Firestone, Harvey

Firestone, Harvey (Samuel)

(1868–1938) manufacturer; born in Columbiana, Ohio. In 1896 he left his uncle's Detroit buggy company and moved to Chicago to open his own business selling rubber buggy tires. In 1900 he moved to Akron, Ohio, and founded Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to make rubber tires for all kinds of horse-drawn vehicles, but by 1903 he shifted to making rubber tires for the burgeoning automobile market. Firestone's innovations included the pneumatic automobile tire and the "dismountable rim," which made possible spare tires. By 1918 he had begun promoting the use of trucks to haul freight and he continued to lobby for improved highways. He defeated the British rubber cartel in 1924 by establishing his own rubber plantations in Liberia; his company would eventually be criticized for its poor treatment of workers as well as for meddling in Liberia's economy. In the U.S.A., too, he was notorious for being anti-union and for paying low wages. By the time he died, his company supplied some 25 percent of tires used in the U.S.A.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.