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Charles Goodyear

Goodyear, Charles, 1800–1860, American inventor, b. New Haven, Conn., originator of vulcanized rubber. He failed in his earlier business ventures and was in jail for debt when he began his experiments with rubber, searching for a way to prevent it from sticking and melting in hot weather. He experimented endlessly, kneading various chemicals into the raw rubber. He achieved some success in 1837 with a patented acid and metal coating, but it was not until 1839 that he discovered the process of vulcanization. He spent further years in perfecting the process, patenting it in 1844. Goodyear had carried on his research in the face of poverty and debt and was forced to market his patent rights for a fraction of their value. He went to Europe to try to establish the rubber business there but was unsuccessful. He died, poor and overworked, leaving his family in debt.

See studies by R. F. Wolf (1939) and A. C. Regli (1941).

His son Charles Goodyear, 1833–96, b. Germantown, Pa., assisted him in the manufacturing and marketing of rubber articles. He later turned to shoe manufacturing, being one of the first to see the application of Howe's sewing machine to the making of shoes. He organized in 1871 the Goodyear Boot & Shoe Machinery Company of New York to manufacture machines. He was only partially successful until the consolidation in 1880 with Gordon McKay, his chief competitor.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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