When the Ohio and Erie Canal opened 1825, Akron was born. People moved to the area because it became obvious that the boats moving along the canals would make easy sells of goods and services. Soon the canal went from being the area's primary customers to being a way to get locally made goods to customers all over the nation.
Akron's first nation-wide industry came to life when a German immigrant grocery store owner, Ferdinand Schumacher began packaging and selling oats. People have been starting their day oatmeal ever since. In 1856 Schumacher built a mill along the canal and installed machinery that would allow his workers to produce twenty barrels of ground oats per day. His company later became known as Quaker Oats.
In those early days, a large deposit of high quality clay was discovered along the Little Cuyahoga River, and so in the early 1800s a modest local pottery industry was born. Local farmhouses needed pots, bowls, and of course jugs (How would early Akronites store their beer without jugs?).
However in the 1850s, the pottery makers realized that the clay from Akron held properties that made it ideal for making sewer pipes. By the 1870s, several sewer pipe companies had started up and they began shipping their pipes all over the country as cities were investing in infrastructure to help keep their cities healthy.
As the clay industry was raking in the cash for Akron, a New York real estate investor named Benjamin Franklin Goodrich found himself in possession of a rubber factory. He decided he wanted to keep the business, but move it elsewhere. He visited Akron to meet with the heads of the town's already established industries. They decided a rubber factory would be good for the city and they all invested money in B.F. Goodrich's business. In 1871, Akron's first rubber plant was open for business, creating fire hoses and other rubber goods.
Frank and Charles Seiberling founded their rubber company in 1898 and named it after Charles Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanized rubber. They decided to focus on bicycle and carriage tires making their way into the business by creating and patenting a new process and product respectively.
When it became clear that automobile tires were the future for the rubber industry, Goodyear fond their way into the market again by creating a better product that made it easy to get the tire on and off the wheel rim.
Harvey Firestone founded his company in 1900. He also saw the growing automobile industry as an opportunity and partnered with Ford Motor Company to become their first tire supplier.
The rubber industry was booming in Akron. By the 1930s, the United States was using half of the world's natural rubber supply. Then with the onset of World War II, there came a rubber shortage.
President Franklin D Roosevelt felt there was a real danger that the war would be lost unless American scientists were able to replace a million tons of natural rubber with a synthetic substitute. So in 1941, Firestone, BF Goodrich, and Goodyear, as well as Jersey Standard, and United States Rubber all signed a patent-and-information-sharing agreement. Together they developed the monomers and polymers needed to produce synthetic rubber and by 1945 the United States was producing 920,000 tons per year.
During the synthetic rubber program, the University of Akron played a major role in the research and administration of synthetic rubber. The university managed funds for a synthetic rubber Pilot Plant and Evaluation Laboratory.
In 1956, the University of Akron established the Institute of Rubber Research offering one of the first Ph.D. programs in polymer chemistry in the world.
Now Akron is seen as one of the leaders in polymer research and development.