Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Rex Diamond of Lucasville, Ohio -- Whipped Topping Genius

Rex Diamond at Desk (Framed Whipped Topping Patents)

Who doesn't love whipped cream? The delicious topping for fruits, pies, ice cream, hot chocolate, and whatever else your creamy imagination can imagine is a simple, affordable treat. With a long history of goodness, the first well known reference to it was when the French chef, Vatel created a variation with sugar to serve at a reception to honor King Louis the XIV in 1661. From then on, the topping grew in popularity to its present status of convenient dairy staple.

In another brush with local history, Lucasville area residents can thank a Valley High School graduate when they use this delightful topping or when they enrich their daily cups of coffee with their favorite creamer. Biochemistry, polymers, and non-dairy “whip” toppings all play a part in the story of Rex Diamond, a Lucasville native who helped elevate the worth of the lowly soy bean. Diamond's life was full of sweetness and far too much disappointment and grief. I present a biography to honor the incredible man.

Rex Diamond

Holton Whittier “Rex” Diamond was born in Lucasville, Ohio on June 15, 1915. Rex was the son of Walter V. Diamond and Ethel Pigg. He was a very bright boy, chosen valedictorian of his Valley High School class and, as valedictorian, he presented “The Seniors’ Farewell Message” at the graduation ceremony at Valley High School on May 10, 1932.

After entering Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, on a scholarship, the school newspaper noted that he added “to a brilliant scholastic record” by “being the first freshman to make a perfect grade in the state-wide English examination. Diamond also holds national, state, and county scholarship awards in Latin, French, chemistry and English.” Another article reported that he was the first entering freshman in the 60 year history of the college to score 100% on the timed entrance exam.

Diamond graduated from Wilmington College in 1936 with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Education degree (major in chemistry). Then, he worked briefly as a surveyor in Scioto County, and after that, for several years as a chemist for Mead Paper Company in Chillicothe.

Rex entered Drew Seminary Graduate School of Theology for the fall 1938-Spring 1939 school year. (This was a term in the Methodist ministry; he had been interested in YMCA and Gospel Team Work in college.) Then, he moved to Detroit, lived at the YMCA in 1940, and worked as a chemist in the lab of a steel mill, and as a “soda jerk” in a soda fountain. He also attended the downtown Methodist church and often wrote poetry.

After obtained a position in the research department of the Ford Motor Company, in the synthetic rubber development department, he supervised a project group on butadiene synthesis (synthetic rubber). More specifically, his work was at Greenfield Village on “dum-dum,” a silencing material for cars. In June 1943 he was transferred to the George Washington Carver Laboratory in Dearborn, Michigan, which was established by Henry Ford.

While in Detroit, Diamond enrolled in night school at Wayne State University in Detroit and took courses in advanced organic and high polymers, dyes, biochemistry, and chemical literature from 1943 to 1945, but he did not obtain a graduate degree.

At George Washington Carver Laboratory, Rex worked under Robert A “Bob” Smith, the chief chemist, on soybean milk, cheese, ice cream and tofu, and he developed a whipped topping based on soymilk.

Throughout his career he worked on the uses of soybean oil in creating non-dairy foods such as whipped topping, coffee cream and ice cream. During his work at the lab, Diamond acquired two patents, one for soluble compound of chlorophyill and synythesis and the other for toppings for salads and desserts. (Later, in 1955, Rex acquired one more patent for soybean applications with whipped desserts.)

* Note – Henry Ford disliked cows – and horses: As early as 1921, in an interview published in the New York Tribune, Ford predicted that horses would be replaced by automobiles and tractors. The horse is a "twelve-hundred-pound 'hay motor' of one horse power," he quipped. The milk and meat from cows will be replaced by man-made products. Ford notes: "It is a simple matter to take the same cereals that the cows eat and make them into a milk which is superior to the natural article and much cleaner. The cow is the crudest machine in the world. Our laboratories have already demonstrated that cow's milk can be done away with and the concentration of the elements of milk can be manufactured into scientific food by machines far cleaner than cows and not subject to tuberculosis." This article was written 10 years before Ford discovered soybeans and soymilk!

In the mid-1930s Henry Ford built a soymilk plant in Greenfield Village (Dearborn, Michigan). It was just a demonstration plant that made several hundred gallons of soymilk a day. The plant was part of the larger research effort; none of the milk was sold commercially. With the arrival of World War II, the process was taken by Bob Smith, one of the men who developed it, and used as the basis for a private plant [Delsoy Products] in Dearborn where he sold a lot of soymilk for use in whipped toppings, baked goods and frostings.

In about July 1942, during World War II, Henry Ford created the George Washington Carver Laboratory in Greenfield Village (Dearborn, Michigan), in honor of George Washington Carver (who shared many of Ford’s beliefs, including those about cows; Carver made milk from peanuts). There Ford assembled a team of scientists to intensify his research on alternatives to dairy products – including soymilk and “soy whip topping.” He served this soymilk to patients in the nearby Ford Hospital, and he offered to give the soymilk recipe to anyone who was interested. Bob Rich was one of the first to accept this offer.

In August 1944, Delsoy, a soymilk-based non-dairy whipped topping was launched by Russell-Taylor Inc. of Dearborn, Michigan. The world’s earliest known whip topping, it had been developed at the Henry Ford’s Carver Laboratory, largely by Bob Smith and Holton W. “Rex” Diamond.

In 1949, Rex Diamond acquired a job as a chemist with the American Maize Products Company in Roby, Indiana. The company wanted him to develop a dried dairy-free whipped topping. He continued his research with aerated dessert products, but American Maize dropped the project.

In early April 1949 Bob Smith of Delsoy Products offered Rex a job any time he wanted it. Smith also expressed interest in acquiring Diamond's pending patent applications as well as the name of his company, which he thought was better than his own “Delsoy Products Inc.” However, the company, Delsoy Products did not last long.

* Note – Rex Diamond was never employed full time for Delsoy Products. In the early days he worked at the company for a day or two now and then in the plant doing soybean extraction–not as a consultant, but as a friend of Bob Smith’s.

According to authors William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, then Rex pulled “a fast one” ….

“He left, set up his own company named Vegetable Products Corp. in Saline, Michigan (located inside Henry Ford's old soybean extraction plant there), and began to make a soy-based whipped topping named Wonder Whip (non-pressurized in a cone-shaped container), which was designed to be whipped with an egg beater. But, he did not know how to run a food plant. One day Bob Smith was visiting one of his chain store accounts when the buyer told Bob that Rex Diamond was telling all the distributors that Delsoy Products had quit making their topping – so that Rex could take over the accounts. Diamond had so many problems with the quality of his product that his company never got off the ground, and in less than a year went out of business.”

In March 1949 Rex wrote several food corporations to see if they might be interested in manufacturing Wonder Whip and paying the royalty. General Food Corp in New York said they were not interested. Sadly, Diamond was ahead of the market for about 8 years later General Mills launched Dream Whip, and about 15 years later Whip'n Chill, both similar products.

In November 1952, Bob Rich of Rich Products hired Rex and there he was successful in developing a product named Coffee Rich. Bob Rich and Rex Diamond set up a separate corporation named Coffee Rich Inc. just to manufacture and sell the Coffee Rich. It did very well financially.

In May 1956, Rich Products added a completely new formulation of Whip Topping to its line. Developed by Holton W. “Rex” Diamond, it was named Rich’s Whip Topping – The Diamond Process.” It contained no protein. Soy oil was replaced by coconut oil, which had a better flavor. During the development stage, Mr. Rich discovered that the soya bean substance could be frozen, thawed and whipped. The new product, was immediately hailed as “the miracle cream from the soya bean.”

Rich's® Whip Topping® was the world's first frozen non-dairy whipped topping. The “miracle cream” revolutionized the food processing industry, serving as the springboard for a series of groundbreaking, non-dairy products. It sparked the advent of Rich Products Corporation, still one of the largest family-owned companies around the globe.

At the time, Diamond was in the process of building a large home in Buffalo New York but then he was unexpectedly fired by Bob Rich. One of the contingencies of the stock agreement between Rich and Diamond was that if either person was terminated or left the company, he had to sell his stock back to the corporation. Diamond felt he had been fired because the company (and Diamond) had made so much money that Rich had to fire Diamond to get control of the stock.

Diamond, who had signed a bad contract, was very upset. The same thing happened to the sales manager for Coffee Rich. Again Rex approached Delsoy Products, asking if he could manufacture topping in their plant, but again they declined. Meanwhile diamond returned to his home town in Detroit and went to an attorney. The attorney settled with Rich Products for a much smaller sum than Diamond hoped to get. Within a year or two of his termination from Rich Products, Diamond committed suicide in Detroit.


Holton W. Diamond Papers 1933-1971 (bulk 1946-1969) Accession 89.432 Finding Aid Published: January 2011.

William Shurtleff, Akiko Aoyagi. Henry Ford and his Researchers - History of their Work with Soybeans … 2011.

William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi.“History of Non-Dairy Whip Topping, Coffee Creamer, Cottage Cheese, and Icing/Frosting (With and Without Soy) 1900-2013.” 2013.

Talk (print) with David and Harvey Whitehouse, formerly of Delsoy Products. February 4, 1992.

Rex Diamond and Coffee Rich

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