Harvey Firestone: An Important Pioneer
May 16, 2000
Harvey Firestone was one of the world's most brilliant businessmen, a friend to presidents, founder of one of the world's most successful companies, and a partner to the most innovative minds of the past 100 years. He was also an important pioneer of the trucking industry.
The Firestone story is told in a new book Firestone: A Legend. A Century. A Celebration. The book, published by Forbes, is a window into 100 years of Firestone firsts, including remarkable stories and photos.
"More than a year of research went into this book, which turned out to be not so much a history, but a marvelous collection of previously untold stories," said Masatoshi Ono, chairman and CEO of Bridgestone/Firestone. "Imagine the boss of your company bringing Sammy Sosa into town for a pick-up baseball game with you and your co-workers, or having Tom Cruise stop by your desk to say hello.
"Harvey Firestone did those kinds of things, only it was with Babe Ruth and an ever-changing parade of Hollywood celebrities. He was a marketing genius, and under his leadership the company he founded grew and prospered with America."
The 134-page book features hundreds of period photographs, many from the Firestone archives and other private sources. They reveal a previously unseen view of America throughout the 20th century, and demonstrate how Firestone was involved in shaping, influencing and driving the country forward.
The book describes a number of Harvey Firestone-driven programs to improve everyday life and bring to market -- at affordable prices -- the new products of his time. His love of motorsports, including his fascination with the Indianapolis 500, is detailed with many behind-the-scenes recollections.
The first large purchase of Firestone tires was by Henry Ford's then-fledgling automobile company. The Firestone-Ford relationship became a lifelong friendship that included vacation jaunts with their mutual friends Thomas A. Edison and naturalist John Burroughs.
William Clay Ford Jr., sitting chairman of the board of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of both Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford, pens an introduction to the book. He calls his great-grandfathers "American icons," but says that neither would have had a lasting impact except for their "total commitment to the notion of personal mobility."
The book chronicles Harvey Firestone's unerring support for the Good Roads and Ship by Truck movements. Without knowing its later significance, in 1919 he invited all the troops from a cross-country caravan of military trucks and artillery to his boyhood home in Columbiana, OH, for a chicken dinner. The caravan highlighted the inadequacy of the highways of the time and sparked more federal involvement in highway funding. A most important participant on the trip was Lt. Col. Dwight David Eisenhower, who became the principle advocate of the interstate highway system, which was approved in 1956 during his presidency. Eisenhower later wrote that it was the cross-country caravan that initiated his interest in better roads.
Authors Paul Dickson and William Hickman have unearthed scores of anecdotes and
human interest stories to illustrate the genius of Harvey Firestone and how he came to be one of
America's most admired industrialists. The book follows the company's history past the life of
Harvey Firestone, examining the latter half of the century and the impact Bridgestone and
Firestone brands have had in the world since the corporations joined forces.
This book describes what a truly remarkable and innovative man Firestone was, and how the company he founded changed life in America and abroad." Ono said. "It uncovers a wealth of history and brings to life an incomparable century of achievement and accomplishments. The Firestone story is, in many ways, the American dream realized. We're proud of that history as we celebrate our centennial this year."
The book is available online, at bookstores or by calling Forbes at 800/647-9095.