Charles Goodyear


Perseverance led him to the discovery that made rubber useful.

American lived very simple in Charles Goodyear's day; so simple in fact, that many things people nedded could still be made
in the home shop or in the kitchen.. A man could go into business with very little capital. With the exception of tin and brass, most
materials were either native-grown or home-made; or they were the waste products of other industries. The tanning of animal hides
was an early industry that furnished leather. The shoemaker had scraps of leather left which were thrown out. "Shoestring" Pratt of
Randolph, Massachusetts,collected the leather scraps from shoemakers and made a fortune by cutting shoestrings, or "shoe laces"
from them. The corn broom was still another simple invention. And Enoch Noyes established Leominster, Massachusetts, as the center
of the horn comb industry.

In Connecticut, brass and wooden combs were made for trade with the South. The makes of such goods were always looking for more
customers. Selling through the country stores, or by word of mouth among the neighbors was not enough, and there were distant communities
located so far apart from each other. This situation gave rise to that famous American institution, the Yankee peddler. After haggling for
the best prices, the peddlers filled his valises or trunks with different products like: combs, buttons, metal pens, cotton thread, tin pots
and pans, dyes and cosmetics. He added home-bottled salves, liniments and medicines good for men or beast.

Strapping the cargo to his back, he walked for hundreds of miles to isolated communities in the back country. He was welcome by young and
old not only for his ware, but for his story telling, and for the news he gathered on the way. As manufacturing increased, the peddler's wares
grew more numerous and bulky: Clicks, woodenware, iron kettles, pots, brooms, furniture, and glass were added to his stock. Now the
peddlers needed a wagon. In this way the traveling "five-and-ten-cents stores," drawn by horse and mule, came into being.

Along the turnpike and canals, town grew. The peddlers now supplied store and river-boat traders. Their covered wagon carried goods to
warehouses that were built in the west. There the peddlers could pick up more goods without having to return East. In this way domestic trade
kept on growing. It can be said that the peddlers in their travels around the country were the ones who really mapped out the best routes for
the railroads of the future. Many of the railroad builders, the tycoons of that era, got their start in business that way.

Many peddlers in their travels, settled in favorable places and became merchants. Among the many articles the peddlers carried was an
improved pitchfork made by Amasa Goodyear of Connecticut, the father of Charles Goodyear. Not rubber goods were carried yet. Early
rubber goods were a failure. The coats, shoes, rubber balls and toys melted in summer and became an unpleasant smelly mass.
In winter, these rubber goods hardened until they were useless. The trials and disappointments of Charles Goodyear with his rubber experiments
would equal, if not surpass, those of poor John Fitch and his steamboat. If you see
a man in rubber coat, rubber shoes and a rubber hat, who has in his pocket a rubber purse with nothing in it, you will know that it is
Charles Goodyear."
This is how Goodyear was described: The inventor who, for the sake of rubber,
lived a life of poverty and shame and even suffered imprisonment for debt.

Charles Goodyear was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1800.
His father, Amasa had a hardware store where he sold such things as buttons, spoons, buckles, and clocks, as
well as farm implements. Amongs the farm implements were a springy pitchfork and a scythe which
Amasa Goodyear had invented. When Charles was old enough,
his father sent him to manage their Philadelphia store. Secretly, the boy wannted to be a minister. He seems to have been a poor business man
and extended so much credit that he could not make both ends meet. The progress of agriculture had created a demand for good water-proof
products; wagon tops, boots and shoes. But it was necessary to have these articles solft and relable in all kinds of weather. No one seemed to
be able to find the formula. Manufacturing companies were constantly having goods returned, and people who had invested money in rubber lost
it because the goods were unsatisfactory.

Charles Goodyear, determined to find the formula, experimented with hundreds of mixtures and found a
way to make a thin film of rubber tough. Then he met Nathaniel Hayward, another experimenter, who had
taken out a patent on a sulfur sunlight process. He assigned his patent to Goodyear and the two men had
some success with wagon tops because the sunlight partially vulcanized the sulfur-treated rubber. When they received a contract to make mailbags
for the United States mail service,they discovered that the formula did not work. The mailbags, stored in a warm place, melted into a gummy mess.
Goodyear had yet to learn that direct heat was necessary for vulcanizing. He happened on this by accident.

While visiting some friends one winter day, he accidentally dropped a piece of sulphur-treated rubber on a hot stove. The outside changed but
underneath, to his surprise, the rubber was harder than it had ever been. From this discovery he went to work with oven and steam, and at last
produced a piece of rubber that reacted well to both heat and cold. He began to make rubber shoes according to the new formula and they
were a success. But, being badly in debt again, Goodyear sold his formula to pay off his debts. In 1844, after two more years of
experimenting, Goodyear received his first American patent, and one from France. England refused to grant him a patent, because other
inventors there claime to have developed the vulcanization process.

Like many others inventors, Goodyearwas not a good businessman. If he made money, he over-spent.
His efforts to promote rubber goods at fairs and exhibitions put him in debt again. When france awarded him the cross of the Legion
of Honor he could not be there to accept it because he did not have the money to travel.

When Goodyear died at the age of sixty he is said to have a debt for a quater of a million dollars.
This despite the fact that by then hundreds of rubber articles were being manufactured by his process. But the Goodyear name was carried
on by his son, who adapted the Howe sewing machine to the making of shoes and established the sucessful
Goodyear boot and shoe machinery Company. Later Goodyear tires became a mark of quality in the
automobile industry.

There is not doubt that this man contribute to the molding of the great North America.

The men who molded North America

Julio Duran

Click here for questions or comment.