Last Reviewed: May 20, 2024
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Charles Goodyear and B.F. Goodrich are famous pioneers in the rubber industry, but they never saw an automobile tire!

Goodyear Company Logo
BFFoodrich Company Logo

Charles Goodyear was born in in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1800 and after learning the hardware business from his father concentrated on manufacturing and selling farm equipment. By 1829 he was a wealthy businessman but poor health and some bad investments quickly took that away. Then in 1931 Goodyear learned about gum elastic and became obsessed with putting it to use. Raw gum was too sticky to be of much use at the time but he was sure there would be a way to overcome that. He spent years experimenting with various minerals and chemicals and eventually discovered that the answer was to heat a mixture of gum and sulfur with steam to about 270 degrees Fahrenheit, which became known as vulcanizing.

Goodyear's previous supporters were leery to invest in his new product while others fought him for the patient rights and as a result he chose to continue experimenting rather than producing a product. His obsession to make new rubber products left him broke and destitute when he died in 1860. Nearly 40 years later, in 1898, a man by the name of Frank Seiberling heard about Goodyear's vulcanizing process and decided to make tires for the new horseless carriage market. Seiberling decided to honor Goodyear by calling his new business The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Benjamin Franklin Goodrich was born in 1841 in Ripley, New York, became a doctor and then served on the battlefront of the Civil War as a Union Army surgeon. After the war he invested heavily in the Hudson River Rubber Company, which failed but led to his creation of the B.F. Goodrich Corporation a few year later. Goodrich's goal was to improve the rubber in fire hoses so they would not freeze and break in the winter and that success led to the introduction of garden hoses. However it was not until a few years after his death in 1888 that the company started making tires for automobiles.

In 1908 Henry Ford began putting Goodyear tires on his Model T's and that success led to the development of the first airplane tires and eventually the creation of observation balloons and blimps. By 1926 The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company led the world in rubber production.

Meanwhile, The Goodrich Corporation became one of the biggest tire manufactures in the world before merging with Uniroyal (previously the United States Rubber Company) in 1986. Goodrich tire production ended in 1988 when they sold the tire division to Michelin.