vulcanize rubber perfected and patented in 1844, in Springfield,
STATUS: Bankrupt Circa 1834
Charles Goodyear (December 29, 1800 – July 1, 1860) was an American
self-taught chemist and manufacturing engineer who developed
vulcanized rubber, for which he received patent number 3633 from the
United States Patent Office on June 15, 1844.
Goodyear is credited with inventing the chemical process to create and
manufacture pliable, waterproof, moldable rubber. However, the
Mesoamericans used a more primitive stabilized rubber for balls and
other objects as early as 1600 BC.
Goodyear's discovery of the vulcanization process followed five years
of searching for a more stable rubber and stumbling upon the
effectiveness of heating after Thomas Hancock. His discovery
initiated decades of successful rubber manufacturing in the Lower
Naugatuck Valley in Connecticut, as rubber was adopted to multiple
applications, including footwear and tires. The Goodyear Tire &
Rubber Company is named after him.
1 Early life
2 Marriage and early career
3 Perfection and Patent of
Vulcanization in Springfield, Mass.
4 Court cases regarding vulcanization
5 Death and legacy
6 See also
8 External links
Charles Goodyear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Amasa
Goodyear, and the oldest of six children. His father was a descendant
of Stephen Goodyear of London, Middlesex, England, one of the founders
of the colony of
New Haven in 1638.
In 1814, Charles left his home and went to
Philadelphia to learn the
hardware business. He worked industriously until he was twenty-one
years old, and then, returning to Connecticut, entered into
partnership in his father’s business in
Naugatuck, CT where they
manufactured not only ivory and metal buttons, but also a variety of
Marriage and early career
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Engraving by W. G. Jackman, D. Appleton & Company, New York
On August 3, 1824 he married Clarissa Beecher. Two years later the
family moved to Philadelphia, and there
Charles Goodyear opened a
hardware store. This is where he did most of his work. His specialties
were the valuable agricultural implements that his firm had been
manufacturing, and after the first distrust of domestically made goods
had worn away—for all agricultural implements were imported from
England at that time—he found himself heading a successful business.
This continued to increase until it seemed that he was to be a wealthy
man. Between 1829 and 1830 he broke down in health, being troubled
with dyspepsia. At the same time, the failure of a number of business
endeavors seriously embarrassed his firm. They struggled on, however,
for some time, but were finally obliged to fail.
Between the years 1831 and 1832, Goodyear heard about gum elastic
(natural rubber) and examined every article that appeared in the
newspapers relative to this new material. The Roxbury
of Boston, had been for some time experimenting with the gum, and
believed it had found means for manufacturing goods from it. It had a
large plant and was sending its goods all over the country. It was
some of Roxbury's goods that first attracted Goodyear's attention.
Soon after this, Goodyear visited New York, and his attention went to
life preservers, and it struck him that the tube used for inflation
was not very effective nor well-made. Therefore, upon returning to
Philadelphia, he made tubes and brought them back to New York and
showed them to the manager of the Roxbury
The manager was pleased with the ingenuity that Goodyear had shown in
manufacturing the tubes. He confessed to Goodyear that the business
was on the verge of ruin, and that his products had to be tested for a
year before it could be determined if they were perfect or not. To
their surprise, thousands of US$ worth of goods that they had
determined to be of good quality were being returned, the gum having
rotted, making them useless. Goodyear at once made up his mind to
experiment on this gum and see if he could overcome the problems with
these rubber products.
However, when he returned to Philadelphia, a creditor had him arrested
and imprisoned. While there, he tried his first experiments with India
rubber. The gum was inexpensive then, and by heating it and working it
in his hands, he managed to incorporate in it a certain amount of
magnesia which produced a beautiful white compound and appeared to
take away the stickiness
He thought he had discovered the secret, and through the kindness of
friends was able to improve his invention in New Haven. The first
thing that he made was shoes, and he used his own house for grinding,
calendering and vulcanizing, with the help of his wife and children.
His compound at this time consisted of India rubber, lampblack, and
magnesia, the whole dissolved in turpentine and spread upon the
flannel cloth which served as the lining for the shoes. It was not
long, however, before he discovered that the gum, even treated this
way, became sticky. His creditors, completely discouraged, decided
that he would not be allowed to go further in his research.
Goodyear, however, had no mind to stop here in his experiments.
Selling his furniture and placing his family in a quiet boarding
place, he went to New York and in an attic, helped by a friendly
druggist, continued his experiments. His next step was to compound the
rubber with magnesia and then boil it in quicklime and water. This
appeared to solve the problem. At once it was noticed abroad that he
had treated India rubber to lose its stickiness, and he received
international acclamation. He seemed on the high road to success,
until one day he noticed that a drop of weak acid, falling on the
cloth, neutralized the alkali and immediately caused the rubber to
become soft again. This proved to him that his process was not a
successful one. He therefore continued experimenting, and after
preparing his mixtures in his attic in New York, would walk three
miles to a mill in
Greenwich Village to try various experiments.
In the line of these, he discovered that rubber dipped in nitric acid
formed a surface cure, and he made many products with this acid cure
which were held in high regard, and he even received a letter of
commendation from Andrew Jackson.
Exposure to harsh chemicals, such as nitric acid and lead oxide,
adversely affected his health, and once nearly suffocated him by gas
generated in his laboratory. Goodyear survived, but the resulting
fever came close to taking his life.
Together with an old business partner, he built up a factory and began
to make clothing, life preservers, rubber shoes, and a great variety
of rubber goods. They also had a large factory with special machinery,
built at Staten Island, where he moved his family and again had a home
of his own. Just about this time, when everything looked bright, the
panic of 1837 came and swept away the entire fortune of his associate
and left Goodyear penniless.
His next move was to go to Boston, where he became acquainted with J.
Haskins, of the Roxbury
Rubber Company. Goodyear found him to be a
good friend, who lent him money and stood by him when no one would
have anything to do with the visionary inventor. A man named Mr.
Chaffee was also exceedingly kind and ever ready to lend a listening
ear to his plans, and to also assist him in a pecuniary way. About
this time it occurred to Mr. Chaffee that much of the trouble that
they had experienced in working India rubber might come from the
solvent that was used. He therefore invented a huge machine for doing
the mixing by mechanical means. The goods that were made in this way
were beautiful to look at, and it appeared, as it had before, that all
difficulties were overcome
Goodyear discovered a new method for making rubber shoes and received
a patent which he sold to the Providence Company in Rhode Island.
However, a method had not yet been found to process rubber so that it
would withstand hot and cold temperatures and acids, and so the rubber
goods were constantly growing sticky, decomposing and being returned
to the manufacturers.
Perfection and Patent of
Vulcanization in Springfield, Mass.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
United States patent 3633
Several years earlier, Goodyear had, however, started a small factory
at Springfield, Massachusetts, to which he moved his primary
operations in 1842. The factory was run largely by Nelson and Henry
Goodyear, Charles' brothers. Charles Goodyear's brother-in-law, Mr. De
Forest, who was a wealthy woolen manufacturer, became involved as
well. The work of making the invention practical was continued. In
1844, in Springfield, the process was sufficiently perfected that
Goodyear felt it safe to take out a patent. The first vulcanization of
rubber is considered one of the major "firsts" that contributes to the
City of Springfield's nickname, "The City of Firsts."  In 1844,
Goodyear's brother Henry introduced mechanical mixing of the mixture
in place of the use of solvents.
Court cases regarding vulcanization
Booknotes interview with Charles Slack on Noble Obsession: Charles
Goodyear, Thomas Hancock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest
Industrial Secret of the Nineteenth Century, October 27, 2002, C-SPAN
In the year 1852 Goodyear went to Europe, a trip that he had long
planned, and saw Thomas Hancock, then in the employ of Charles
Macintosh & Company. Hancock claimed to have invented
vulcanization independently, and received a British patent, initiated
in 1843, but finalized in 1844. In 1855, in the last of three patent
disputes with fellow British rubber pioneer, Stephen Moulton,
Hancock's patent was challenged with the claim that Hancock had copied
Goodyear. Goodyear attended the trial. If Hancock lost, Goodyear stood
to have his own British patent application granted, allowing him to
claim royalties from both Hancock and Moulton. Both had examined
Goodyear's vulcanized rubber in 1842, but several chemists testified
that it would not have been possible to determine how it was made by
studying it. Hancock prevailed.
Despite his misfortune with patents, Goodyear wrote, “In reflecting
upon the past, as relates to these branches of industry, the writer is
not disposed to repine, and say that he has planted, and others have
gathered the fruits. The advantages of a career in life should not be
estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents, as is too
often done. Man has just cause for regret when he sows and no one
Death and legacy
Goodyear's grave in New Haven, Connecticut
Goodyear died on July 1, 1860, while traveling to see his dying
daughter. After arriving in New York, he was informed that she had
already died. He collapsed and was taken to the Fifth Avenue Hotel in
New York City, where he died at the age of 59. He is buried in New
Haven at Grove Street Cemetery.
In 1898, almost four decades after his death, The Goodyear Tire &
Rubber Company was founded and named after Goodyear by Frank
On February 8, 1976, he was among six individuals selected for
induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In Woburn, Massachusetts, there is an elementary school named after
him. The Government of France made him a Chevalier de la Légion
d'honneur in 1855.
Rubber Division awards a medal named in Goodyear's honor, the
Charles Goodyear Medal. The medal honors principal inventors,
innovators, and developers whose contributions resulted in a
significant change to the nature of the rubber industry.
The Goodyear welt, a technique in shoemaking, was named after and in
honor of its inventor, Charles' son;
Charles Goodyear Jr.
Leverett Candee, first person to manufacture rubber footwear under the
Goodyear vulcanization process.
William Henry Goodyear, his son
Goodyear Tire and
^ Zumdahl, Steven; Zumdahl, Susan (2014). Chemistry (Ninth ed.).
Belmont, California: Brookes Cole/Cengage Learning.
ISBN 978-1-133-61109-7. Retrieved October 25, 2014. However, in
Charles Goodyear (1800 – 1860), an American chemist, . .
^ Haven, Kendall; Berg, Roni (1999). The Science and Math Bookmark
Book:300 Fascinating, Fact-Filled Bookmarks. Englewood, Colorado:
Teacher Ideas Press/Libraries Unlimited, Inc. ISBN 1-56308-675-1.
Retrieved October 25, 2014. Famous Scientists: Charles Goodyear,
^ United States Patent Office Archived 2015-07-14 at the Wayback
^ Hosler, D., Burkett, S. L., and Tarkanian, M. J. (1999).
Rubber processing in ancient Mesoamerica,"
Science, 284(5422), pp. 1988–1991.
^ Slack, Charles (2003). Noble Obsession, 225, Hyperion.
^ Leading American Inventors, 1912
^ Firsts Archived 2013-05-21 at the Wayback Machine. – Springfield
^ Goodyear, C. (1939). A Centennial volume of the writings of Charles
Goodyear and Thomas Hancock, Boston, Mass.: [Centennial Committee]
Chemical Society, p. 97.
^ Charles Goodyear, Find a Grave
^ Goodyear website, History by Year
^ National Inventors Hall of Fame, 1976 Archived August 8, 2011, at
the Wayback Machine.
^ Clapp-Goodyear School
^ Wildsmith Shoemaking Process
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charles Goodyear.
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Works by or about
Charles Goodyear at Internet Archive
Charles Goodyear Story
Today in Science History – Goodyear's U.S. Patent No. 240:
Improvement in the Process of Divesting Caoutchouc, Gum-Elastic, or
Rubber of its Adhesive Properties, and also of Bleaching the
Same, and Thereby Adapting it to Various Useful Purposes.
Iles, George (1912), Leading American Inventors, New York: Henry Holt
and Company, pp. 176–218
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