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Editor's Notebook

Reflection and a Pledge: Hall of Fame Inductee’s Look Back at the Early Days of the Rubber Trade

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In recognition of the induction of Theodore E. Smith, founder of this magazine, into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame, we thought it appropriate to publish one of his last columns for what was then called India Rubber Review, which he had founded in 1901.

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Published 85 years ago this month, Ted’s reflections on the first 20 years of this industry and magazine he loved provide a unique historical perspective of our collective past – and a sense of the excitement and wonder of an anticipated future.

Shortly before this column was published, Ted had sold the publication to Edward Babcox and prepared to move on to a new career as president of the Standard Savings Bank of Akron, Ohio. Later, he returned to his native New York City to practice law, where he died on Nov. 2, 1941 at age 77. – Ed.

Twenty years ago, when a prominent Eastern manufacturer suggested that the season had come to bring out in Akron a periodical whose theme should be rubber, its sources, its development into manufactures and their distribution, with only meager equipment, the writer undertook to respond.

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This anniversary number is perhaps the reasonable outcome of a score of years of attention on his part, immensely reinforced by the intensive work of the present editor.

In those early days, the talk was of belting and packing and hose and the innumerable items in mechanical and druggist sundries. One remembers asking the publicity head of a big corporation, if such could then be called, “How far do you go in tires?” The prompt answer then was “10% of output.”

Fifteen years have gone, and the same person is able now to say “seven times 10.”

There are more plants building tires exclusively today than the grand total of rubber mills at the opening of the century. The statistician says the auto nears the point of saturation. What if it does? Tires cannot! Obviously, they must be renewed, and there is no substitute for rubber. Further, there is the truck of which who shall say it is not an industry in swaddling clothes?

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Hence, one judges safely of the secure hold the pneumatic tire has universally in these times and in those to come.

There might be rehearsed the rise of plantations in the East from the well known Wickham seeds and how on that account crude rubber declined in value from three dollars to fifty cents, until during the depression now in progress it went down to less than a third of this sum.

Then there have been the international rubber exhibitions, four of which were on British soil, and the fellowship at least which they produced; as undertakings they were of no tremendous value, but yet linking together for a few weeks each time the rubber men of the world.

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One might go on with the story of machinery and its huge development, until we have now the tiremaker well under power and responsible for the high daily output in that direction. Calendars, mills, washers, tubing machines, cores and moulds of 1921 are curiosities when lined up with similar efforts of 20 years ago. Chemicals and fillers, accelerators and compounds have forced the work in the laboratory and the mill to its powerful proportions.

Not the least is the list of books that have come from savants of the industry in the nations of Europe and America, from the popular handbook to the technical treatise. These have been life savers to the small factory manager and have informed the daily press at times by reference.

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Lastly, the human equation in these 20 years has seen a mighty change. Where it was only a question of work and pay among the employees of 1900, we have today the right type of paternalism. This means that the managers not only are furnishing social service to their men and women, they are thinking in terms of them as the processes of manufacture go on.

And through it all has come India Rubber Review – the trade’s guidebook. Its monthly visits to all civilized countries keep the field well posted and advised of the broader, vital developments.

The object has ever been to serve the rubber industry.

As one looks forward to another decade, he visualizes a greater service and stronger organization.

Located in Akron – the only rubber journal here – where more than half of all rubber is manufactured, it is strategically and advantageously situated to watch and reflect the daily changes in all affairs involving rubber.

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This great and exclusive advantage adds heavy responsibility to the work.

As rubber develops into a greater and greater factor in civilization, our readers are pledged – even to the far-flung boundaries of the globe – to a correspondingly larger India Rubber Review.

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