Tire History in 2 minutes

Want to know about tire history?

Here's a brief history of today's modern tire.


The first invention that is directly related with today's tire was the process of vulcanization, invented in 1844 by Charles Goodyear whose name was adopted by the company which continues today as one of the leading manufacturers of tires in the world. Goodyear's process became the basis of the manufacture of cured rubber tires and is still in use today.

The pneumatic tire

The first air filled or pneumatic tire was patented in 1845 by a Scotsman, an engineer named Robert William Thomson, born in Stonehaven, Scotland. He called his invention the Aerial Wheel. It consisted of a canvas inner tube surrounded by a leather outer tire which gave a good ride, but there were so many manufacturing and fitting problems that the idea was abandoned.

typical modern tire

A Scottish veterinary is widely recognized as the father of the modern tire. John Boyd Dunlop, invented a tire for his ten year old son's tricycle in 1887 and was awarded a patent for his tire in 1888 (rescinded 1890). His tire had a modified leather hosepipe as an inner tube and rubber treads. Shortly after, rubber inner tubes were invented.

Because neither bicycles nor cars had been invented when Thomson produced his tire, that tire was only applied to horse-drawn carriages. By the time of Dunlop's invention, the bicycle had been fully developed and it proved a far more suitable application for pneumatic tires. Air-filled tires were first installed on aircraft in 1906.

Dunlop teamed up with William Harvey du Cros to produce his invention and started a company which later became the Dunlop Rubber Company. The tire quickly became popular for bicycles and was later adapted for use on cars.

Radial tires

Radial tires were invented in 1946 by Michelin, a French company, but were not widely used in the United States until the 1970s. Today all modern car tires are radial. In 2005, Michelin started to develop a tire and wheel combination, the Tweel, which does not use air.  As of 2008 the concept is still under consideration but has not been placed in production

Michelin's tweel

Michelin's tweel concept

That, in a nutshell, is how we got from the invention of the tire to where we are today. 


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