Charles Goodyear, an American inventor, born in New Haven, Conn., Dec. 29, 1800, died in New York, July 1, 1860. He received only a public school education. After coming of age, he joined his father Amasa Goodyear, the pioneer in the American manufacture of hardware, in the hardware business in Philadelphia. The firm being overwhelmed by the commercial disasters of 1830, he selected as a new occupation the improvement of the manufacture of India rubber. His early experiments were carried on at New Haven, Conn., Rox-bury, Lynn, Boston, and Woburn, Mass., and the city of New York. The first important improvement made by him was in New York in 1836, being a method of depriving India rubber of its adhesiveness by dipping it into a preparation of nitric acid. The nitric acid gas process, as it was called, was introduced into public use, and met with great favor, especially in the manufacture of shoes, which continued to be made by that process in great numbers at Providence, R. I., until it was superseded by the superior method of vulcanization. The beneficial effect of the nitric acid process was confined to the surface, the interior body of the gum remaining subject to all the defects of native India rubber.
It did not satisfy the hopes of Goodyear, and in 1838-'9 he made at Woburn, Mass., many experiments with compounds of India rubber and sulphur. In January, 1839, he observed that a piece of India rubber, mixed with ingredients among which was sulphur, when accidentally brought in contact with a red-hot stove, was not melted, but that in certain portions it was charred, and in other portions it remained elastic though deprived of adhesiveness. The material was vulcanized; i. e., it had undergone the change produced by a high degree of artificial heat. Thus were presented the germs of the two forms of vulcanized India rubber, now commonly known as the soft and the hard compounds. From this time until his death the process of vulcanization occupied his whole attention, but he reaped no adequate pecuniary reward for his labors. The Goodyear patents, now more than 60 in number, have been very expensive in themselves, and still more so from the necessity of defending and protecting them against infringers. The first publication of the process of vulcanization was Goodyear's patent for France, dated April 16, 1844. The French laws require that the patentee shall put and keep his invention in public use in France within two years from its date.
Goodyear endeavored to comply with this and with all other requirements of the French laws, and thought he had effectually done so; but the courts of France decided that he had not complied in every particular, and that therefore his patent had become void. In England he was still more unfortunate. Having sent specimens of vulcanized fabrics to Charles Mackintosh and co. in 1842, and having opened with them a negotiation for the sale of the secret of the invention or discovery, one of the partners of that firm named Thomas Hancock, availing himself of the hints and opportunities thus presented to him, rediscovered, as he affirms, the process of vulcanization, and described it in a patent for England, which was enrolled on May 21,1844, about five weeks after the specification and publication of the discovery to the world by Goodyear's patent for vulcanization in France. The patent of Hancock, held good according to English law, thus superseded Goodyear's English patent for vulcanization, which bore date a few days later.
Goodyear, however, obtained the great council medal of the exhibition of all nations at London in 1851, the grand medal of honor of the world's exhibition at Paris in 1855, and the cross of the legion of honor, presented by Napoleon III. (See Caoutchouc.)