One of the unluckiest entrepreneurs in United States history was born on this day in 1800. His name was Charles Goodyear and he is most noted for inventing vulcanized rubber.
In its natural state, rubber is sticky or runny when it is hot, and brittle and stiff when it is cold. Goodyear discovered that, by mixing sulfur with rubber, it would remain elastic at even extreme hot or cold temperatures. And thus the modern tire was born.
Goodyear was granted a patent in 1844 for his “vulcanized” rubber, but he had to fight patent infringements the rest of his life. Rather than joining the ranks of the wealthy because of his invention, Goodyear ended up in debtor’s prison in France in 1855.
When he died in New York in 1860, he was not only penniless, but left $200,000 in debts — the equivalent of several million dollars today.