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Part 4: A Look Back at the Early Days of the Akron Rubber Industry

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Ralph C. Busbey, a newspaper reporter and one time Akron bureau chief for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, became the third editor of the India Rubber Review (now Tire Review) in 1924. He wrote a section focused on the early days of the Akron rubber industry for “A Centennial History of Akron 1825-1925,” a book published by the Summit County Historical Society 90 years ago. We are proud to say that Tire Review served as part of Mr. Busbey’s core research for his eventual 17,000-plus word essay.

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Because of its length, we are presenting Mr. Busbey’s epic in five parts – all this week – and in its original language. Please be mindful that this was written in 1925, so there may be certain words and phrases that were common and acceptable in those days that may not appear so today.

One of the earlier rubber companies was the Star Rubber Co., founded in 1907 by S. E. Duff, its first president; Homer A. Hine, its first secretary, and J. W. Miller, the first treasurer. L. H. Firey became president in 1916 when the company launched actively in the tire manufacturing business, having previously made druggists’ rubber sundries. Present officers are L. H. Firey, president; R. L. Robinson, vice president, and D. A. Grubb, vice president and sales manager; J. W. Dessecker, secretary, and R. G. Shirk, treasurer. The company now is capitalized at more than $1,000,000 and has capacity for 750 tubes and 600 tires a day.

A sign celebrating The Mohawk Rubber Co.'s 25th anniversary.

A sign celebrating The Mohawk Rubber Co.’s 25th anniversary.

The Mohawk Rubber Co., of Akron, was founded in 1913 by S. S. Miller, Francis Seiberling, J. K. Williams, C. W. MacLaughlin, R. M. Pilmore and F. J. Mishler, with capital stock of $350,000. It took over the plant of the Stein Double Cushion Tire Co., and from an original production of 20 tires a day has built its output to 1,500 tires and 2200 inner tubes daily. Sales in 1924 exceeded $3,413,000. Present officers are S. S. Miller, president and general manager; Francis Seiberling, vice president; R. E. Bloch, treasurer; H. H. McCloskey, secretary and comptroller and J. F. Jones, sales manager.

Two years before the founding of the Mohawk Co., Adam Duncan formed the American Tire & Rubber Co., which was reorganized in 1916 as the American Rubber and Tire Co., with Fred H. Snyder as president. Upon Mr. Snyder’s death early in 1924, his son Floyd C. Snyder succeeded to the presidency which office he now holds with J. T. Johnson as vice president and treasurer. The company devotes its activities principally to the manufacture of tires and tubes.

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The General Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron was the outgrowth of an accessory business established by William O’Neil in Kansas City. Deciding to enter the manufacture of tires, Mr. O’Neil transferred his business to Akron and the company was founded in 1916 with $200,000 capitalization. Original officers were M. O’Neil, (pioneer of Akron’s department store merchants) president; Wm. O’Neil, vice president and general manager; Charles Herberich, treasurer; and W. E. Fouse, secretary. The first year’s business was $219,000 as compared to more than $13,000,000 in sales in 1924. In 1924, M. O’Neil retired from the presidency and became chairman of the board. William O’Neil became president and general manager. Other present officers are C. J. Jahant, vice president; W. E. Fouse, vice president; Charles Herberich, treasurer; T. F. O’Neil, secretary and W. J. Cahill, assistant secretary and treasurer.

Kelly-Springfield-Tire-Plant

Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. plant in Akron, Ohio.

The Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., whose main factory was for many years in Akron, was the outgrowth of the Rubber Tire Wheel Co., organized in 1895 by Edwin S. Kelly of Springfield, Ohio. In 1899, this company was taken over by the Consolidated Rubber Tire Co. and in 1914 the name was changed to the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. Although the company’s main plant now is at Cumberland, Md., it operates its original Akron factory as its principal branch production center. Emerson McMillen was the first president, followed by Isaac L. Rice in 1900 and Van H. Cartmell in 1902. Mr. Cartmell was succeeded by A. B. Jones in 1921 and in 1923 Arnold L. Scheuer, present incumbent, became president. Samuel Woolner, Jr., now is chairman with Mr. Scheuer as president, Frederick A. Seaman as first vice president, Maurice Switzer, Thomas C. Marshall and Clarence A. Brown as vice presidents, C. P. Stewart-Sutherland as secretary, Herbert B. Dalapierre as treasurer and Milton Lachenbruch, as auditor.

J. M. Alderfer, P. C. Searles, D. A. Grubb and J. K. Williams were founders of the India Tire & Rubber Co., in 1916. Capitalized at $250,000, the company started production in February 1918. Mr. Alderfer has served as president since incorporation. Mr. Searles, originally the secretary, now is secretary and treasurer. J. K. Williams has served as vice president from the start. As indicative of the company’s rapid growth production now is at the rate of over 1,200 tires daily. The company is capitalized at over $1,300,000 and in 1924 had sales exceeding $3,000,000.

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The Swinehart Tire & Rubber Co., organized in 1904 by J. A. Swinehart, E. C. Swinehart, H. F. Siecrist, F. E. Ream and Henry Feuchter, started with capital of $100,000, manufacturing solid tires. Mr. Swinehart served as president and in 1905 sold to the company the property of the Rubber Specialty Co., on North Howard St., which he owned. The company expanded to handle production of pneumatic tires and in 1909 W. W. Wuchter became president and manager. T. F. Walsh assumed the presidency in 1921, the company adding a cushion tire line in that year. From sales of $115,000 in 1909 the company has grown rapidly, with 1924 sale exceeding $2,750,000. Present officers are T. F. Walsh, president; W. E. Weldon, vice president; C. O. Baugham, secretary and assistant treasurer, and R. A. May, treasurer.

In contiguous districts, in what is known as the Greater Akron Industrial Zone, are numerous rubber and tire companies that have helped to make Akron the “Rubber Metropolis.” One of the older of these is the Rubber Products Co. at Barberton, Ohio, incorporated in 1906 by William A. Johnston as president and treasurer; B. F. Tracy as vice president and G. C. Kohler as secretary. The company’s present capital stock consists of $200,000 common and $100,000 preferred. It makes tube machine products, druggists’ sundries, and molded specialties, T. G. Richards being vice president and general manager, and R. A. Miller secretary and treasurer.

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In 1915, O. M. Mason and D. M. Mason formed the Mason Tire & Rubber Co. at Kent, Ohio. The former became president and the latter treasurer and general manager. In 1924 these two officers retired, W. A. Cluff becoming president and treasurer, with J. H. Diehl and C. H. Williams as vice presidents; and T. G. Graham as factory manager. Mason Co. sales in 1924 were over $9,200,000.

In 1919, the Lambert Tire & Rubber Co., formed five years before in Portland, Oregon, by H. M. Lambert, inventor of the special Lambert cushion tire, established its factory between Kenmore and Barberton. The company now is capitalized at $3,000,000. Present officers are H. M. Lambert, president; J. W. Coyle, D. E. Ramsey, John Wagner, G. K. Fargo and E. C. Eckert, vice presidents; John Hausam, secretary and treasurer and Guy M. Collette, general manager.

In 1921, F. A. Seiberling, upon his “retirement” from Goodyear, established the Seiberling Rubber Co., which acquired the factory of the former Portage Tire & Rubber Co., at Barberton. This company experienced phenomenal growth from its start, its sales mounting in three years’ time to more than $7,000,000 a year. F. A. Seiberling is president with C. W. Seiberling, W. S. Wolfe and H. L. Post as vice presidents and W. E. Palmer, secretary. The latter for many years was with the Goodyear. C. W. Seiberling now is treasurer.

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At Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, several rubber companies have sprung up. Principal among them is the Falls Rubber Co., organized in 1909 by William Sherbondy and Frank Nolte. M. J. O’Donnell joined the company in 1914 and became president the succeeding year, retiring from the presidency in May 1925, when he was succeeded as president and treasurer by J. O. King. Other present officers include G. D. Kratz and M. J. O’Donnell, vice presidents; O. C. Nelson, secretary; W. P. Cline, assistant secretary and assistant treasurer; W. S. Campbell, sales manager, and F. H. Comey, general superintendent. The company’s sales were nearly $3,000,000 in 1924.

The American Hard Rubber Co. came into being in 1898 through consolidation of the India Rubber Comb Co., the Butler Hard Rubber Co., and the Goodrich Hard Rubber Co., establishing its factory in East Akron. Fritz Achelis was president from 1898 until his death in December 1924, when he was succeeded by Frederic G. Achelis. Other present officers are Wm. W. Weitling, vice president, and Edwin E. Belcher, secretary and treasurer.

The Philadelphia Rubber Works Co. was formed in 1910 as a merger of the Philadelphia Rubber Works, which had been organized in 1880, and the Alkali Rubber Co., which was started in 1904. J. K. Mitchell has been president since 1910 with other present officers including J. S. Lowman, first vice president and E. K. Monnington, secretary and treasurer. The company manufactures reclaimed rubber.

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