Car History 4U

The Tire

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9.  The Tire

9.1  Origin of the Word 

    • The word tire is believed to be derived from the word "attire", referring to the dressing of the wheel by the wheelwright. 
    • The first tires were bands of iron that were fitted by wheelwrights onto the rims of wooden cart and wagon wheels. 

9.2 Rubber 

    • The word “rubber” is derived from “to rub” - to erase by rubbing.
    • It was given the name when, in circa 1770, a British chemist called Joseph Priestly discovered that a crude form, obtained by coagulating latex, could be used to erase pencil marks by rubbing. 
    • In 1839, by adding sulphur to melted latex, Charles Goodyear (American) invented the vulcanised hard wearing rubber that the first rubber tires were to be made from.
    • It wasn’t until 1844 that Charles Goodyear applied for and was granted, in June of that year, US patent #3,633 for vulcanized rubber. 
    •  In 1843 Thomas Handcock (British) applied for and was granted a UK patent for vulcanised rubber in November of that year. 

9.3 The Solid Rubber Tire 

    • First solid rubber tire was produced in 1846 by Thomas Hancock (British).
    • The 37 mm wide x 30 mm (1.5 x 1.2 inches) thick tires were made from vulcanised rubber using “compression molding technology” and were initially used on carriages and steam-driven vehicles.
    • In 1867 Robert Thomson filed a patent and in the following year contracted the North British Rubber Company to produce solid vulcanised rubber tires 30 cm wide x up to 13 cm thick (12 x 5 inches) for use on heavy vehicles.
    • In 1892 the French manufacturer Peugeot became the first manufacturer to fit solid rubber tires to a petrol powered car; a Peugeot Type 3 (1891-94), the company’s second model to be fitted with a petrol engine. 

Peugeot Type 3

    • Note: The Type 3 in the photo is reputed to be an 1891 model but it is fitted with solid rubber tires. Were they fitted later, after the car was delivered? Or is the 1892 date wrong?  

9.4 The Pneumatic Tire 

    • In December 1845: Robert Thomson (British) was granted a British patent for a vulcanised rubber pneumatic tire; an "elastic belt for carriage wheels and other rolling bodies”. He was also granted patents in France (1846) and USA (1847).
    • They were designed for use on horse drawn carriages and consisted of wheels fitted with leather covered inflated tubes of heavy rubber stretched around their rims. Unfortunately they proved too costly to produce in volume. 
    • In 1888 John Dunlop (British) is generally credited with inventing the first practical air filled (bicycle) tire.
    • Dunlop's patent, which was granted in 1889, was invalidated two years later due to Thomson’s earlier 1845 patent.
    • In 1891 a pneumatic tire was produced by the George R. Bidwell Cycle Company, of New York City. 
    • The following year, in December 1892, Alexander T Brown and George F Stillman (Americans) were granted US patent 488,494 for an inflatable car tire that could be “easily detached or mounted to the rim of the wheel”.
    • In 1895 Brown and Stillman’s pneumatic tires were being manufactured by the Hartford Rubber Works in Hartford, Connecticut. 
    • In the same year Andre Michelin (French) fitted an air filled tire of his own design to a Peugeot “L'Eclair” motor car.
    • In France in 1896 Leon Bollee’s 3 hp, three-wheel tandem, Voiturette model became the first car to be sold with pneumatic tyres as standard fit. Michelin tires?
    • The early pneumatic tires were mainly covered with leather, some held together by rivets or laced.  What other outer coverings were used?
    • By the early 1900’s rubber-coated cotton cord canvas cloth was being used. It was produced using an interlaced, over-under-over weaving technique called “warp and woof”.
    • The technique was though subject to rubbing and easily cut.
    • In June 1892 John F. Palmer (American) obtained two US patents for a “thread-fabric” bicycle pneumatic tire. 
    • Shortly afterwards he moved to England; registering the Palmer Tire Company in 1895 and opened a tire production plant at a factory owned by the India Rubber Company in Silvertown.
    • Palmer adapted his earlier bicycle tire design and started to manufacture web thread-fabric pneumatic tire for cars.
    • In the US the B F Goodrich Company, which had been producing Palmer’s bicycle tires since 1892, started production of Palmer’s thread-fabric car tires in 1906. 

The Palmer Web-Fabric Auto Tire 

    • In 1898 the Continental AG Company in Germany started production of automobile pneumatic tires “without tread pattern”.
    • There numerous references in patent applications to the use of an inner tube in the 1890s and early1900s.
    • The American Philip Strauss of the Hardman Tire & Rubber Company is though generally credited with inventing the first practical tire fitted with an inner tube in 1911. What US patent number?
    • He applied an invention of his father Alexander Strauss and produced “a combination fabric reinforced hardened rubber tire and rubber inner tube”.
    • Note: On December 2, 1890, Alexander Strauss and Joseph F Bromley were granted US patent 441,820; “Tire for Vehicles and Wheels”. 

9.5 The Cord Tire 

    • In England in early October 1903 C H Gray of Silvertown and T Sloper filed a patent for cord tire; “a Tire Fabric composed of approximately parallel CORDS, crossing the Tread from the edge of the Tire”.
    • It was the first patent for a cord tire.
    • At about this time the Palmer Tyre Company acquired the rights to the patent and by early November 1903 they were advertising their new cord tyre.  

1903 Palmer Cord Tire Motor Show Advert   

    • The new cords eliminated the abrasion caused by the previously used “warp and woof” technique that used to form the piles/layers of d-fabric tires the canvas cloth tires.
    • One report indicates that in about 1904 the Firestone Company produced a line of non-pneumatic tires that had cords embedded in them; “there were two cords that ran circumferentially within the tire and provided reinforcement”.
    • In 1907 the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company produced a cord tire for electric cars. Note: By 1916 Goodyear had become the world’s largest tire company.
    • In 1910 the American Diamond Rubber Company obtained a license from Palmer Tires Ltd to manufacturer their cord tires.
    • In November 1910 Palmer’s thread-fabric tires encountered significant wear problems when fitted to a Baker electric car that was driven on a record breaking run of 244.5 miles on a single charge “at an average speed of 12.65 mph”.
    • The B F Goodrich Company finally ended production of Palmer’s thread-fabric tires in 1913 in favour of the more durable cord tires they had obtained a licence to produce when they merged with Diamond Rubber in 1912.
    • In 1917 eight companies were reported to be producing cord tires, including the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company which started experimenting with cord tire design two years earlier. 

9.6 The Detachable Tire 

    • In September 1890 Charles K. Welch (British) was the first person to be granted a patent for detachable (bicycle) tire. His patent was for “the wire bead tire”.
    • Welch’s tire incorporated high-tensile steel wires in what became known as beaded edge method.
    • Just weeks later, on 21 October 1890, William C. Bartlett of the North British Rubber Co. also received a patented for a detachable (bicycle) pneumatic tire.
    • Bartlett invention had an improved beaded edge that was locked in position on the rim by the internal air pressure of the tire; eliminating the need for the steel wires.
    • The "Bartlett clincher'' tire was the first detachable pneumatic tire to go into production.
    • In 1891 the French Michelin brothers, who had formed the Michelin Tire Company three years earlier, designed and patented their own version of the detachable bicycle pneumatic tire. 

9.7 The Valve 

    • The first valves only permitted tires to be inflated.
    • In 1891 Charles H. Woods (British) developed a two-way valve that also allowed tires to also be deflated.
    • Two years later, in 1893, a US patent was granted to August and George Schrader (Americans) for the Schrader pneumatic tire valve, which is also called the American valve.  

9.8 Tire Manufacturers 

    • In the USA in 1896 the B F Goodrich Company started to produce automobile tires; initially for the Winton Car Company. Note: In 1903 the first car to cross the United States was fitted with B F Goodrich tires.
    • The Dunlop Rubber Company was formed by William Harvey du Cros (Irish) in 1896 and started producing car tires in 1900.
    • In 1898 Frank Seiberling founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, naming the company in honour of Charles Goodyear (1800-60). 
    • The Goodyear Company started production on 21 November 1898; producing bicycle and carriage tires, horseshoe pads and poker chips. 

9.9  Links 


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