Thursday, September 08, 2011

Twenties Tires

Updated 9/18/11*
The compilation I mentioned last month – Walt & Skeezix: Book 1, 1921 & 1922 (On the nightstand 8/13/11) - is a long overdue reprinting of the enduring and much beloved comic strip Gasoline Alley by Frank O. King. (*To find out how Gasoline Alley got its name, check out the post at Shorpy's.)
The strip, which began in 1918 and spawned books in the 1940s and movies in the early 1950s, is still going strong today. Originally centered around the car culture of the period, the early strips are an automotive education into what it took to own a car in the 1920s. The constant tightening of bolts (the lack of shocks combined with bad roads literally shook the cars apart), the frequent greasing of multiple points, oil dripping continuously, and the constant blowouts were some of the things that few of us have ever experienced, unless we use one of these contraptions for our daily driver.
Walt 1a
That last bit – the constant and often violent blowouts of tubes and the fast deterioration of tires, which was also a constant deadly threat a decade earlier as detailed in Blood and Smoke: A True Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and the Birth of the Indy 500 (On the nightstand 8/18/11) – fascinated me to the point where I started researching the manufacturing of tires at that time.
Achilles Rubber 2 a
While reading the September, 1920 issue of The Automotive Journal, I noticed the interesting ‘butterfly’ tread pattern shown above.
Achilles Rubber 1 a
The Achilles Rubber & Tire Co. is one of the hundreds of old tire companies that I’ve never heard about. By contrast, the Marvel, made by The New Tread Tire Company, seen in the November, 1921 issue of Motor Record, had a somewhat austere tread design that anticipated the ubiquitous military non-directional tread tire (sans whitewall) by a few years.
Marvel a
Hundreds of old tire companies? The December, 1921 Motor Record magazine listed 211 different tire and tube manufacturers – nearly all of them American companies. Like the multitude of automobile manufacturers then extant, only a handful lasted up to my lifetime. Unlike substantial car companies, that is, none with the exception of Saturn (how’d that work out?), a few tire makers have popped up over the last half-century - but I'm not concerned with them here. Instead, in future segments I’ll look at those brands on the 1921 list that I recognize, whether they survive today or faded away in the last few decades. And I'll throw in more of the vintage ads of those companies that didn't make it much beyond the 1920s.

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