Little Bits of History

Like Riding on Air

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2011

John Boyd Dunlop

July 23, 1888:  John Boyd Dunlop applies for a patent for “an improvement in the tyres or wheels for bicycles, tricycles and other road tyres.” Dunlop was a veterinarian from Scotland. After ten years of practice in Scotland, the Dunlops moved to Belfast, Ireland and the good doctor again established a thriving vet practice.

Roads in and around Belfast were rough and rutted. With iron or wooden wheels or even with solid rubber tires, going to area farms was a jarring if not painful experience. Dunlop experimented with cushioned tires using his son’s tricycle. In 1887, he came up with a pneumatic tire – an inflated rubber tire using layers of rubber. He applied for a patent on this date and it was granted in December of 1888.

Unknown to him and apparently to most of the world, Robert William Thompson held a patent in the UK since 1845 and in the US since 1847 for a pneumatic tire. However, no one was producing or using Thompson’s tire. Dunlop went on to establish a business for making his tires although he continued to have legal battles with Thompson.

Dunlop’s tires were a crucial improvement in road travel and that innovation came at a crucial or advantageous time. Dunlop sold his patent for shares in the new company and did not become wealthy as the result of his re-discovery of the cushioned tire. However, his company remains to this day, improving safety and the comfort of road travel. Dunlop Tyres became global in the early 20th century when they opened a plant in Kobe, Japan in 1913. They are a worldwide presence and not only continue to strive to make a safe tire, but to do so without undue stress on the environment. They are proud of their efforts in manufacturing and recycling tires.

“The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” – H.G. Wells

“The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to the self, his mobile Walden Pond.” – Edward McDonagh

“What a lucky thing the wheel was invented before the automobile; otherwise can you imagine the awful screeching?” – Samuel Hoffenstein

Also on this day:
“Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.

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