August 3, 1900 – Firestone Tires is founded

On this day in 1900 Harvey Firestone founded Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akyron, Ohio to supply pneumatic tires for wagons and buggies. He quickly noted the possibilities of the emerging automobile market and took advantage of a friendship with Henry Ford to become the Ford Motor Company’s original equipment supplier of tires in 1906, sealing Firestone’s early success. In 1926 Firestone opened a rubber plantation in Liberia that spanned more than 1 million acres, making it one of the largest rubber growing operations in the world.  The company’s ventures in Liberia have been the subject of much criticism, including a 2005 Alien Tort Claims Act case brought in California by the International Labor Rights Fund. An investigative report by ProPublica titled “Firestone and the Warlord” was published in 2014 and a PBS Frontline documentary by the same name talked about how Firestone’s involvement in the Liberian civil war, such as by paying taxes to the rebel forces who overtook the standing government.  In 1979 Firestone found itself more than a billion dollars in debt. A new president, John Nevin, the ex-head of Zenith Electronics, was brought into try and save the company. He closed nine of the company’s 17 manufacturing plants. In 1988 he negotiated a sale to Bridgestone Tires. Pictured:The first Firestone storeAn early Firestone ad.

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