The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is one of Northeast Ohio’s most accomplished companies. People from the Greater Cleveland and Akron areas can easily recognize their winged-foot logo and of course, the Goodyear Blimp. But why the name Goodyear?
The company is named after Charles Goodyear, a merchant-turned-inventor from Philadelphia. Charles Goodyear however has absolutely no connection to the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Why then, did the company choose to bear his name?
In the 1830’s businessmen and consumers caught “rubber fever” – everyone wanted products made out of Brazil’s export: gum. Factories opened to create rubber goods, but had trouble producing quality products. The harsh summer heat would reduce rubber products to a sticky goo and cold winters made rubber products stone-hard. In 1938, Charles Goodyear found himself bankrupt and began experimenting with the gum. For years he experimented with different additives to change it’s composition but he was typically met with the same melted mess and increasing amounts of debt.
Then, one day in 1939, rumors say Goodyear took his latest form of rubber to a general store and accidentally dropped it onto a hot stove. His gum-and-sulfur paste became weathered and charred. It was at that moment Goodyear realized adding heat to his equation made the rubber weatherproof. After more experiments, Goodyear sent samples to British rubber companies but was slow to patent his product. He earned American patent number 3633 from the United States Patent Office in June of 1844. A British rubber pioneer named Thomas Hancock who received Goodyear’s samples figured out Goodyear’s process and applied for an English patent. Hancock was brought to court by other British rubber pioneers for copying Goodyear’s formula, but Hancock was found not guilty. Goodyear died in 1860 – 21 years after he discovered the “vulcanization” process. He was $200,000 in debt.
When the founders of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company opened for business in 1898, they decided to honor the true inventor of modern rubber and vulcanization by keeping his name. The company was met with immediate success as consumers bought up bicycles, carriages and horseshoe pads. What once began as a 13-person company in a strawboard factory on the Little Cuyahoga River in Akron, Ohio is now a worldwide brand with annual sales of $20 billion.