CHARLES GOODYEAR was born in New Haven, December 29, 1800. He was the son of Amasa Goodyear, and the eldest among six children. His father was quite proud of being a descendant of Stephen Goodyear, one of the founders of the colony of New Haven in 1638.

Amasa Goodyear owned a little farm on the neck of land in New Haven which is now known as Oyster Point, and it was here that Charles spent the earliest years of his life. When, however, he was quite young, his father secured an interest in a patent for the manufacture of ivory buttons, and looking for a convenient location for a small mill, settled at Naugatuck, Conn., where he made use of the valuable water power that is there. Aside from his manufacturing, the elder Goodyear ran a farm, and between the two lines of industry kept young Charles pretty busy.

In 1816, Charles left his home and went to Philadelphia to learn the hardware business. He worked at this very industriously until he was twenty-one years old, and then, returning to Connecticut, entered into partnership with his father at the old stand in Naugatuck, where they manufactured not only ivory and metal buttons, but a variety of agricultural implements, which were just beginning to be appreciated by the farmers. In August of 1824 he was united in marriage with Clarissa Beecher, a woman of remarkable strength of character and kindness of disposition, and one who in after years was of the greatest assistance to the impulsive inventor. Two years later he removed again to Philadelphia, and there opened a hardware store. His specialties were the valuable agricultural implements that his firm had been manufacturing, and after the first distrust of home made goods had worn away - for all agricultural implements were imported from England at that time - he found himself established at the head of a successful business.

This continued to increase until it seemed but a question of a few years until he would be a very wealthy man. Between 1829 and 1830 he suddenly broke down in health, being troubled with dyspepsia. At the same time came the failure of a number of business houses that seriously embarrassed his firm. They struggled on, however, for some time, but were finally obliged to fail. The ten years that followed this were full of the bitterest struggles and trials to Goodyear. Under the law that then existed he was imprisoned time after time for debts, even while he was trying to perfect inventions that should pay off his indebtedness.

Between the years 1831 and 1832 he began to hear about gum elastic and very carefully examined every article that appeared in the newspapers relative to this new material. The Roxbury Rubber Company, of Boston, had been for some time experimenting with the gum, and believing that they had found means for manufacturing goods from it, had a large plant and were sending their goods all over the country. It was some of their goods that first attracted his attention. Soon after this Goodyear visited New York, and went at once to the store of the Roxbury Rubber Company. While there, he examined with considerable care some of their life preservers, and it struck him that the tube used for inflation was not very perfect. He, therefore, on his return to Philadelphia, made some tubes and brought them down to New York and showed them to the manager of the Roxbury Rubber Company.

This gentlemen was so pleased with the ingenuity that Goodyear had shown in manufacturing these tubes, that he talked very freely with him and confessed to him that the business was on the verge of ruin, that the goods had to be tested for a year before they could tell whether they were perfect or not, and to their surprise, thousands of dollars worth of goods that they had supposed were all right were coming back to them, the gum having rotted and made them so offensive that it was necessary to bury them in the ground to get them out of the way.

Goodyear at once made up his mind to experiment on this gum and see if he could not overcome its stickiness.

He, therefore, returned to Philadelphia, and, as usual, met a creditor, who had him arrested and thrown into prison. While there, he tried his first experiments with India rubber. The gum was very cheap then, and by heating it and working it in his hands, he managed to incorporate in it a certain amount of magnesia which produced a beautiful white compound and appeared to take away the stickiness.

He therefore thought he had discovered the secret, and through the kindness of friends was put in the way of further perfecting his invention at a little place in New Haven. The first thing that he made here was shoes, and he used his own house for grinding room, calender room, and vulcanizing department, and his wife and children helped to make up the goods. His compound at this time was India rubber, lampblack, and magnesia, the whole dissolved in turpentine and spread upon the flannel cloth which served as the lining for the shoes. It was not long, however, before he discovered that the gum, even treated this way, became sticky, and then those who had supplied the money for the furtherance of these experiments, completely discouraged, made up their minds that they could go no further, and so told the inventor.


He, however, had no mind to stop here in his experiments, but, selling his furniture and placing his family in a quiet boarding place, he went to New York, and there, in an attic, helped by a friendly druggist, continued his experiments. His next step in this line was to compound the rubber with magnesia and then boil it in quicklime and water. This appeared to really solve the problem, and he made some beautiful goods. At once it was noised abroad that India rubber had been so treated that it lost its stickiness, and he received medals and testimonials and seemed on the high road to success, till one day he noticed that a drop of weak acid, falling on the cloth, neutralized the alkali, and immediately the rubber was soft again. To see this, with his knowledge of what rubber should do, proved to him at once that his process was not a successful one. He therefore continued experimenting, and after preparing his mixtures in his attic in New York, would walk three miles to the mill of a Mr. Pike, at Greenwich village, and there try various experiments.