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History of Car Floor Mats
It probably seems to you, just like it did to me, that there must have been car floor mats from the invention of the automobile. Actually that wasn't the case. The first cars actually had wooden floor slats, not mats. Just like the street cars that were common at the end of the 19th century, the first cars used wood in their earliest construction. The floor slats were removeable so you could reach the drive train (and chain) that propelled the car.
The earliest floor mat inventions were centered around covering the floor area so mud, water, dirt, stones and snow couldn't fly up and hit the driver or passenger. In 1916, Charles Small of Malden, MA designed the first mat with hole for the levers. This invention solved much of the problem. Over the next few years there were developments on this car floor pan idea that further covered the openings for the levers and pedals.
By 1919 development of car mats moved under the car. Samuel Claude Bettiker invented a cardboard moisture proof mat that you could put down while working on a car. About 60 years later, another moisture proof mat would be developed by Kimberly Clark that would be used for the interior when a car was taken into a shop for maintainence and repair.
It took until 1955 before the molded rubber floor mat came on the scene. That year Eagle Picher Company of Cincinati, OH designed for first molded rubber mats. This set off a rapid fire list of developments for this type of rubber floor mats for cars. Most of these new designs were centered in Southwestern Ohio around Columbus and Cincinati, OH. It isn't a stretch to connect the dots from rubber tires to rubber floor mats all being developed in Ohio. For example, in 1956 the first molded rubber mats with draining a area for mud and melted snow. Other materials were also introduced like the jute floor mats in 1957.
In the 1960s and 1970s the concept of universal fit floor mats was pioneered by Pretty Products of Coshocton, OH. Starting in 1962, Pretty Products came out with an adjustable front one piece floor mat that had an accordion feature that allowed to fit all cars with a center hump. By 1972, Pretty Products and Rubber Maid were both trying to outdo each others inventions with new function and design patents on trimmable one piece and multi-piece floor mats.
Also in the 1960s the car manufacturers started embroidering their logos into carpeted floor mats. This idea was also originated by Pretty Products of Ohio. Aftermarket floor mat manufacturers like Lloyd Mats and Avery Mats embellished this idea by offering a full range of logos, monograms and cartoon characters for their custom floor mats. One company, Plasticolor, developed the idea of using a PVC material molded into an open face mold with colors to single handedly create the most popular cartoon and logo enhanced car floor mats on the market. It would be very hard to find a retail without a Mickey Mouse or Harley Davidson floor mat from Plasticolor. Another creative twist on this concept was introduced by Fan Mats. They took their business of printing logos on entry mats for businesses and superimposed it on carpeted floor mats for cars with the logos of colleges and professional sports teams. You can now buy car floor mats at any sporting goods store in America.
One development in car floor mats that took a while to develop was the car floor liner. In 1965 Sherman Wheaton of Anchorage, AK designed the first plastic molded car floor tray. This product stayed idle until the 1980s. At that time companies like Highland Group Industries, Husky Liner and WeatherTech took this idea and expanded it for all types of SUVs and pickup trucks. At that same time, companies like Carbox and Pex in Germany were introducing the the cargo liners and floor liners in the Euopean markets. By 1985 floor liners went from plain black plastic to plasticized backing on carpet that worked the same as a floor liner while maintaining the look and feel of carpeted floor mats. This design was commercialized by Nifty Products with their Catch-All floor mats.
Today the customer has lots of choices for custom car mats. They can get any of the following floor mats.