Who was Charles Goodyear
Charles Goodyear, born in 1800 in New Haven, Connecticut, was barely 60 years old when he died, buried in debt. His discovery of the process of vulcanization should have earned him millions. Many are surprised to find that the Goodyear Tire Company that bears his name, was not founded by Charles Goodyear, never paid any royalties to his family, and in fact, never paid Charles Goodyear a penny for his amazing contribution to science.
Charles Goodyear began his career as a partner in his father’s hardware business. As with everything that Charles Goodyear touched, the business soon went bankrupt. After the bankruptcy, Charles then became interested in India rubber, which at the time was sticky and very susceptible to the heat and cold. Charles attempted to mix anything and everything with the rubber in an effort to create a material that was pliable and weather resistant. His tenacity left his family deep in debt.
The discovery of vulcanized Rubber
Charles had mixed a batch of rubber and sulfur but accidentally dropped it on the stove. When he finally got around to cleaning it off, he found that the substance was not gooey nor sticky but rather had a leathery texture to it. He took the melted mixture and slung it over a rack on the porch of his home. Left outside in the frigid temperature, Charles was surprised to discover the vulcanized material the next morning. The new “finished” rubber was pliable, had a higher tensile strength, and was resistant to swelling and abrasion. A patent for vulcanization was granted to Charles in 1839 and a material that had been nothing more than a novelty, soon became one of the most critical materials ever developed by Man.
The birth of Goodyear Tire and Rubber
Fifty years later, a struggling entrepreneur, Frank A. Sieberling, founded a rubber company using Charles’ methods of finishing, and named it after Charles Goodyear. Goodyear Tire and Rubber was founded in Akron, Ohio and today is known more for its skill than technological innovation. It remains one of the leaders in the manufacturing of tires and other rubber related products.
Charles spent the remainder of his life fighting patent infringers – none of his battles were successful. He was imprisoned for his debt and died in 1860 with over $200,000 in debts outstanding.