Firestone Pneumatic Tires
The names Goodyear, Dunlop, and Firestone show up in the history of tractors. These men introduced the world to pneumatic tires, which ultimately became the standard for farm equpment.
Early tractors had iron and steel wheels with steel blades (sort of like paddles) welded in place to provide a good grip in soft earth. Farmers and tractor companies were convinced this was the best type of wheel for farm work.
In the late 1830’s Charles Goodyear, having become obsessed with how to make rubber less sticky in warm weather and less hardened in cool weather, finally hit upon the idea of adding sulphur to heated rubber. The process became known as “vulcanization” and solved the problem.
In 1845 an inventor named Robert Thompson patented an air-filled tire, but pneumatic tires did not become widely used until the popularity of bicycles in the 1880’s. 1n 1888 John Dunlop patented a pneumatic tire.
In 1900 Harvey Firestone founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. He had grown up on a family farm in Ohio and worked for the Columbus Buggy Company. A natural entrepreneur, he saw a huge future in tires for automobiles.
With a background in farming, Firestone introduced pneumatic tires to tractors in 1932. The key was low air pressure and a wide tire surface with a “chevron” tread….. which as since become universal.
Allis Chalmers was the tractor company in 1932 that introduced the pneumatic tire to farming. In 2019, I had to re-inflate the tires on my lawn tractor and was surprised to see the recommended pressure of just 15 psi…. same as the tires on the 1932 Allis Chalmers tractors.
Photo of modern tractor tire courtesy of TractorSupply.com.