Dunlop Tires – Dunlop Pneumatic Tire History

Dunlop Tires – Dunlop Pneumatic Tire History

The Dunlop pneumatic tire history began back in 1888, when John Boyd Dunlop modified the tires on his invalid mothers wheelchair. This was news for me as the official Dunlop Tire site says it was his sons tricycle that led to the discovery (See post here). There is an article in the 1921 Washington Times that supports the son story below as well.

We will look at some interesting articles as well as the discovery above in his 1921 obituary. In addition, you can see some of Dunlops advertising from this period as well.

Here is Mr. Dunlops obituary of 1921 as it appeared in the New York Tribune – John H. Dunlop, Inventor Of Pneumatic Tire, Dies – Devotion to invalid Mother Led the Dublin Surgeon to Fit Wheel Chair With Device.

1921 obituary John DunlopDUBLIN, Oct. 24 (By The Associated Press) John Boyd Dunlop, known as the inventor of the pneumatic tire, died here to-day. He was eighty-one  years old. His invention, first introduced in 1888, resulted in the popularizing of bicycling and was a forerunner to passenger automobiling.

Motorists of to-day owe their comfort in riding largely to Mr. Dunlops devotion to his invalid mother. He was not a shop worker, nor did his normal interests impel him toward pursuits which might have led him to invent the pneumatic tire.

He was a veterinary surgeon, practicing in Dublin, when be began to j cast about in his mind for some means to make the lot of his mother more comfortable. She had to use a wheeled chair to get about and the jar of the wheels over rough spots was painful to her.

Mr. Dunlop inflated rubber tubes, sealed the aperture and stretched them around the wheels of his mother’s chair. She began to improve almost immediately, being able to get about more, and Mr. Dunlop, although protesting that he already was overpaid for his ingenuity, yielded to the advice of his friends and obtained a patent on his device.

Here is the sons bicycle story as is reports on the Dunlop official site as it appeared in 1921 –

Who Invented the Pneumatic Tire? –

J.B. DUNLOP died not long ago at his home in Dublin. . While the statement that Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire might properly be challenged, there is no doubt of the fact that he was one of the inventors. For most of the great inventions of the world seem to have broken out simultaneously in different places at about he same time.

dunlops son

John Dunlop Jr.

At any rate, we know that Dunlop was an incurable inventor. By profession he was a veterinary surgeon. Along about 1888 his ten-year-old son had a tricycle which bumped unpleasantly along on the Irish roads. Mr. Dunlop went to work to remedy this. He gives this account of what he did:

“I formed the rims of the wheels of American elm. I made an air tube of rubber, covered it with cloth and then with rubber again. My son rode this tricycle to Belfast and people stared and laughed at the clumsy wheels. But he outdistanced the other cyclists easily”.

era-recordingPlay a period tune below – Our Gang – Riding Along

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“In May, 1889, I turned out my first racing bicycle with the new tire, and it carried off all the first prizes at the Queen’s College sports at Belfast.”


Early Dunlop Advertising 1900 – New-York Tribune

There was a Mr. Thompson, for whom the claim is made that he first had the idea of an air-filled tire and who took out a patent in 1845, but his invention never came into practical use, and Dunlop was ignorant of it when he began his work. After repeated experiments and demonstrations Dunlop succeeded in interesting some capital, and before long lie “bolster” tires, as they were called, became indispensable in cycling and motoring.

There may be many persons who read this who remember how funny these fat tires looked when they first saw them. In a way, the pneumatic tire is as much responsible for the automobile as the gas engine. Just as the steel T-rail is almost as remarkable an invention as the steam locomotive.

Without a proper roadbed the express train would be impossible. And without the pneumatic tire the internal combustion engine could not whirl the automobile along with the speed and smoothness of today. In fact, there are two sides to every invention. And the inventor of the pneumatic tire is doubtless entitled to as much credit as the inventor of the gasoline engine. Dunlop’s name deserves to be mentioned with those other men who have made this the golden age of invention.


New York Sun Full page Ad 1913

1913 dunlop-ad

San Francisco Call – 1913

1913 – DUNLOP TIRE IN DEMAND – United States Company Adds to Plant to Fill Orders –

In less than a year’s time the United States Tire company has experienced a 600 per cent increase in the demand for the Dunlop tire. So insistent has the demand for this type of tire become that it has become necessary to greatly increase the manufacturing facilities of the large plants of the company. The increased facilities have placed the United States company in a position where it can take care of all the Dunlop business of the future.

Here is an interest account of the pneumatic tire in a 1918 edition of the New York Tribune. It will be highlighted with some of the Dunlop Companies earlier advertisements.

1918 – When the Pneumatic Tire First Came to the Front – One of the spectators at the first pneumatic-tired bicycle race was W. B. Harding, head of the Indianapolis plant of the United States Tire Company.

The race took place at a track meet in Ireland in the late summer of 1889. Bicycle racing was popular in Great Britain at the time and at this particular meet the best wheelmen of the prominent clubs participated.

1921 dunlop-golf-ball-ad

New York Tribune – Golf Balls – 1921

“Much interest and surprise were evidenced,” says Mr. Harding, in a little booklet, giving the history of the pneumatic tire, “when, for one of the events of the day, Mr. DuCros and his two sons appeared on the track with bicycles equipped with what seemed to everybody at the time to be “balloon” tires, and a good deal of comment of a rather sarcastic nature was made regarding them.

“The tires justified their introduction right from the start, however, as the DuCroses were placed first, second and third in every race in which they took part. They followed up their success on this track by further astonishing demonstrations in different parts of the country, so quickly convincing the riding public of Great Britain of the merits of the pneumatic tire that before the end of 1890 every bicycle made was equipped with them.

“Although Robert W. Thompson was the first inventor of the pneumatic tire, so little use was made of his patent that all credit for the introduction of the pneumatic tire in connection with modern vehicles should be given to Dr. Dunlop, the Irish veterinary surgeon, who revived and revised the pneumatic tire, and who was granted a patent for his invention, which was later held invalid because of the priority of Thompson’s claims. To this day the Dunlop tire is practically the only one manufactured in England, and Messrs. DuCros control its destinies.”

With these tires as the first step, the tire industry took a quick leap forward and soon this country led the world in quality and quantity of production. The three American companies which quickly gained prominence were Morgan & Wright, the G. and J. Tire Company and the Hartford Rubber Works Company, which today are three of the great automobile tire producing factories in the United States Tire Company’s system.


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