had purchased many of the competing rubber companies in Canada and in February of 1907 purchased Berlin and Merchants rubber companies of Kitchener. A merger with United States Rubber in 1910 created the Dominion Rubber Company and more opportunities for growth and expansion.

1912 saw the Dominion Rubber Company see a potential for a lucrative line of business as motorized vehicles began to take hold in Canada. With this in mind, the company set out to establish the Dominion Tire factory and began searching for locations. In a contest that included larger and more developed cities such as Hamilton, London, and Windsor, it was Kitchener (then still Berlin and only just declared a city) that won the bid, thanks in no small part to Talmon Rieder.

Talmon Rieder, a well-known Kitchener business man was working for the Dominion Rubber Company at the time in their head office in Montreal. His wife and family were in Kitchener, and it was he that convinced the company to build the new tire factory in the city. The land was purchased, and on Aug 9, 1912 ground broke on the new one million dollar factory.

The Dominion Tire factory opened Christmas of 1913 and began regular production in 1914. The first tire was built on Jan. 6 by Oscar Totzke of Kitchener, who had been sent to Detroit and Indianapolis to learn the craft. At the time it took Mr. Totzke an hour to assemble the tire and the factory’s goal was one tire, per man, per day. This pace was soon too slow for demand and by 1919 the factory employed 1,800 workers and produced 420,00 tires per year.

In 1917 an integral part of the Dominion Tire factory was opened, the Rubber Machinery Shops. Built next to Dominion Tire for the express purpose of creating machines for use in the factory, the Rubber Machinery Shops (RMS) designed and manufactured machines for use in the rubber industry (and eventually many others) at this location until 2009.

In 1966 RMS was bought by Uniroyal (the former United States Rubber Company that went into partnership with Canadian Consolidated Rubber) and its role changed. RMS became a self-sustained division of Uniroyal, operating and maintaining its own facilities for sales and manufacturing. Although Uniroyal would be RMS’ largest client during the period, economic conditions saw the company branch into other industries and begin manufacturing machines for such diverse purposes as producing medicated Band-Aids and cutting wooden bungs for whiskey barrels, and products such as portions of the peritelescopes on the CN Tower. RMS changed again in 1989 when Michelin purchased Uniroyal, and the focus again became producing machinery for the parent company.

In 1993 RMS became an independent corporation when it was purchased by the managerial staff. The company would continue to produce machines for various industries and sell to other corporations worldwide. No longer associated with a tire manufacturing parent company, the contracts accepted, and the variety of machines produced by RMS would increase substantially.

1999 saw the final purchase of RMS, by Pettibone Tire Equipment Group, owned by Heico Companies. During this period there was a great deal of employee unrest in the company that culminated in a 34 month long strike through 2001-2004. When the strike finally ended, none of the employees that were out returned to the company. Shortly afterward, in 2009, RMS headquarters moved to Akron, Ohio and production began there. Although RMS still has offices in Kitchener, it is no longer located in the space it occupied for almost one hundred years.