From Ohio History Central
Benjamin Franklin Goodrich helped make Akron, Ohio, the "Rubber Capital of the World" during the late 1800s. Before becoming involved in the rubber industry, Goodrich attended Cleveland Medical College (modern-day Case Western Reserve School of Medicine). He specialized in surgery. Following the American Civil War, Goodrich left medicine and became involved in other pursuits, including working in some of Pennsylvania's oilfields and, in 1867, opening a real estate office in New York City.
Goodrich 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 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.
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