The Tire: When the Road Belonged to Mansfield 1912-1979
It was a proud era for folks from Mansfield: there was a span of more than half a century when you could travel anywhere in the nation and see our name displayed brightly along every highway.
It sounds like exaggeration, but the proof can be found in vacation scrapbooks pasted together by families coast to coast… look in the background of the snapshot and there it is in bold white letters: MANSFIELD. It was our contribution to American culture of the 20thcentury: More Miles with Mansfield Tires.
To people in Mansfield it was casually known as ‘The Tire,’ as in, “Bob works at The Tire.”
Everyone knew this meant the Mansfield Tire & Rubber Co.
The factory complex was on Newman Street, but the works of The Tire embraced the entire city. In fact, the entire nation.
You could be driving though Alabama or Nebraska, anywhere from New Hampshire to New Mexico, and see billboards along the highway showing off Mansfield Tires. You could open the most popular magazines anywhere in the nation and find full-page love letters to the American road from The Tire.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, The Tire stood shoulder to shoulder with the biggest tire names of the country. In those days there was one yardstick which garage owners, or newspaper reporters, or stock brokers, all used to reference the tire industry: it was called the “Big Four.” That stood for the biggest names in the business: Goodyear, Goodrich, Firestone & Uniroyal. It was well known that had the nickname been expanded to the “Big Six,” it would have included Mansfield Tire.
At the height of its 20thcentury career, The Tire turned out so much tread they filled showrooms across the nation with tires that wore other names like Sears and Montgomery Ward and Amoco. There was one year when they made a million tires for Firestone.
During the golden ages of automobiles: in the 1920s & ‘30s, when it was the new consumer adventure; in the 1950s, when it became the national obsession; and in the ‘60s & ‘70s, when cars were the cultural addiction, the Mansfield Tire name raced out on the leading edge of American drivers.
The city lost a lot more than jobs when The Tire closed: it had been one of our bookmarks in the American Dream; a small role in the parade of history; a name in the background of anyone on the road.
Homage in Timeline:
Photos and artifacts in this article come from various collections including those of Mark Hertzler, the Sherman Room of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, North Central Ohio Industrial Museum, and my friends in the next world Phil Stoodt, and John Stark.