Wheel, c. 3500 B.C. Evidence of its use is seen in remnants of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, once located in what now is southern Iraq. Early wheels were made from two or three segments of wood held together by cross members. By 2500 B.C., attire was added to the bare wheel, initially in the form of curved pieces of wood known as felloes. Later, leather and other soft materials were added to reduce vibration. Spoked wooden wheels, lighter and faster than solid wheels, evolved by 2000 B.C. In A.D. 1490, Leonardo da Vinci designed a wheel whose hub was suspended from the rim on thin wire spokes, the principle of the modern bicycle wheel.
First self-propelled vehicle, A.D. 1769, is believed to have been a three-wheeled steam carriage built by French engineer Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot to tow military equipment.
By the late 1820s, similarly designed "road steamers" were running regular passenger routes in England. However, the emergence of railroads and stifling British highway regulations ended such transit in the 1840s. Nevertheless, the greater demands imposed by such applications pointed up the shortcomings in wheels designed for horse-drawn vehicles.
Calender, 1836, was developed by Edwin M. Chaffee, of Roxbury, Mass. It provided a means of applying rubber directly to fabric without solvents and also to produce sheet rubber of uniform thickness.
Vulcanization, 1839. The process of changing the physical properties of rubber through application of sulfur and heat was first perfected in the U.S. by Charles Goodyear. Some time later, Thomas Hancock, who was conducting similar research in England, met with similar success. The term vulcanization is derived from the name of the Roman god of fire. This stabilization made the rubber tire practical.
First pedal-driven bicycle, 1839, was invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan of Scotland, but never patented. It was the forerunner of later pedal-driven vehicles that would give impetus to the pneumatic tire industry nearly a half-century later.
Pneumatic tire, 1845. The actual inventor of the air-inflated tire was Robert W. Thomson of Middlesex, England, who at age 24 developed and patented what he called an "elastic belt for carriage wheels and other rolling bodies." Mr. Thomson had such tires produced and attempted to market them for use on horse-drawn carriages. Unfortunately, his invention was too far ahead of its time. He eventually withdrew his pneumatic tires from the market due to lack of customer interest.
First solid rubber tire, 1846, was manufactured by Thomas Hancock, considered the father of England's rubber industry. The solid tire initially was used on carriages and steam-driven vehicles. Later, solid tires were adapted for light-weight vehicles-particularly bicycles-where they evolved into hollow-centered or "cushion" tires offering a softer ride. Solid tires still are widely used for indoor industrial applications.
First commercially produced four-wheel motorcar, 1886, was offered by German inventor Gottlieb Daimler. It basically was a horse-drawn carriage modified for self-propulsion and steering. The vehicle ran on petrol and its front wheels were smaller than those on the rear. The "motor age" received a major push three years later at a world exhibition marking the centennial of the French revolution. Among those exhibiting vehicles were Mr. Daimler and fellow German inventor Carl Benz, who sometimes is called the father of the motorcar. The Paris exhibition focused public attention on motoring and inspired others, such as Louis Renault, to enter the auto manufacturing business.
First commercially practical pneumatic tire, 1888. John Boyd Dunlop, of Belfast, Ireland, apparently knew nothing of Mr. Thomson's previous patent when he "re-invented" the pneumatic tire some 43 years later. Mr. Dunlop, along with a group of investors, founded a company called the "Pneumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Agency Ltd.," marketing air-filled tires for use on bicycles, the mechanized vehicle of that day. Their enterprise grew to become the Dunlop Rubber Co.
Detachable wire bead tire, 1890. Some means had to be found to fix the tire securely to the metal rim yet still allow for demounting and remounting it during repairs. First to develop a detachable pneumatic was Charles K. Welch, who filed a patent on it in September 1890-just ahead of others working on similar refinements. William K. Bartlett of North British Rubber Co. patented a similar tire just five weeks later.
Mr. Bartlett got the jump on competitors merelyby broadening an earlier patent application for a detachable non-pneumatic tire to include pneumatic construction as well. The Bartlett "clincher tire" subsequently became the first detachable pneumatic introduced to the market.
Michelin also patents detachable tire, 1891. Group Michelin's earliest contact with the pneumatic tire occurred in 1889, when a stranded British cyclist sought the help of brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin in fixing his bicycle's two flat tires. The Michelins, who ran a metal, leather and rubber fabricating business at that time, perceived a need for and soon developed and patented their own version of the detachable tire. This marked the firm's entry into tire manufacturing, which later became its primary business.
Improved tire valve, 1891. The earliest tire valves provided for easy inflation but not deflation. So inventor Charles H. Woods developed a tire valve that facilitated both operations. His two-way valve became standard in Great Britain and elsewhere and remains in use for bicycle tires in some parts of the world.
Beaded-edge tire debuts in U.S., 1892. This version of the beaded-edge tire was produced by Gormully & Jeffrey Manufacturing Co., a Chicago-based bicycle manufacturer and forerunner of American Motors Corp.
Pneumatic auto tires introduced, 1895. Developed by Group Michelin co-founder Edouard Michelin, the air-inflated tires were demonstrated in an auto race from Paris to Bordeaux. The car was driven by his brother and company co-founder Andre Michelin, because none of the other drivers would take the presumed risk. The tires proved so troublesome that the car finished no higher than ninth, prompting a winning competitor to predict that pneumatics would "never be of use on cars." Undaunted, the brothers went on to produce and market pneumatic auto tires in 1896.
Pneumatics on commercially produced car, 1896. Cleveland vehicle manufacturer Alexander Winton commissioned a set of pneumatic automobile tires from the B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co., then an industrial rubber products maker in nearby Akron. The rubber company's subsequent financial success with pneumatic auto tires spawned a crowd of new Akron-based tire-making competitors, prompting the Ohio city's claim to being the "Rubber Capital of the World," a title that no longer can be justified.
Tire curing press, 1896. Prior to the invention of the curing press, most pneumatic tires were vulcanized with open steam in autoclaves after being placed in ring-shaped molds and held in place by a wrapping of canvas bandage. The Doughty press, best known among a number of such devices of that era, was invented by H.J. Doughty of the U.S. It used mechanical means of supporting the tire from the inside and applying a thrust to cause it to fill the mold and thereby receive an impression. Curing presses made it easier to produce elaborate tread patterns and sidewall markings as part of the vulcanizing process.
Schrader valve patented, 1898. Invented by George H. Schrader, founder of Schrader Automotive Inc., the improved valve featured an internal screw thread to facilitate a replaceable valve core. Ultimately, it became standard throughout the U.S. and elsewhere.
Cord tire, 1900. Although it was invented in 1889 by John Fullerton Palmer, the cord tire didn't actually become a commercial reality for more than a decade, when it was introduced in England by the inventor's own Palmer Cord Tyre Co. and in the U.S. by B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co. The so-called "weftless" or "all-warp" cords of those tires ran only in one direction and were not tied together by perpendicular strands. Casing life thereby was prolonged by eliminating the abrasion of cord rubbing on cord, as seen in previous crosswoven cotton tire reinforcement.
Tire sizes standardized, 1903. Standardized sizes were adopted, thereby permitting interchangeability among different brands of auto tires and wheels.
Carbon black's use as rubber reinforcement discovered, 1904. S.C. Mote of the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works in Silvertown, England, discovered as early as 1904 that carbon black reinforcement dramatically increased the wear capabilities of rubber-particularly that used in tire treads. However, there was little demand for reinforced rubber at that time. It wasn't until 1912, that carbon black was introduced into commercial tire production in the U.S. by the Akron-based Diamond Rubber Co. and the B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co. Before that time, tires were often white. In fact, it wasn't until the mid-1920s that the public at large was convinced black tires were superior to white, in which zinc oxide was used as rubber reinforcement.
Straight-side wire-bead tire, 1904. The straight-side wire-bead tire was developed simultaneously by Goodyear and the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., which had been working independently to replace the heavily patented clincher tire. Within four years, the straight-side tire replaced the clincher as the industry standard in the U.S.
Flat tread tires debut, 1904, first in Europe by Continental A.G. of Germany and Group Michelin of France. Flat treads were introduced in the U.S. two years later by the Diamond Rubber Co. and Gormully & Jeffery Manufacturing Co. Previous tires were round in the cross section.
Organic accelerators introduced, 1906. Use of organic accelerators to shorten rubber's curing time and thereby speed up tire production was pioneered by George Oenslager of the Diamond Rubber Co.
Traction treads, 1908. The first British patent for a rubber non-skid tread was granted in 1892. However, patterned tread designs evolved hand-in-hand with manufacturing technology. In Germany, Continental A.G. molded a grooved tread auto tire in 1904. Goodyear developed a machine in 1908 for cutting grooves in the previously smooth tread area. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. molded raised letters on the tread surface that spelled "NON SKID."
Dual wheels and tires, 1908. Group Michelin introduced the concept of dual wheels and tires, increasing the payload on trucks and buses used in France.
Tire-building machine patented by Goodyear, 1909.
Aircraft tires, 1909. The first pneumatic airplane tires were introduced by Goodyear and United States Rubber Co.
Winter-tread tire, 1909. Continental A.G. of Germany introduced a tire sporting an aggressive tread pattern designed for use in winter snow and mud.
Pneumatic truck tire, 1911-12. Germany's Continental A.G. introduced a pneumatic truck tire in 1911 and such tires were fitted on a limited number of commercial trucks the following year. However, most truck owners continued using solid rubber tires until the early 1920s, when manufacturers undertook extensive promotional campaigns demonstrating the superiority of pneumatics.
Radial-ply tire patented, 1913, by Christian Hamilton Gray and Thomas Sloper of Silvertown, Essex, England. However, their company, the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Co. Ltd., never commercialized the invention.
Banbury mixer invented, 1916, by F.H. Banbury to speed the process of mixing chemicals and uncured rubber.
First cross-country truck line established in the U.S. by Goodyear, 1917, to demonstrate the superiority of pneumatics over solid truck tires. Firestone carried on a five-year advertising campaign to sell the concept commercially.
White sidewalls introduced, 1918, by the then newly founded Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co, of Chicago, which contracted with Falls Rubber Co. in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to make them. First customers were chauffeurs and owners of luxury cars of that era.
Low-pressure (balloon) tires introduced, 1923, by Group Michelin in Europe and Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in the U.S. Characterized by bulging sidewalls and nearly twice the tread width, they permitted inflation pressures as low as 28 psi-about half that of previous pneumatic tires. Use of such tires, however, was not widespread in the U.S. until the 1930s when the concept was popularized by General Tire Co.
Antioxidants introduced, 1924, to reduce rubber degradation resulting from exposure to oxygen, ozone and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Generally credited with independently developing the first commercially feasible antioxidants were Herbert A. Winkelmann and Harold Gray of B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co. and Sidney M. Cadwell of U.S. Rubber Co.