Industrialist, Inventor. He is best known for his pioneering work in the development of pneumatic car and truck tires and as founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. He was born in the small town of Columbiana, Ohio, he desired to develop and mass-produce a tire to reduce the jar and jolt of the steel-shod wheel. Armed with sound business sense, but no money, he set out to develop his radical new idea. It took two other partners to raise the entire one thousand dollars needed to buy a building and get started, but by 1896 the Rubber Tire Wheel Company had begun to manufacture rubber tires for carriages. Firestone put all his energy into building the new company. Even so, it took three years before it showed a profit and there were other difficulties. After losing a patent infringement suit, Firestone was forced to merge with the opposing company. The Consolidated Rubber Company prospered, and was ultimately sold, giving Firestone the much-needed capital to start a new company of his own. Early in August 1900, he bought an old foundry building in Akron, Ohio and started the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, with 17 employees. In 1904 Firestone collaborated with Henry Ford to design pneumatic rubber tires for the newly popular automobiles. A few years later, Henry Ford selected tires manufactured by Firestone for the first mass-produced automobiles in America. In 1911, Firestone began what would become a legendary involvement in car racing by entering and winning the first Indianapolis 500. Firestone also joined America's "Good Roads" movement, supporting the Lincoln Highway Association in the creation of the first coast-to-coast highway, Route 66. Firestone developed the first pneumatic rubber tires for heavy trucks, and to promote their use, he also created the "Ship by Truck" campaign, encouraging manufacturers to move their products to markets by truck. In fact, the very first coast-to-coast truck shipment of goods traveled on Firestone tires. By the 1920s, Firestone had become a world leader in tires and had a nationwide chain of retail stores. Firestone followed Ford’s example of vertical integration of the production process, so by 1926 he leased a 1,000,000-acre rubber plantation in Liberia to provide a dependable supply of raw rubber for his factories. Firestone was part of a famous group of friends, which included Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, naturalist John Burroughs and botanist Luther Burbank – men considered to be the leaders in their respective fields, who loaded up a caravan of cars with camping equipment and traveled across America communing with nature. He died on February 7, 1938.
Bio by: Edward Parsons
Idabelle Smith Firestone