restricted access 12. B.F. Goodrich and the Industrialization of Ohio
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12 N JULY 11, 1888, just three weeks before he died, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich met with the officers of the rubber company he had founded eighteen years before. Suffering from tuberculosis, Goodrich had moved to Manitou Springs, Colorado, earlier in the month, with the certainty that his health was quickly failing. At this final conference, Goodrich gave his executives advice on how to continue operations after his death, stressing the need to maintain the high quality of his firm’s products. “The only anxiety I have,” Goodrich observed, “is whether the discipline is kept up, whether the repairs are kept up to the mark and whether the standard of quality is right up to the mark.” When the firm’s general plant superintendent asked if his standards might not be too high, Goodrich replied, “That is just where you are mistaken. By God, the standard can not be too high.” Despite the firm’s commitment to the production of high-quality products, success did not come easily. B. F. Goodrich almost failed during a depression in the mid-1870s and required refinancing before emerging as a healthy concern in the 1880s. In establishing his company as a going concern, Dr. Goodrich helped advance industrialization in Ohio and the Midwest. Seeing the success of the B. F. Goodrich Company, other rubber producers located in the Akron area, making the region the leading rubber-making district in the United States. More generally, the development of the firm signaled the rise of the Midwest as the dominant manufacturing region of the United States for decades to come. Born on November 4, 1841, on a farm near the small town of Ripley in upstate New York, Benjamin Goodrich was the son of Anson 151 B. F. Goodrich and the Industrialization of Ohio O MANSEL G. BLACKFORD  vantne_3rd_chap12.qxd 11/10/2003 3:30 PM Page 151 152 BUILDERS OF OHIO Goodrich and Susan Dinsmore Goodrich. Named after Benjamin Franklin—his mother greatly admired Franklin and often read to her son from Franklin’s autobiography and Little Richard’s Almanac— Goodrich as a boy performed chores on the farm and attended the local school. He enjoyed making maple syrup in the spring, swimming and fishing in the summer, and ice-skating in the winter. Inventive like Henry Ford, who a bit later tinkered with machinery on a midwestern farm, Goodrich even devised a wind-powered sled. Goodrich’s father died in 1847, and his mother two years later. He then went to live with his mother’s brother, John Dinsmore, not far from Ripley. In the Dinsmore household, Goodrich found a supportive family. Writing a cousin, he observed, “You know I love Uncle John Dinsmore as a father and I think he cares nearly as much for me as for his own boys.” Educated first by a teacher tutoring Dinsmore’s children at home, Goodrich went on at the age of fifteen to attend a boy’s boarding school at Austinburg, Ohio, and a year later attended the Academy in Fredonia, New York, another private school. Goodrich was attracted to the field of medicine. He studied the subject in 1858 with his cousin Dr. John Spencer in Westfield, New FIG. 8 B. F. Goodrich. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society. vantne_3rd_chap12.qxd 11/10/2003 3:30 PM Page 152 153 B. F. GOODRICH York. Such personal preparation for the medical profession was common in the nineteenth century. Goodrich went farther by enrolling in the highly regarded Cleveland Medical College in 1859—this institution later became the renowned medical school of the Case Western Reserve University—from which he graduated in the following year. In 1860, he opened a medical practice in Mayville, New York, with his office and rooms in a hotel. Goodrich’s initial foray in medicine proved discouraging. According to one biographer, a year after entering the field “his practice amounted to nothing and he was without both money and necessary clothing.” At this low point in his life, the Civil War intervened to change Goodrich’s fortunes. He traveled to Albany, New York, where he became a hospital steward in the Ninth New York Cavalry, serving in the same company as the cousin (John Spencer) with whom he had earlier studied. Soon promoted to assistant surgeon, Goodrich was transferred to a battalion of engineers, where he would remain until the close of the conflict. During the war, Goodrich continued his medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania while on leave...


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