Frank Seiberling

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Frank Augustus Seiberling (October 6, 1859 – August 1955) was an American inventor and founder. He is most famous for co-founding the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1898 and the Seiberling Rubber Company in 1921. He also built Stan Hywet Hall, a Tudor Revival mansion, now a National Historic Landmark and historic house museum in Akron, Ohio.



Son of a German American entrepreneur from Ohio,[1] Seiberling spent two years attending Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, before joining the J. F. Seiberling Company, his father’s farm machinery manufacturing business, working there as secretary and treasurer.[2] His father, John Seiberling, founder of that Akron company, invented one of the first reaping machines. While working for the company, Seiberling invented a twine binder that tied grain bundles with a bow knot.[3]

Many businesses failed in the panics of the 1890s, including the street railway company owned by Seiberling's father. In 1898, he was jobless, nearing forty years old, with a wife and three children. Seiberling learned of the availability of an old strawboard factory in East Akron, which he purchased, together with the 7 acres (28,000 m2) it stood on, for $13,500.[4] He borrowed $3,500 for a down payment from a brother-in-law, Lucius C. Miles,[5] who would become the company's third president in 1900. In a few days he had decided what business he would go into, picked a name, and was selling stock. The business would be rubber; the company would be named for Charles Goodyear, the discoverer of vulcanization, who had died penniless almost forty years before.[4]

In 1899, Raymond C. Penfield, another brother-in-law, became the second president of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. In 1906, Seiberling became the fourth president of the company, a position he held until 1921. He was known as the "little Napoleon" of the rubber industry because of his small stature and his unremitting determination to succeed. He played a leading role in developing Akron, Ohio, from a small town into the "rubber capital of the world."[4]

1921, Goodyear was refinanced and reorganized, and Seiberling and his brother Charles resigned from the company. He then began the Seiberling Rubber Company in Barberton, Ohio. During his lifetime, Seiberling became famous for his fair treatment of workers.[2] In 1985, Seiberling was inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame.


Akron's Holy Trinity Lutheran church, at which Seiberling was influential[6]

In June 1911, Seiberling announced that he was financing an attempt at a transatlantic airship flight, to be headed by Melvin Vaniman.[3] In July 1912, the airship Akron (ZR-4) exploded, and Vaniman and his crew were killed.[7]

He donated millions of dollars to charitable causes in his community. He served on the board of trustees of Buchtel College and assisted the college in becoming the University of Akron.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Seiberling was born on October 6, 1859, in Western Star, Ohio, a community a few miles southwest of Akron, in Summit County, Ohio. In 1887, he married Gertrude Ferguson Penfield (1866–1946). He died in August 1955 and was buried in Glendale Cemetery in Akron.[8]

His grandson, John F. Seiberling, was a U.S. congressman from Ohio.

Further reading[edit]

  • French, Michael. "Structure, Personality, and Business Strategy in the U.S. Tire Industry: The Seiberling Rubber Company, 1922–1964." Business History Review. 67:3 (Summer 1993).


  1. ^ "Norton Area History". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  2. ^ a b c "Ohio History Central: Frank Seiberling". Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  3. ^ a b "To Back Cross-Sea Flight; Frank A. Seiberling Is Financing Mr. Vaniman's New Airship Project". New York Times. June 12, 1911. 
  4. ^ a b c "Frank A. Seiberling (1859–1955)". Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  5. ^ "Goodyear: History Overview". Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  6. ^ History, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 2012. Accessed 2013-05-19.
  7. ^ "News Stuns Seiberling: Financial Backer of Vaniman Enterprise Made Balloon at His Factory". New York Times. July 3, 1912. . Akron was partly salvaged in 1982 (Akron expedition on the National Underwater and Marine Agency website)
  8. ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6

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