American Biltrite Company History
Miah Marcus and Frank Bernstein founded the Ewell Rubber Company in Trenton, New Jersey in 1908. This entity, which would later be renamed American Biltrite, was launched as a manufacturer of rubber heels and soles for shoes. Currently headquartered in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts with over 600 employees, American Biltrite—a company guided by the principles of expansion and diversification—has grown over the years to become a global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of industrial rubber and commercial flooring. The timeline from the company’s inception to the present day marks the journey of two business partners who were able to transform a local footwear company into an international corporation with diverse product offerings for the industrial sector through decades of new business ventures and strategic acquisitions.
Key Highlights of American Biltrite’s History
1913: The founding partners established a Canadian division in an effort to broaden the company’s reputation beyond the United States.
1917: The company redesigned and expanded its manufacturing facilities to initiate Amtico Rubber Flooring (and later vinyl flooring).
1940s: The Amtico factories were converted to accommodate production of shoe soles for Marines and Navy personnel during World War II.
1950s: The Company’s name changed to American Biltrite Rubber Company (1951).
Boston Woven Hose and Rubber was acquired (1956), elevating American Biltrite’s status as a leader in the production of industrial rubber products.
1960s: American Biltrite acquired Bonafide Milles, Inc. (1961), a manufacturer of vinyl-asbestos and asphalt coverings, doubled the production abilities of its Amtico Rubber Flooring division (1962), and nearly doubled company sales (of which one-third was attributed to Amtico’s vinyl and asbestos tile flooring).
1980s: The founding partners split and American Biltrite was divided into two separate corporations (1982). Biltrite Corporation was headed by the Bernstein family and consisted of the domestic footwear business and American Biltrite, Inc. was headed by the Marcus family and consisted of floor coverings, tape products, and Canadian entities.
1990s: American Biltrite merged its floor tile business with the vinyl sheet flooring business of Congoleum Corporation, maintaining Congoleum’s name and obtaining 44% ownership of the company (1993). Shortly thereafter, in 1995, American Biltrite gained majority control over Congoleum through an initial public offering of its stock.
Today, the Marcus family continues to navigate American Biltrite through a second century of innovation and diversified product development with a commitment to customer service across a wide variety of industrial sectors.
Products Manufactured by American Biltrite that Contained Asbestos
Resilience, low cost, and easy to maintain—for these reasons asbestos tiles were commonly used in both homes and in institutional and commercial settings, such as hospitals, schools, and municipal buildings. The use of asbestos tile was so widespread prior to the recognition of its adverse health effects that it is highly likely any tile installed prior to 1980 probably contained some form of asbestos.
Among the products produced by American Biltrite that contained asbestos include:
|Vinyl asbestos floor tile||January 1, 1961-December 1985|
|Asphalt tile||January 1, 1961-1970|
|Sheet vinyl flooring with asbestos felt backing||January 1, 1962-1968 and 1974-1980|
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Individuals who worked with or around American Biltrite flooring products from 1961-1980 may be at an increased risk for developing harmful health effects such as asbestos-related lung diseases. Floor tiles were often installed in homes, public buildings, and aboard navy ships. Whether a new construction project or renovation of an existing structure, floor tiles may have been installed by a wide variety of workers, including professional tile setters, carpenters, shipyard workers, and homeowners. Anyone not directly involved in, but in the vicinity of the tile work may have also been affected. This may have included construction workers, supervisors, demolition workers, and families of homeowners. Exposure to asbestos in tiles most likely occurred when the tiles were cut or broken to fit the area where the installation was taking place or when rough edges of the tiles were sanded. In these instances, asbestos fibers were most likely released and inhaled. Demolition of areas with pre-existing asbestos tiles and simple deterioration of tiles from age are further factors that may result in the release of fibers into the surrounding environment. Finally, those individuals employed by American Biltrite who were involved in the production and distribution of the asbestos flooring materials may have suffered from occupational exposure to this harmful substance.
Asbestos-related lung diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, can result in adverse health effects that can significantly alter the course of an individual’s life, and may, in some cases, prove to be fatal. If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, please visit our mesothelioma symptoms page to become familiar with the symptoms in an effort to seek appropriate treatment options at an early stage.
As of year ending 2010, American Biltrite was cited as a co-defendant in 1,261 asbestos lawsuits with a combined total of 1,807 plaintiffs. In the majority of these cases, individuals claim personal injury from exposure to asbestos-containing products manufactured by the company’s tile division. The projected combined liability for these claims and anticipated new claims over the next six years ranges from $17.7 million to $62 million.
As of December 31, 2010, net sales for the year for American Biltrite were $201.6 million—an increase from 2009 year-end sales of $173 million.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer