From Ohio History Central
Rubber stock for the track treads of scout cars and other Army halftrac vehicles is milled in one Ohio tire plant. All rubber firmly "welded" to the steel parts is formed into one tough durable piece. Goodrich, Akron, Ohio
Benjamin Franklin Goodrich helped make Akron, Ohio, the "Rubber Capital of the World" during the late 1800s. He became involved in the rubber industry in 1869, becoming the largest stockholder in the Hudson River Rubber Company in New York. Goodrich faced stiff competition from numerous other rubber producers and decided to move his business to Akron, Ohio. Local residents had collected 13,600 dollars to encourage Goodrich to move his plant from New York to Akron. At this time, no other rubber manufacturers existed west of the Appalachian Mountains. Goodrich hoped to dominate the rubber industry in the Midwest and in the Far West. He opened his Akron plant, the Akron Rubber Works, in March 1871. Goodrich first employed twenty workers. The plant made numerous items but focused on fire hoses that would not burst under pressure.
The company, which became known as the B.F. Goodrich Company, grew slowly during the 1870s, nearly going bankrupt twice, but the business gained momentum during the 1880s and 1890s. In 1888, an Irish veterinarian invented the pneumatic tire out of rubber. A pneumatic tire is one that is filled with air. It became very popular among bicyclists, providing the rider with a much smoother ride. With the invention of the automobile, demands for tires skyrocketed. The first tires were solid rubber, but the B.F. Goodrich Company, which had created a research laboratory to discover new uses for rubber in 1895, quickly developed a pneumatic tire suitable for cars. By 1892, four years after B.F. Goodrich's death, the company employed four hundred workers and sold more than 1.4 million dollars worth of products. By 1911, sales exceeded 27.4 million dollars. The company eventually moved its headquarters from Akron to Charlotte, North Carolina.
The B.F. Goodrich Company continued to be a leader in the rubber industry during the first half of the twentieth century. A B.F. Goodrich scientist invented vinyl in 1926, and in 1937, B.F. Goodrich scientists created synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber was made by blending various chemicals together and did not require rubber trees to produce it. This discovery helped the United States emerge from World War II victorious. The American military needed rubber products for its vehicles and machinery. During the war, the United States had limited access to natural rubber. The synthetic version guaranteed the United States a steady supply of rubber. The company also created the first tubeless tire in 1946.
Following World War II, the B.F. Goodrich Company became involved in the aviation industry. The company had provided tires for Charles Lindbergh's plane on its trans-Atlantic flight in 1927. In 1961, the National Aeronautics Space Agency commissioned the B.F. Goodrich Company to produce the first spacesuits for its astronauts. In 1988, the company exited the tire business entirely, focusing most of its attention on the aerospace industry. In 2001, the B.F. Goodrich Company changed its name to the Goodrich Corporation.
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