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Charles Goodyear: Great Moments in Shoe History

Mezlan Presents…

Charles Goodyear was born on December 29, 1800 in New Haven, Connecticut. Goodyear was a very talented man. Besides being a self-taught manufacturing engineer, he also invented and developed a process to vulcanize rubber in 1839. The process was crucial in developing the rubber heels used in most modern day shoes. It wasn’t until five years later, after improving his process substantially, did he receive his patent from the U.S. patent office.

Goodyear stated that he discovered the vulcanization process accidentally after five years of searching for a more stable rubber and discovering the effectiveness of heating. There are different stories as to how he accidentally discovered it, one being that he held rubber over an open fire and aside from the parts that were charred the rest was solid and durable. Others claim Goodyear spilled a rubber mixture on a hot stove and observed the vulcanization process. While he admited that it was not discovered using the scientific method, he claimed it was the result of application and observing, rather than pure accident.

Goodyear had a number of failures prior to finally discovering the vulcanizing process, so he lived in poverty for years after discovering it until he could travel to New York and secure capital for it to be mass produced by William and Emory Ryder. Several years later Goodyear opened his own factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, which many consider to be where he perfected the process, the main reason Springfield is considered “The City of Firsts”.

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