Cover image for The Goodyear story : an inventor's obsession and the struggle for a rubber monopoly
The Goodyear story : an inventor's obsession and the struggle for a rubber monopoly
Korman, Richard.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco, CA : Encounter Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
ix, 230 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Added Corporate Author:
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TS1885.U6 K67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Richard Korman has written a fascinating biography of an inventor, Charles Goodyear, harnessing a new technology that also provides a panoramic view of America at the onset of its industrial revolution. Drawing on newly discovered archival records, Korman tells a suspenseful story of scientific experimentation and legal struggle in creating a portrait of an eminent American whose eccentricity anticipates the trials of new economy pioneers of today.

Author Notes

Richard Korman's articles have appeared in the New York Times and Business Week. He is a senior editor of Engineering News-Record, McGraw-Hill's weekly construction magazine, and a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives with his family in the Hudson River Valley

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Goodyear was an entrepreneur who actually made good on the ever-popular claim that his company would change the world. Korman, senior editor of Engineering News-Record, dryly traces the life of the rubber pioneer and American industrial legend in this part scientific history lesson and part American business story. Goodyear (1800-1860) became an inventor not out of any great scientific thirst; he was self-taught and wanted to make money. He earned success, but endured continual patent monopoly battles and numerous trips to debtors' prison as he steadfastly and compulsively held onto his dream of using rubber to change just about every aspect of life. (According to Korman, Goodyear frequently wore a coat made of rubber in his early inventing days to underscore the versatility of his product.) Korman waxes scientific at times, offering in-depth descriptions of how Goodyear cooked rubber and sulfur compounds, yet his technical discourses are not so esoteric that they will turn away amateurs. His book is also valuable for its accurate portrayal of factory life in the 1830s and '40s; his accounts of the aproned men who chopped rubber with axes and knives and the machines that ground it are lively examples of industrial age America. Although Korman doesn't emphasize it often, his book serves as inspiration for entrepreneurs of any age. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

The heroic inventor and the tireless self-promoter are enshrined in the American imagination, and this first biography of Charles Goodyear in decades reveals him as a prototype for both. The iconographic depiction of his accidental discovery of vulcanization at the kitchen stove is exploded to reveal a more complex story--of a man so obsessed with rubber that he plunged his family into poverty while borrowing heavily to pursue his experiments. His appropriation of the work of others while vigorously defending his own claims to priority made him enemies, and his story includes a courtroom drama featuring an aged but eloquent Daniel Webster. A case study in psychopathology and business, it also portrays the waning era of the inventor as tinker, before science put such investigations on a systematic footing. Although it is hard to imagine when so prosaic a substance as rubber could have been so compelling and intractable, there are parallels today in such elusive research as fusion power. Korman (senior editor, Engineering News-Record) makes good use of previously untapped sources, and though his practice of inventing details might be questionable in academic writing, it works to make this biography more accessible for general readers as well as lower- and upper-division undergraduates. L. W. Moore formerly, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

Prologue: Upstart Americansp. 1
Chapter 1 Yankee Notionsp. 8
Chapter 2 Salvation through Rubberp. 24
Chapter 3 The Scent of Brimstonep. 39
Chapter 4 The Remarkable Providencep. 56
Chapter 5 Patent No. 3633p. 82
Chapter 6 "Do you think you are a scoundrel?"p. 94
Chapter 7 A Capacious Monopolyp. 113
Chapter 8 A Trial for the Centuryp. 125
Chapter 9 "I cannot censure myself"p. 164
Epilogue: "Grandfather's life was faithful, just and righteous"p. 187
Author's Notep. 205
Source Notesp. 209
Indexp. 223