Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oldest Plastic Company in the USA? 100 years in 2014

I wonder sometimes if the ancestral beginnings of our plastics company, that being aka Ridout Plastics Company Inc, are more deeply rooted than any others. 

Ridout Plastics is a contender.... founded in 1914 as the Rench Company, and the first plastic we sold was little plastic numbers and letters that were used on grocery store shelves AND Customer Call Numbers - 1 through 50 made from .030 white vinyl. DO you remember those? That would be late teens or early 1920's most likely.

My grandfather, one of San Diego's original grocers, did business with the Rench Company. In fact, my father remembers the store - with the earliest memories from the late 20's. (My grandfather came here in 1910). 

 The little bottle to the right is from my first job in 1968 - filling methylene dichloride into bottles - acrylic solvent glue. Yuck. Note the (714) area code for downtown San Diego.

We started selling Plexiglas acrylic sheet sometime after it was invented - best I can tell. The makers of Plexiglas didn't log who sold their product until about 1970. The earliest "proven" transaction was some clear and colored acrylic sheets used in a Buck Knife handle from the early 40's. See email below...

When my dad bought the company in 1967, we were still selling the Call Numbers and shelving numbers.... and Buck Knives is STILL a customer today OVER 70 YEARS after their first purchase!

Here's where this all started:
Subject: Buck Knives

I am the historian at Buck Knives and was hoping that you would be able to help me with a project I am working on. In the 1990's you supplied us with some plastic "spacers" that we used on a special knife for members of our Buck Collectors Club. I believe you dealt with Billy Bates on this, and a few subsequent projects.

I had heard someone make the comment that Ridout is the same company that our founder Hoyt Buck bought Lucite from back in the mid to late 1940's. I know this might be a stretch but do you have anyone at your company now that might be able to verify that statement? I am trying to piece together Buck's early history with very little information. Chuck Buck helps but his memory is fading.

Is there someone at your company that I might be able to ask some historical questions?
Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Joe Houser
Director of consumer Relations
Buck Collectors Club Administrator

To which we answered:

Ridout Plastics was the only plastics company in San Diego until around 1971 – so it’s not a stretch to say we sold you Lucite in the 40’s. That’s actually the oldest transaction anyone can document! Back then, we were located in Hillcrest on 4th avenue near Robinson.
Looking forward to 2014 - 100 years of selling plastics? Holy Smoke!


  1. I just received a knife like this as a gift. when and how were they produced? mine looks very old and handmade, with red, green, and clear lucite disks.

  2. I used to do that type of Plastic work in 9th grade Plastics class at Ballou Jr. High in Puallup WA. That was 35 years ago. I liked that you could glue layers together and get a colored ring effect. My question. Where do you get the colored glues to glue plastic together. Also I want to get set up in this hobby. We had a coulpe of 6 in cloth buffing wheels with some kind of Redish, solid, rock like chunk of something to put on the buffing wheel. This was to get out the scratches. Then a white chunk of stuff for finish polishing. I made Jewlery, Gearshift knobs for my cars' and a wicked red and grean sword. you could layer diferent colors glue. I use to take a drill bit and carve out roses. Fill them with color dyes, glue a dark background on them and shape and polish and basically i was jewerly or whatever. Does anyone know where to get all these materials. Direction to go. thanks Jerry