Rite In The Rain Celebrates 100th Birthday

When it comes to dealing with soggy weather, the Pacific Northwest is second to none. So it should come as no surprise that all-weather paper company, Rite in the Rain, was started right in our back yard.

Jerry Darling, Rite in the Rain Founder.

Jerry Darling, Rite in the Rain Founder.

In 1916, local entrepreneur Jerry Darling witnessed the conundrum the North Bend logging industry faced when trying to keep count of timber. Rather than use soggy, disintegrating paper, folks in the industry were using wooden planks painted white. To Darling, these wooden planks were a stop gap solution to a larger problem. So, he decided to do something about it.

Darling and short-term partner, Herbert Buffington, developed a coating treatment (which RITR employees affectionately refer to as the “special sauce”) that forms a protective moisture shield on hand-dipped paper.

“He and his wife Mary had this funny kind of device – it looked like a bike chain with clips of paper attached to it – and they’d crank this thing and these sheets of paper would individually plop into a tray of this treatment liquid that they used to use,” said Jim Kopriva, RITR product manager.

What began as a project the Darlings started in their home, turned into a hundred-year legacy of archival-quality, weather-resistant paper products developed in Tacoma.

Today’s process has evolved to become more environmentally-friendly. Instead of hand-dipping each page, the sheets are treated by the roll with a steam solution. Instead of paper covers, a durable, recyclable plastic cover was instituted. Finally the “special sauce” has been tweaked throughout the century to eliminate the use of harsher chemicals.

RITR primarily gears their products towards specialized industries. Record books for livestock owners who need to keep track of beef calving; job hazard analysis forms for OSHA compliance; field interview notebooks for police officers; patient record books for emergency personnel; soccer notebooks with field diagrams for coaches; army green and desert tan editions for military personnel to use in the field or downrange; expedition journals for mountain climbers with charts, tables, and even climbing schedules. RITR even makes a series of “extreme” notebooks that can be used underwater by scuba divers.

While these specialized books account for most of their 400-product line, Kopriva said RITR is desperately trying to appeal to the everyday consumer.

“The benefits of the products are generally applicable,” he said. “If you have a pocket notebook, or you write throughout the course of the day – it doesn’t really matter who you are – if the notes are important to you in any way it is worth protecting.”

Kopriva recommends RITR’s pocketable 24-page Black Mini-Stapled Notebook which comes in a stocking-ready three pack for $7.60.

“This is just a go anywhere notebook and it’s so thin that if you do forget it in the laundry, everything you wrote down in it will make it through,” he said.

Rite in the RainFor more substantial projects, Kopriva recommends RITR’s classy limited-edition Centennial Bound Book which comes in a 4 1/4 x 6 3/4 or a 6 3/8 x 8 3/4 size, each for less than $30. The book contains gray paper which offers a pleasing contrast against the darker cover and it’s easy on the eyes because it doesn’t reflect sunlight the way white paper does.

“It also has a quarter inch dot grid and what is nice about it is it stays out of the way as you are writing, but it gives you plenty of structure to write in straight lines, chart, sketch, and graph,” he said.

Finally, Kopriva said RITR’s printer paper also is popular among everyday consumers. While a ream of paper doesn’t seem like a terribly thoughtful gift, this archival-quality paper can be used to protect irreplaceable life documents so they stand the test of time.

“You can go ahead and toss that in storage and it’s not going to deteriorate with age,” Kopriva said. “If you have a flood box and you are just using a crummy little plastic tin container without a gasket on it, you might as well put some water resistant paper in there.”

RITR products can be found at REI, Home Depot, and online at riteintherain.com.

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is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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