Benjamin Franklin Goodrich (1841–1888) was a businessman and a physician by profession. He served as an assistant surgeon in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). When the war ended his interest turned to primarily business dealings and he formed a real estate partnership with John P. Morris of New York City. In 1869 they invested in the Hudson River Rubber Company. Soon they acquired complete ownership of the company and Goodrich became president.
The Hudson River Rubber Company was struggling financially in New York at the time. Goodrich felt that by moving the company westward he could take advantage of the promise of a growing population and new opportunity for advancement and prosperity. In 1870 a new two-story factory was built on the banks of the Ohio Canal. Its products included billiard cushions, bottle stoppers, rubber rings for canning jars, and fire hoses. It was the first rubber company west of the Allegheny Mountains.
The company reorganized internally several times and finally secured a loan in 1880 from George W. Crouse, an original investor. The Hudson River Rubber Company now became the B.F. Goodrich Company and was incorporated in the state of Ohio. In 1896 the first automobile tires in the United States were produced by Goodrich. The B.F. Goodrich Tire Company devoted its entire energies to rubber technology. Inventions and products included the first rubber sponge in 1902 and aircraft tires in 1909. All aircraft used in World War I (1914–1918) had B.F. Goodrich tires. The Spirit of St. Louis piloted by Charles Lindbergh (1902–1974) sported tires manufactured by B.F. Goodrich.
During World War II (1939–1945) Japan controlled the supply of natural rubber. Goodrich invented synthetic rubber to supply the war needs of the United States. Tubeless tires came into being in 1947. Because of this invention the tires on all new cars were much safer. The first American in space, Alan Shepard, wore a space suit designed by Goodrich. The popular 1960s children's sneakers P-F Flyers also came from this innovative company.
In 1979 the new B.F. Goodrich chairman John Ong began diverting the company's focus from tires to chemical and aerospace concerns. By 1986, the merger of B.F. Goodrich and Uniroyal created the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company. In 1990 Michelin purchased this new company and B.F Goodrich was out of the tire business.
Ong diverted research money back into the chemical and aerospace businesses. He acquired British companies, because although they had low productivity, they generally had sound research and good products and were relatively easy to reorganize into profitable ventures. This investment strategy generally worked well because of its long-term growth potential. B.F. Goodrich chemicals were eventually used in everything from textiles to Turtle Wax.
Ong retired in 1997 and was succeeded by David L. Burner. B.F. Goodrich continued to focus on making profitable acquisitions around the world. These acquisitions were chosen because they meshed well with current holdings and improved their returns.
See also: Tire and Rubber Industry
"B.F. Goodrich," [cited April 23, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @ www.bfgoodrich.com/default.asp/.
Low, Chris. "Goodrich Gaining in Confidence." Gannett News Service, November 6, 1997.
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Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Goodyear: The First 100 Years. Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1997.