It took a long time for human beings to realize that air can carry load. It was Mr. Robert William Thompson of UK came out with that idea in 1845 and was put into practical use for bicycle tires by John Boyd Dunlop in 1888. It was done in a crude way and making it in somewhat proper way took considerable time. These ideas came when efforts were being made to make a bicycle useful and comfortable to use.

Only in twentieth century the developments and usage to load carrying and higher speed vehicles happened.

In nineteenth century, it was steam engines and railways were relied upon for travelling and transportation.

So, it will be difficult to present the story of tire in an orderly way as it did not happen in that way.

Let us see each aspect separately.

Generally, inventions are outcome of necessity. Pneumatic tire is an equipment for vehicles. It was invented as a part of bicycles and then became an integral and important component of cars, trucks and aircrafts. So, we must look into bicycle development to find out at what stage pneumatic tires came into existence. But bicycles came into use as we mentioned very late in 19th century. Already steam engines were in use for carrying passengers and goods.

But vehicles with steam engines did not come on roads because roads were used by pedestrians, animal drawn vehicles etc. and law restricted or altogether refused to allow powered fast vehicles on the road. So only a very few paid attentions to the aspect of developing for road.

Nobody thought of men driven vehicle which is what bicycle is. Self help, was not in the DNA of Homo Sapiens. Exploitation, well he is very good at it. The exact date of the invention of the bicycle is not known. But it happened in 1817. One can’t call it a serious attempt.

‘Drais' for "Dandy Horse" or "Draisiene," is considered to be the first. It was not a bicycle you can drive or pedal. It consisted merely of two wooden wheels, one behind the other, connected by a wooden framework upon which there was placed a saddle. The front wheel was connected to the frame by a swivel and equipped with a steering handle. A person can sit on the seat and start moving using his leg.

Even this "Walking Bicycle" caused a big commotion on the streets of Paris, among the inhabitants.

One operates it by running astride or alongside until sufficient momentum was attained to balance it. He would then sit or jump into the seat and coast until the machine came to a stop. If it is a slope vehicle gains speed and stops after moving for some distance when it reaches normal road. This was something new and the rider could get considerable exercise in the course but never served the purpose travelling a long distance. It is said that the ruler of the grand-duchy of Baden, on viewing this was so pleased with the novelty of the idea that he gave the inventor a gift of a valuable diamond ring.

When the novelty of it faded, its popularity died down. But the idea sparked the imagination to many in different nations and many started working on it to make it a useful one. There were naturally many queer inventions and a multiplicity of designs resulted.

Next one to come in the line was “Bone Shaker or Velocipede” in 1863. It was made with stiff materials, straight angles and steel wheels and when one rides on this over cobblestone road it was really a bone shaker. The improvement in this a front wheel with a pedal. Vehicle did not last long.

“High Wheelers” came It was far more comfortable than

‘Bone Shaker’ but called talent to pedal it. So was not a common man bike. It was costly and so enjoyed popularity among young men of means. Because the rider sat so high above the center of gravity, if the front wheel was stopped by any obstruction with his legs trapped under the handlebars, was dropped unceremoniously on his head. This machine was the first one to be called a bicycle ("two wheel").

Nothing remarkable in the design part happened, but improvements, new developments on the parts and accessories area were happening as people realized that this is an affordable means for travelling particularly long distance.

By 1890, Good roads society organized by bicyclist and lobbied for good roads -- paving the way for motor vehicles.

Safety Bike: As the name implies the safety bike is safer than the ordinary. The further improvement of metallurgy sparked the next innovation, or rather return to previous design. Strong metal alloys were found out which was used to make a fine chain and sprocket small and light enough for a human being to power. So the next design was a return to the original configuration of two same-size wheels. But now, instead of just one wheel circumference for every pedal turn, you could, through the gear ratios, have a speed the same as the huge high-wheel. Initially, the bicycles still had the hard rubber tires, and in the absence of the long, shock-absorbing spokes, the ride they provided was much more uncomfortable than any of the high-wheel designs. Many of these bicycles of 100 years ago had front and/or rear suspensions.

Even though new bikes were good, uncomfort made these designs compete with each other. But the next innovation tolled the death of the high-wheel design.

Pneumatic tires made even size wheel as the ultimate choice.

The safety bike with pneumatic tires made large numbers of people to take up cycling. But bikes were relatively expensive then, so use was somewhat restricting to the elite.

How the pneumatic tires emerged?

As early as 1845 a carriage tire patent had been issued by the English government to Robert William Thompson, providing for an "hollow elastic belt, constructed of India rubber, the same to be inflated with air, thus forming a resilient cushion between the wheel and the ground."

Bicycle adherents apparently seemed not to have heard of this invention or at least not to have grasped its significance. For although in those days solid and cushion rubber tires were considered luxurious and beyond improvement, there always existed the desire for more speed. But with the solid rubber tire, it was not achievable.

Born in 1822, Thomson would have been educated as

a minister, but his inability to master Latin made him a poor candidate for a life of religious servitude. Instead, at age 14, Thomson was shipped to an uncle in the United States, where he served an apprenticeship with a merchant. Upon his return to Scotland, Thomson immersed himself in science, learning all he could about chemistry, electricity and astronomy, and soon began improving the design of mechanical devices in the family’s household. After serving an engineering apprenticeship, Thomson found work as a civil engineer and soon after designed a method of detonating explosive charges via electricity.

On December 10, 1845, at the age of 23, Thomson was granted a British patent for the very first pneumatic tire, a device he called the “Aerial Wheel.” Intended for use on carriages (because bicycles had not yet been popularized), the Aerial Wheel used a rubberized fabric tube filled with pressurized air and encased in a thick leather outer skin. This leather “tire” was bolted to the rim, and the tread section was then stitched to the tire’s sidewalls. By period accounts, Aerial Wheels yielded a much-improved ride compared to conventional solid wheels, and The London Mechanics Magazine mentioned a set of these tires having been run for 1200 miles without "the slightest symptoms of deterioration or decay,"

The following year Thomson applied for and received a French patent for his pneumatic tire, and in 1847 he was granted a U.S. patent for his design.

Rubber being an incompressible substance, it was noted that if depressed, an equal volume would be displaced where as in the instance of the solid tire, the sides would bulge, forming a small lump on either side at the point where the tire came in to contact with the ground; causing a hill, as it were, in front of this point, over which the wheel was constantly climbing. With Thomson’s invention, this problem was tackled.

Though it was revolutionary, Thomson’s Aerial Wheels were never commercially successful. The cost of the rubber needed for construction of the wheel’s pneumatic bladder priced the product beyond the means of most, and the improvement in ride quality failed to justify the expense in the eyes of the public.

But British were busy with development of locomotives but French were paying attention to bicycle. Velocipede created the interest and it was used more as a hobby than for regular travelling. They even established agencies in other European countries including in England. Mr. Mr. Thomas Sparrow was the agent for England. Finding luke warm reception Sparrow, in 1873 financed a great run from ‘Land’s End to John O’Groats. (It is a traversal of the entire length of Great Britain island between two extremities, in the south west and north east. The distance 874 miles (1407 Km.) Four riders made the trip in fourteen days.

Mr. Sparrow rode a vehicle himself most of the way with them, taking note of the behavior of the bicycles in order make improvements. The tires for vehicle was made with hard rubber and he found them skidding on grassy roads. Later he made leather treads for non-skids. He also modified rubber treads as corrugated.

He built a cycle factory in London and did a good business. In 1875, he made a vehicle for ladies. Focus in this period was for improvement.

In 1876 the Stanley Cycling Club held its first great show in London, which popularized and greatly improved the bicycles but did not affect the tires, which continued of the same general design, though leather treads grew rapidly in favor. Focus was on solving problem and improvement or innovation. Cements were generally relied upon, though the sectional solid, held on by rim screws, found some favor.

The major problem was that repairs necessitated sending the wheel to the factory. The sectional solid, mentioned above, was held on by a steel strip running through the tire, this strip being engaged by screws through the rim. In 1881 the “indestructible” (vulcanized) tire came out.

In1881 the "Indestructible" tire (vulvanized) came out, representing a distinct improvement in tire making. The tire was vulcanized to the channel, the rubber adhering to the metal so closely that it was impossible to tear out the tire.

The introduction of pneumatic tires, successfully accomplished in the early part of 1888, was, of course, the great turning point in bicycle.

In1888 that another Scottish inventor, veterinarian John Boyd Dunlop, improved on Thomson’s design to create a pneumatic tire for bicycles, as a means of preventing the headaches suffered by his son when riding his bicycle on bumpy roads.

Dunlop's Invention. Dunlop, realizing the limitations of solid and cushion tires, on being asked by his small son to make it possible for him to beat his companions on the tricycle, first conceived the idea of a spring wheel. Failing in his attempt to design a practical resilient wheel it occurred to him that air offered the solution to the problem, providing some suitable container could be worked out. With this idea in mind, Dunlop, who concluded that air was a perfectly elastic medium, constructed an annular tube from a sheet of rubber 1/32” (0.8 mm approx.) thick. After stretching this rubber tube over a channel rim on the wheel, a strip of linen tape was wound helically around it; which held the tube in place and at the same time protected it from abrasion. This crude tire was then inflated through a section of small tubing which was afterward tied with a string to hold the air in, much in the same manner as was the stem of the old-fashioned football bladder.

Since footballs, and other air inflated articles made of rubber have been in common use for some time, Dunlop did not find it as strange using air as a cushioning medium is not strange. He afterwards said, "the peculiar part of it is that this means has not been successfully employed before." While some laughed at the idea of the pneumatic tire, there were many who quickly realized the significance of the invention.

Even though Thomson thought of it earlier John Boyd Dunlop surely deserved much praise and credit for having revived a principle that might not have been thought of for many years. It was his originality of thought and genius opened a way for the development of one of the greatest inventions in the history of transportation.

One problem remained was a need of a devising some means of attachment to the rim that could be relied

upon to make cycling safe, and Charles Kingston Welsh came with the idea in 1890 and sold to Dunlop Company. It provided for the addition of a thick casing of compounded rubber and cotton fabric, through the edges of which ran wire retaining rings, thus forming inextensible beads which were fitted into grooves on a specially designed rim and this same principle is employed in the construction of straight bead automobile tires.

The year 1890 saw the introduction of the detachable, wired on tire, and inventions came so thick and fast that by the end of 1890 of British pneumatics had taken on the essential characteristics of the cycle tire of today.

At the same time, an American patent was granted to A. T. Brown and G. F. Stillman of Buffalo, New York, for a similar invention. Dunlop accepted that their invention was independent and wholly original and paid $100,000 for the patent, when they went into business into the United States. But all were not like that. They faced many infringement of their patent and had many litigations in the court until 1909.

The Bartlett Patent. It soon became doubly apparent that the pneumatic tire had come to stay, and many attempts were made to design others which would not infringe upon the existing patents. One of the most notable successes in this line of endeavor was that of an American, William Bartlett, who in 1890, patented in England, his invention of the "Clincher" subsequently selling it for $1,000,000 to the North British Rubber Company, a concern founded by Americans and managed by himself.

It was using the "Clincher" principle of tire attachment. Instead of wires for holding the tire cover in place, the cover was made with beaded edges, which engage the incurved flanges of a clincher rim, so that the inflation of the tire held the cover rigidly. This patent was never successfully copied in England to the advantage of the company.


Of course, there was many infringements, litigations etc. which we are not concerned with.

Bicycle was comparatively a common man product helping in reaching reasonably long distance in a shorter time. Earlier they had to go by walk invariably. There was a boom in the market and different type of products were there with marginal modification.

Thompson B. Jeffery secured the American patents for the application of this new principle to bicycle tire construction, and the tires were first made experimentally in America during 1891, by The B. F. Goodrich Company, for Gormully and Jeffery, bicycle manufacturers of Chicago, Illinois, to whom the patent had been assigned. Thus, they had the beginning of the double tube clincher tire, developed in England and America along similar lines except that the American product was made in two styles, namely, Single and Double clinch, whereas, in England, they made only the Single clinch. Although the patent rights for this clincher type of tire were clearly recognized in both England and the United States, they were not sustained by the courts in France, which fact, no doubt, accounts for the successful exploitation of the clincher by the Michelin and others in France and Germany, and its great popularity in those countries.

The Tillinghast Patent. Pardon W. Tillinghast of Providence, Rhode Island, early in the year 1893 came out with a different type if tire. This tyre turned out to be altogether different and most useful. It was called “Single Tube” or the “hose pipe” tire.

All types of pneumatic tires came earlier, as we have seen had a separate interior tube and exterior casing, and Tillinghast's idea was altogether different. The inner tube of rubber and the outer casing of fabric and compounded stock built up and cured together as one unit, thereby, eliminating the problem of chafing of the outer casing on the tube of the other types.

This method made whole process easier and comparatively economic. This patent was purchased by a Mr. Gray and were first manufactured by the Hartford Rubber Works and were known as Hartford Single Tube tires.

But this did not become popular in Europe where the Dunlop and Bartlett patents continued to dominate the market there, but in America it was immediately liked because of its comparative cheapness.

However, due to the difficulty encountered in making repairs, lost favor with the American customers till the advent of leak sealing fluids and quick repair outfits which later came into such general use.

The Morgan & Wright Tire. Two years after the Tillinghast invention, i. e., in 1895, a tire entirely different in construction from anything previously seen, came upon the market. This tire resulted from an invention of Fred W. Morgan of Chicago, and was the one which afterwards came to be known as the Morgan & Wright. It was at first considered a "hybrid" resembling somewhat the single tube and yet being a double tube, its resilience being furnished by a "butt-end" inner tube inserted through a slit about five inches long on the inner periphery of the casing, the slit being afterwards laced up similar to the manner in which the football bladder is held within its pigskin cover. The butt-end tube was, of course, the feature of this tire in that it permitted a "hose pipe" construction, resulting in a double tube tire without beads and one which was, therefore, easier and cheaper to manufacture than the G. & J.

When it came to the matter of repairs, the Morgan & Wright was, if anything, easier to manipulate than the double tube which had been previously used, and we may therefore say, in all truth, that on account of the ease with which roadside repairs could be made, and the fact that the Morgan & Wright was nearly as cheap to manufacture as the single tube, there accrued for this peculiar type of construction, the sobriquet, "last word in bicycle tires." At any rate, it had a phenomenal run and for a time came very near supplanting all others in the regard of the cycling public.

Like the G. & J., the M. & W. was first manufactured by The B. F. Goodrich Company, having secured the first business from the owners of the patent, Morgan & Wright of Chicago. Subsequently, during the height of popularity reached by this type, they secured a license to manufacture it under their name and for several years thereafter enjoyed a considerable volume of business in this item.

The Palmer Patents. During the early days of the bicycle "boom" literally hundreds of different types of bicycle tires were designed and patented. Some of these were freakish and entirely impractical; though others were of sufficient merit to attract general public attention. However, being no improvement on the primary tire types in the manner of their application to the wheel, their wearing and shock absorbing qualities, these numerous patents were, with few exceptions, soon discarded as useless. The one exception which above others resulted in a practical benefit was John F. Palmer's invention in 1892, of a special fabric for single tube tires.

This was a decided improvement, in many respects, over any other idea and for this reason deserved and received special consideration. The American rights to these patents were purchased out right by The Goodrich Company, at the very start (1893), and until their expiration (1909), they were the sole manufacturers in America of bicycle tires made after the Palmer idea. Being the sole makers for so long has naturally given them a tremendous lead in this field.

Reason Why of Popularity. The question naturally arises as to why the single tube bicycle tire gained ascendency in America, the Dunlop wired-on double tube in England, and the clincher double tube in France and Germany. Briefly, the answer is that local conditions were largely responsible. In England, the popularity of the Dunlop was partly due to the powerful influence exerted by the Dunlop Company in favor of their product and partly due to the prevalence there of hedge-thorns along the roadside which made single tube tires impractical without the quick repair materials later developed in America. Why the Dunlop wired-on type never gained a foothold in America, was, no doubt, due to the advantages so early presented by the G. & J. Clincher. In France, where there were no hedge-thorns, the failure of the single tube tire has been attributed to the Frenchman's distaste for roadside repair work, although it is more logical to assume that, had the Europeans had access to shops and to the quick repairing fluids later developed in the United States, the history of the single tube in Europe might have been different.

While the G. & J. and Morgan & Wright tires were both well liked and used extensively, the latter for a time dominating the field almost to the exclusion of all others, the Tillinghast single tube eventually became the predominating tire.

The introduction of "Jiffy" and other quick repair materials and the opening of repair shops all over the country doubtless has been responsible in a large measure for this success, but the fact that the single tube came back to a position of dominance was, without doubt, due to its lower manufacturing cost.

Bicycle was an affordable product and also in the absence of efficient, frequent and affordable public transport system demand was high bringing varieties of tires from different companies

To conclude we can say quite a few have contributed in the pneumatic

tire development. Significance of the invention was not realized as none could imagine the astounding changes rather revolution pneumatic tire going to bring. From here it had to go still a long way to reach the present level.

We will look into development of mechanized vehicles cars, trucks, planes, ships etc. The activities in this front started much earlier to the invention of tires.

We will also cover the development in the field of tires.

As mentioned pneumatic tire was at primal stage in early 20th century and it reached to the present incredible over a period.

Many things were expected from tires like it should be comfortable, able to carry load, absorb shocks, safe, last longer, no noise pollution, affordable etc.

Let us look into these aspects separately.