Long before the Robber Barons made America into an international economic power, a generation of visionary inventors gambled on innovations they hoped would bring them riches. Chief among them was Charles Goodyear, who, in the 1830s, began his obsessive quest to find the recipe for rubber, a material he believed would change the world. In chasing his dream, Goodyear entered a Dickensian underworld, miring his family in poverty, spending extended periods in debtors' prison, and provoking powerful enemies who were also determined to understand and control this miracle substance. His victory in a triumphant lawsuit argued eloquently by Daniel Webster made Goodyear into an American industrial legend, but never released him from his tragic obsession and the pain it caused those close to him. Here, Richard Korman has written a fascinating biography of an inventor harnessing a new technology that also provides a panoramic view of America at the onset of its industrial revolution.
Drawing on newly discovered archival records, Korman tells a suspenseful story of scientific experimentation and legal struggle in creating a portrait of an eminent American whose eccentricity anticipates the trials of new economy pioneers of today.