Inventor. Innovator. Businessman
Born in 1868 and raised in the rural town of Columbiana, OH, Harvey Samuel Firestone’s childhood was nothing out of the ordinary. H grew up with two brothers and a sister on a large farm built by his grandfather, but unlike most people during this time period, Harvey graduated from high school and went on to complete a college-level business course in Cleveland.
His life’s work in the tire industry gained ground when he began working in sales for his uncle’s carriage business. Within a few years, however, Firestone began to notice a shift within the transportation industry. As a result, he adjusted his focus toward building a company that could produce tires for automobiles, rather than carriages.
Building an Empire
With $10,000 of his own money and a patent that he had received for attaching rubber tires to wheels, Firestone moved to Akron, OH (which was the center of rubber tire manufacturing in the 1900’s). From those two things and one small move, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was born.
In 1904, Firestone’s company began to manufacture its own tires and saw a marked improvement in the quality of the product. Thanks to some savvy business sense, Firestone soon pioneered the mass production of tires, and in 1906, received a large tire order from Henry Ford. A life-long friendship and business relationship developed, and by 1913, Firestone was making millions of dollars in profits.
His company was hit hard by the depression, but he was able to make it through and began to, once again, turn a profit again. By the 1930’s, Firestone had twelve factories in the United States and five abroad making rubber, steel and textiles.
Harvey S. Firestone helped to modernize the tire industry, ultimately launching him into the world of the elite, but, he never forgot where he came from. He continued to provide generous donations to the Columbiana, OH community, including the donation of land that eventually became Firestone Park.
Additionally, the land on which his family once resided is currently being developed into the premiere residential and shopping destination of the region. Inspired by Harvey’s revolutionary spirit, this community, known as Firestone Farms, will continue to honor the memory of this great man, who did so much for his hometown, as well as for the world.
In 1923, Firestone introduced the balloon tire which soon became the standard for all motor vehicles. But, this was not the only invention or innovation for which he is well-known. Among his greatest contributions are:
- The dismountable rim, which allowed the wheel and tire to be removed together. Thus, the spare tire was born.
- The idea of the one-stop, master service store, designed to provide tires, gasoline, oil, batteries and brakes through a single outlet. These stores eventually began to offer auto services, as well.
Even more, Firestone foresaw the growing popularity of auto racing, and promoted his tires through the support of the racing industry. He also worked to influence:
- The use of motor driven trucks
- The building of the American Highway System
- The elimination of railroad grade crossings
Harvey S. Firestone was a truly brilliant visionary whose bright mind and strong business sense helped to navigate the world through many trials and tribulations. His impact is far reaching and his insights continue to be relevant nearly a century later.
“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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