Our Heritage: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Original WARCO rubber manufacturing factory in Los Ageles

WARCO BILTRITE through the years: 1910 - 2017

Throughout its 100+ year history in rubber manufacturing, West American Rubber Company (WARCO) has written many chapters and, as the company now continues on its next 100 years, it is fitting to pay tribute to the past – to the people, the events, activities, and the achievements that have most influenced and shaped the Company. See our Mayoral Proclamation >

  1. 1910

    English emigrates, brothers Douglas and William Radford founded the company in downtown Los Angeles, domiciled in a facility adjacent to the Los Angeles City Jailhouse. During its infancy, oil exploration in Southern California was booming and WARCO directed its efforts on the manufacture of molded rubber parts to serve the burgeoning oil industry.

  2. 1918

    West American hits Hollywood: our original factory is featured in the background of Harold Lloyd's silent movie classic Take a Chance.

  3. 1926

    WARCO experienced a set back with a devastating fire, which for many companies would have proved catastrophic; but not for WARCO. Thanks to the help of other rubber manufacturers on the West Coast, WARCO’s orders continued to be filled. Today WARCO gratefully acknowledges and warmly remembers those good companies and people who supported it during such a difficult time.

  4. 1940’s

    At this point, the company’s ownership consisted of ten shareholders. Over time however, two of the gentlemen, Mr. Sam Eisenberg and Mr. Paul Sampsell would buy out the interests of the other eight. Messrs. Eisenberg and Sampsell operated WARCO from 1952 to 1977. The industry will remember them as hard working, honest and dedicated men who each contributed greatly to the growth of the rubber industry in Southern California.

  5. 1962

    The company outgrew its facilities in downtown Los Angeles; choosing to relocate to its current location on eleven acres on Main Street in Orange, California.

  6. 1960’s

    WARCO acquired several existing rubber companies including, Extruded Rubber Products, Semco Rubber Company, and Stoner Rubber Company. A new chapter unfolded as WARCO began the Extruded Rubber Division. It was during this time that the first Hemstreet came to WARCO: Alda Katherine Hemstreet, mother of Ken and Steve Hemstreet.

  7. 1971

    It was this year that Steve Hemstreet began his career with WARCO. From 1971 to 1977, Steve held eighteen different job functions throughout the factory and the laboratory. As in previous years, the company continued to invest in new equipment; resulting in WARCO becoming a leader in rubber injection molding and pioneering advancements in molding technologies such as rubber-to-metal bonding, a discipline it continues excelling at today.

  8. 1977

    Harrison Industries, a privately held manufacturing conglomerate, led by Benjamin F. Harrison in Birmingham, Alabama acquired WARCO. Steve Hemstreet became an officer of the company, Ken Hemstreet joined the WARCO family, and Conrad Blackerby of Harrison Industries relocated from Alabama to become WARCO’s President. At that time the company continued to grow at a tremendous rate; as a result, a Louisville Distribution & Customer Service Center was established to enhance the growing sheet rubber products business and provide support to its expanding customer base east of the Mississippi River.

  9. 1981

    Technical Equities Corporation, a diversified publicly traded holding company acquired WARCO from Harrison Industries in an all cash transaction. WARCO continued its impressive sales growth and capital expansion, including the purchase of state-of-the-art production equipment for continuous vulcanization of extruded rubber products.

  10. 1986

    Conrad Blackerby and Steve Hemstreet acquired the company. Between the years of 1986 and 1998, WARCO experienced tremendous growth. The company operated dedicated manufacturing divisions which included: Molded, Extruded, Sheet, Performance Processing Company (custom mixed silicones) and WPP, a large volume intermediary of a variety of rubber materials.

  11. 1998

    Yet another chapter unfolded for WARCO. Industrial Growth Partners (IGP), a San Francisco based private investment firm, partnering with WARCO’s management, acquired the assets of WARCO.

  12. 2001

    Steve Hemstreet, along with his brother, Ken, re-acquired WARCO from IGP in November.

  13. 2004

    WARCO receives ISO 9001:2000 certification. View our ISO Certificate >

  14. 2006

    The U.S. House of Representatives honored WARCO with an award for "Outstanding Business of the Year, 2005," in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the City of Orange.

    Later that same year, WARCO announced its acquisition of Ripley, Mississippi based Biltrite Corporation’s (BRO) sheet rubber and rubber matting business; a move that positions it as the largest US based sheet rubber maker in North America, further entrenching its foothold in the oil, military, transportation, construction and food services industries.

    The two strategically located manufacturing plants remain integral to facilitating the company’s future growth. BRO’s highly trained and dedicated staff coupled with its expansive 400,000 sq ft manufacturing facilities, combined with WARCO’s 150,000 sq ft facilities and devoted personnel create a market presence of unparalleled capability, service and commitment.

  15. 2009

    WARCO faced what was to be, one of its most challenging periods; an economic environment that was frequently referred to as “the worst since the Great Depression”. However, summoning the resourcefulness of its people the company designed and implemented a comprehensive reformation of its business enabling it to overcome the obstacles and ensure its ongoing viability.

  16. 2010

    WARCO celebrates it's 100th year anniversary! It pays tribute and homage to all of the courageous and dedicated individuals who have contributed to and participated in the achievement of such a truly extraordinary milestone.

  17. 2011

    WARCO BILTRITE opens an online store offering an easy way to search, check inventories, and purchase quality rubber products anytime, anywhere!

  18. 2013

    WARCO BILTRITE expands its corporate headquarters. The corporate office said goodbye to its home of 20+ years and moved into an adjacent 30,000+ sqft building at 1337 Braden Court, Orange, CA 92868.

  19. 2015

    Fluorozone® Performance FKM is developed and brought to market.

  20. 2016

    WARCO renews ISO 9001:2008 certification. View our ISO Certificate >

    We welcome the addition of two new injection presses to our operation in Ripley, MS. Greatly expanding our molded rubber capabilities while creating new jobs in Tippah County.