Ben was one of those inventors you know a lot about. Or at least you
think you do.
Alan and Ann Rothschild run the
Rothschild Peterson Patent
Model Museum in Cazenovia, N.Y. When I spoke with Alan, he told
me an interesting story about Ben -- one that I had never heard in
my nearly four years of writing this column.
Ben's most recognizable invention is still used on many cars,
even though cars weren't introduced until years after he was born.
Did I mention Dr. Ben's full name? As the headline to this story
indicates, his initials were famous. But there's hardly a soul
anywhere who could tell you his full name. Even most Philadelphia
residents don't know.
His parents, Anson and Susan, were from Ripley, N.Y. Ben was a
wartime surgeon. As I was doing the research for this story, I found
that there is very little information on him. I couldn't find much
about his family, such as whether or not he had any brothers or
sisters. Was he married and, if so, did he have any kids? As
well-known as his company is, you would think that there would be
more information about him.
What was Ben's main invention, still used more than 100 years
Synthetic rubber. After reaching a licensing agreement with
Charles Goodyear, who went broke despite creating vulcanized rubber,
Ben figured out how to mass-produce synthetic rubber.
[to top of second column]
The company he founded is no longer in the tire business, but in
1923 they were responsible for naming an invention that caught on
with the public
-- the zipper, which was used on the rubber boots
they manufactured. They helped launch the zipper when they became
one of the first companies to place a large order for it.
The identity of this story's inventor probably appears to be
pretty obvious to you by now, but as they say in the NFL, "Upon
Ben Franklin established one of the first research labs in the
United States. In fact, his company's production of synthetic rubber
helped the United States win World War II, as the country had lost
its supply of natural rubber.
The company he established would later supply Charles Lindbergh
with the airplane tires he used on his solo flight from New York to
Paris. Ben also established the first rubber company west of the
Allegheny Mountains, helping make Akron, Ohio, the "Rubber Capital
of the World" in the process. All of this is probably why Anson and
Susan Goodrich were glad that they named their son after such a
great inventor as Ben Franklin.
And now you know what the "B.F." in B.F. Goodrich stands for!
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006