Charles Goodyear Takes Up The Divine Cause Of RubberCharles Goodyear felt that he had a call from God. "He who directs the operations of the mind," he wrote at a later date, "can turn it to the development of the properties of Nature in his own way, and at the time when they are specially needed. The creature imagines he is executing some plan of his own, while he is simply an instrument in the hands of his Maker for executing the divine purposes of beneficence to the race." It was in the spirit of a crusader, consecrated to a particular service, that this man took up the problem of rubber.
The Life of Charles GoodyearCharles Goodyear was born at New Haven, December 29, 1800, the son of Amasa Goodyear and descendant of Stephen Goodyear who was associated with Theophilus Eaton, the first governor of the Puritan colony of New Haven. It was natural that Charles should turn his mind to invention, as he did even when a boy; for his father, a pioneer in the manufacture of American hardware, was the inventor of a steel hayfork which replaced the heavy iron fork of prior days and lightened and expedited the labor of the fields.
When Charles was seven his father moved to Naugatuck and manufactured the first pearl buttons made in America; during the War of 1812 the Goodyear factory supplied metal buttons to the Government. Charles, a studious, serious boy, was the close companion of his father. His deeply religious nature manifested itself early, and he joined the Congregational Church when he was sixteen. It was at first his intention to enter the ministry, which seemed to him to offer the most useful career of service, but, changing his mind, he went to Philadelphia to learn the hardware business and on coming of age was admitted to partnership in a firm established there by his father. The firm prospered for a time, but an injudicious extension of credit led to its suspension. So it happened that Goodyear in 1834, when he became interested in rubber, was an insolvent debtor, liable, under the laws of the time, to imprisonment. Soon afterward, indeed, he was lodged in the Debtor's Prison in Philadelphia.
It would seem an inauspicious hour to begin a search which might lead him on in poverty for years and end nowhere. But, having seen the need for perfect rubber, the thought had come to him, with the force of a religious conviction, that "an object so desirable and so important, and so necessary to man's comfort, as the making of gum-elastic available to his use, was most certainly placed within his reach."
Thereafter he never doubted that God had called him to this task and that his efforts would be crowned with success. Concerning his prison experiences, of which the first was not to be the last, he says that "notwithstanding the mortification attending such a trial," if the prisoner has a real aim "for which to live and hope over he may add firmness to hope, and derive lasting advantage by having proved to himself that, with a clear conscience and a high purpose, a man may be as happy within prison walls as in any other (even the most fortunate) circumstances in life." With this spirit he met every reverse throughout the ten hard years that followed.