on a farm near Columbiana, Ohio, in 1868, Harvey Samuel Firestone
was to become one of America’s great industrial leaders. After
graduation from Columbiana High School, Mr. Firestone started his
business career and soon became manager of a Detroit agency of a
buggy company. It was during this time that he conceived of an idea
that would become a vast industry.
Driving the first rubber-tired carriage in Detroit, he demonstrated
the improved riding qualities of his buggies. In 1896 he furnished a
set of rubber carriage tires to Henry Ford, who was then
experimenting with his second model of a horseless carriage. Mr.
Firestone left Detroit in 1896 and went to Chicago to sell rubber
carriage tires. In 1900 he realized the horse and carriage were on
the way out and the automobile age was beginning. Harvey S.
Firestone intended to be part of it.
At 31 years old, Mr. Firestone moved to Akron, Ohio and founded The
Firestone Tire & Rubber Company with $20,000 worth of assets. The
company started operations as a sales company selling tires
manufactured by others. Realizing that in order to sell only top
quality tires he would have to set up his own factory and produce
them himself. In 1903 he purchased an abandoned foundry building and
with 12 employees and some second-hand equipment, started
manufacturing Firestone tires.
In 1926, in an effort to break the grip on rubber prices held by Far
East rubber growers, Mr. Firestone, believing “Americans should grow
their own rubber”, started his own plantations in Liberia, West
By stressing quality products and utilizing a vigorous selling
program, the Firestone Company grew rapidly. The company, with Mr.
Firestone as president and later as Chairman of the Board, pioneered
in making pneumatic tires and in 1906 shipped 2000 sets to the Ford
Motor Company. That year Firestone sales exceeded $1 million for the
Firestone continued to grow under the creative energy and dynamic
leadership of Harvey Firestone. The company he started with just
$20, 000 was a leading U.S Corporation well on the road to
diversification and with sales of more that $100 million at the time
of Mr. Firestone’s death in 1938. Today, sales of The Firestone Tire
& Rubber Company exceed $4 billion annually.
In 1967, Harvey S. Firestone was named one of the top ten “greatest
businessmen in American history” by a panel of 423 business
executives in a survey conducted by the University of Michigan.
Other pioneering achievements included the mechanically fastened
straight-side tire; non-skid treads; low-pressure balloon tires;
gum-dipping to insulate tire cords against internal heat; truck and
farm tractor tires.
In 1895, Mr. Firestone married the former Idabelle Smith of Jackson,
Michigan. They had five sons and one daughter. The founder lived to
see his sons carrying on the business and traditions he started. In
tribute to Mr. Firestone’s memory his sons, in 1985, completed the
relocation of his boyhood home and farm buildings from Ohio to
Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, where more than one
million visitors annually visit the workings of a 19th century farm
at “Firestone Farmstead”.
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