• Exploring American History

Bringing rubber and road together

Harvey Samuel Firestone was born December 20, 1868 in Columbiana, Ohio. Of German descent, Firestone’s paternal ancestors immigrated to the United States in 1753 and settled in Pennsylvania. Soon after, they changed the family name from ‘Feuerstein’ to ‘Firestone’.

During the early 1890s, Firestone worked as a salesman for the Columbus Buggy Company (Iron Buggy Company). This career ended when the company went out of business in 1895.

Finding himself unemployed, Firestone felt the time had come to embark on a dream he had. He envisioned creating rubber tires to replace the standard steel-rim wheels typically used on buggies, believing this would create a more comfortable ride. To accomplish this goal, Firestone purchased a factory in Chicago. His tires became a quick success and four years later, he sold the company for $45,000. He then moved to Akron, Ohio and used the proceeds to establish the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. At the end of his first year in Akron, sales of tires totaled $110,000.

In 1900, Firestone had sensed the huge potential to produce tires for automobiles and soon his company became a pioneer in mass production. Good thing too, because in 1905, Ford Motor Company purchased 2,000 sets of tires for its Model T cars – the largest tire order in history at that time. Firestone quickly hired additional employees, increasing the number of workers from 12 to 130. The following year, Firestone’s company realized more than one million dollars in sales, which increased to $115 million in 1920. Though the depression of the ‘30s was hard on his company, Firestone weathered the financial storm and again turned a profit as the American economy began to recover.

In 1909, Barney Oldfield won the Indianapolis Sweepstakes – a 300 mile race – with Firestone tires on his car. Two years later, during the debut of the Indy 500, the winning car also rolled under the checkered flag wearing Firestone tires.

Harvey Firestone remained president of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company until 1932. He then retired from active management and became Chairman of the Board until his death in 1938. By then, he had been instrumental in helping to make Akron, Ohio the rubber capital of the world.

Though his business success launched Firestone into the ranks of the elite, he never forgot his early years and continually provided Columbiana, Ohio with generous donations.

“If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need,

and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.

Ideas are any man’s greatest asset.”

-Harvey S. Firestone

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