Back when Goodyear was just getting started, Frank Seiberling wasn’t planning to be limited to the tire business. Goodyear was at the forefront of many advanced technologies, and was fully staffed with some of America’s brightest engineers. These were the same men that built the neighborhood’s streets, planned for its water and sewer utilities, and ensured that Warren Manning’s innovative design became a reality. The company’s expertise in rubber made the construction of balloon and blimp envelopes a natural, and Seiberling’s enthusiasm for flight was the impetus needed to make sure Goodyear became a world leader in lighter-than-air flight.
So it was that when Melvin Vaniman, a noted aerial photographer who had taken up piloting airships, needed a new airship to make a second attempt at an Atlantic crossing, Goodyear manufactured the craft’s giant rubber gas bag. Vaniman—who never actually lived in Akron—had attempted a crossing in 1910, but was forced to ditch in the ocean due to an engine failure. Thankfully, he and his feline co-pilot “Kiddo” survived.
Just as Vaniman was attempting his first transatlantic flight, Goodyear engineer P.W. Litchfield was attending an airship meet in Paris, and on his way back to the US, bought new equipment in Scotland for spreading rubber on fabric and brought two Scotsmen back home with him to operate it. Soon, Goodyear was developing advanced balloon and airship designs, and the company was eager to test them out.
|Preston and Upson commemorated on a card celebrating their balloon race victory|
Success breeds success, and in 1917 Goodyear became involved in the effort to build an all- new airship for the U.S. Navy, designated the B-Class. The contract was large enough that four other firms—including B.F. Goodrich and U.S. Rubber Co. (Later Uniroyal)—teamed up to get the job done. With its immense experience in lighter-than-air craft, Goodyear led the project, and engineers Preston and Upson played major roles in designing a brand new generation of advanced airships.
Just as young boys of the early 1960’s loved to follow space heroes named Shepard, Glenn and Grissom—boys of the early 1900’s closely followed the daring exploits of airship pioneers like Vaniman, Upson and Preston, which were highlighted in newspapers around the world. It’s nice to know they’ll always be remembered in Goodyear Heights.
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- SUMMIT COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
- OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION
- NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES
- PROGRESS THROUGH PRESERVATION - AKRON
- CLEVELAND RESTORATION SOCIETY
- THIS OLD HOUSE
- OLD HOUSE ONLINE
- OLD HOUSE WEB
- OLD HOUSE NETWORK
- PRESERVATION DIRECTORY
- NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION
- STAN HYWET HALL
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