IN THE BEGINNING – In 1861, at the outset of the U.S. Civil War, 26-year- old G.H. Hood began working at Goodyear’s Rubber Mfg. Co. for Charles Goodyear himself. After spending 15 years selling rubber and gaining experience in manufacturing, Mr. Hood struck out on his own, acquiring the assets of a defunct rubber footwear factory in Franklin, Massachusetts and beginning production of rubber footwear under the brand name Boston Rubber Co. and Bell.
Mr. Hood’s two sons, Frederic and Arthur, worked at the footwear plant during their time off from school, learning the rubber trade alongside him. The apprenticeship equipped the brothers with a sound knowledge of the rubber manufacturing process.
In 1892, to compete with the small specialized rubber manufacturing companies that were proliferating throughout the Northeast, Boston Rubber Co. and Bell consolidated with ten other rubber companies under the name U.S. Rubber Co., forming the first rubber trust in the country.
Mr. Hood took on the mantle of co-founder and director of U.S. Rubber Co., selling his entire interest in Boston Rubber Co. and Bell in the process. He became the fourth largest shareholder in the rubber trust.
Immediately after Mr. Hood’s company was acquired, U.S. Rubber Co. closed all Boston Rubber Co. and Bell plants and dismissed its staff – Frederic and Arthur included.
Mr. Hood was infuriated. In protest, he resigned as director of U.S. Rubber Co. on April 25, 1896, permanently retiring from active participation in the rubber industry. His strong personality had stamped itself so indelibly upon the rubber trade that, notwithstanding his retirement, he was – and is – remembered as a prominent force in the rubber industry.
Frederic and Arthur Hood picked up where their father left off, incorporating a new company, named Hood Rubber Co., on Oct. 12, 1896. Banding togeth- er many former employees of the Boston Rubber Co. and Bell plants, Hood Rubber Co. broke ground on a new plant and opened a 67,564-square-foot manufacturing facility with 225 employees in Watertown, Massachusetts. The first day, ten pairs of boots were produced; within six months, production had increased to 3,000 pairs of rubber boots per day.
In 1898, soon after Hood Rubber Co. launched, the company found early success with the introduction of a rugged, lightweight rubber boot. Called the Tuff Boot, it was a pull-on, Wellington-style boot made of extra-heavy vulcanized duck canvas fabric in the shaft and vamp. Vulcanization is a process that converts natural rubber into more durable and pliable materials, resulting in a shoe that is able to withstand heat and cold. Not only was the Tuff Boot extra-durable, it was also substantially lighter than the current pull-on boots of the time.