How Goodyear Began
The founding of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1898 seems especially remarkable, for the beginning was anything but auspicious. The 38-year-old founder, Frank A. Seiberling, purchased the company’s first plant with a $3,500 down payment. He used money he borrowed from a brother-in-law. The rubber and cotton that were the lifeblood of the industry had to be transported from halfway around the world, to a landlocked town that had only limited rail transportation. Even the man the company’s name memorialized, Charles Goodyear, had died penniless 30 years earlier despite his discovery of vulcanization after a long and courageous search.
Yet the timing could not have been better. The bicycle craze of the 1890s was booming. The horseless carriage, some ventured to call it the automobile, was a wide-open challenge. The depression of 1893 was beginning to fade. So on August 29, 1898, Goodyear was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000.
David E. Hill, who purchased $30,000 of stock, became the first president. But it was the dynamic and visionary founder, hard-driving Seiberling, who chose the name and determined the distinctive trademark. The winged-foot trademark. Which was inspired by a newel-post statuette of Mercury in the Seiberling home. While it has been altered over the years, it remains an integral part of the Goodyear signature.
With just 13 employees, Goodyear production began on November 21, 1898, with a product line of bicycle and carriage tires, horseshoe pads and poker chips. The first recorded payroll amounted to $217.86 based on the prevailing wage of 13 to 25 cents an hour for a 10-hour day. After the first full month of business, sales amounted to $8,246. Since the first bicycle tire in 1898, Goodyear pedaled its way toward becoming the world’s largest tire company, a title it earned in 1916 when it adopted the slogan “More people ride on Goodyear tires than on any other kind,” becoming the world’s largest rubber company in 1926.
Today, Goodyear measures sales of more than $20 billion. Although it took 53 years before the company reached the first billion-dollar-year milestone. It all began in a converted strawboard factory on the banks of the Little Cuyahoga River in East Akron, Ohio. Spanning the years, a legion of firsts and facts and figures appears that reflect the making of a company.