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Person Page 11749

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Harvey Samuel Firestone Jr.1,2

b. 20 April 1898, d. 1 June 1973

Father Harvey Samuel Firestone1,2 b. 20 December 1868, d. 7 February 1938
Mother Idabelle Smith1,2 b. 10 November 1873, d. 7 July 1954
Pop-up Pedigree

Family Elizabeth E. Parke b. 17 November 1897 or 17 November 1902, d. 18 October 1990
Marriage* 1921  Principal=Elizabeth E. Parke8,2 
Children  1. Elizabeth Chambers Firestone b. 1922, d. 18 Oct 1989
  2. Martha Parks Firestone b. 16 Sep 1925
  3. Anna Idabelle Firestone b. a 1930
  4. Harvey Samuel Firestone III b. Feb 1930, d. 5 May 1960

Biography*   Subject of Biography: Firestone, Harvey S.
Date of Birth: Apr. 20, 1898
Date of Death: Jun. 1, 1973

Biography from Current Biography (1944)
Copyright (c) by The H. W. Wilson Company. All rights reserved.

Firestone, Harvey S., Jr.
Apr. 20, 1898-June 1, 1973 Industrialist

It has been said that Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., president of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, is responsible more than any other man for the winning of America's fight for rubber freedom, a victory that was the aim of his father, the founder of the Firestone hierarchy. The younger Firestone has accomplished this by his development of the Firestone plantations in Liberia, West Africa, which in 1944 are one of the few remaining sources of raw rubber for the United States and her allies, as well as by his production of synthetic rubber.
When Harvey Samuel Firestone, Jr., was born on April 20, 1898 in Chicago, his father was the owner of a small carriage rubber tire business which he and one assistant were able to handle alone. The house in which Harvey was born was a modest one, and his mother--the former Idabelle Smith, the daughter of the inventor George T. Smith--ran the home on a small allowance. The Firestone side of the family was of colonial stock: its first member came with his family from the province of Alsace in 1752 and settled in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. One of his descendants migrated to Columbiana County, Ohio, where he in time became the richest man in that section. In his will he divided his land among his sons, with the provision that his wife should live in the house and choose which son was to maintain it. Her choice was Benjamin, grandfather of Harvey, Jr., and the man who, in his capacity as farmer and horse trader, taught Harvey's father, the future founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, the elements of shrewd salesmanship. The old home--"much larger than ... any of his descendants have been able to use"--is situated some sixty miles from the present Firestone business in Akron and is often used for the annual picnic of Firestone office employees.
One of the memorable experiences in young Harvey's boyhood was his acquaintance with Thomas Edison. For many years Harvey accompanied his father and the famous inventor on camping trips with other friends. "Mr Edison, it seemed to me," says Firestone now, "knew all about everything--he could talk on any subject with a knowledge which was amazing. It is impossible to express in words the inspiration this experience gave me." In 1916 Harvey was graduated from Asheville School in North Carolina, and the following year he entered Princeton University, from which he received a B.A. degree in 1920. (His schooling had been interrupted by the First World War, in which he served in naval aviation.) Then, by September, he was ready to enter the family company.
When Harvey was a year old his father had sold the Chicago business at a profit of $45,000, and a year later, in 1900, had founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akron. At first the company did not make its own tires; but in 1903 an old foundry was bought and equipped with secondhand machinery, and there the manufacture of solid tires was begun. For the first ten years the family was forced to live very modestly so that it could buy up every possible share of stock. In addition, the change in tires at that time from solids to pneumatics added to their financial problems, for it necessitated the use of new equipment and methods. Young Harvey, incidentally, had his first automobile ride in a Maxwell car which his father had bought for use in experimenting with the pneumatics.
Their first customer was Henry Ford, whose order in 1905 for 2,000 sets of the tires established the Firestone Company in the new enterprise. By 1906 sales had reached the million-dollar mark, and when Harvey S. Firestone, Sr., died in 1938 at the age of sixty-nine, the company he had started with ten employees had 40,000 men on its payroll, thirty-two subsidiaries, and huge plantations in Liberia.
When Firestone entered his father's company at twenty-three he was put in charge of the steel products division. Under his direction this branch increased tremendously--and during the Second World War it has supplied numerous types of war materiel, including Bofors 40-mm. antiaircraft gun mounts and carriages, and machine-gun clips. Another phase of Firestone's activity through the years has been his direction of the expansion of the company into the foreign field: by 1940 foreign sales accounted for 231/2 per cent of the company's consolidated net profit. Firestone also helped to establish the company's supply and service stores in the United States, which now form an important adjunct of the business. In 1944 the Firestone Company is supplying many rubber products which figure in the conduct of the War: barrage balloons, life belts, rubber boats, gas masks, and pontoon bridges. In both 1942 and 1943 the Akron plant was awarded the Army-Navy "E."
War contracts have increased the company's income from $187,000,000 in 1940 to $651,000,000 in 1944. In 1940, in nineteen plants scattered throughout the United States, Firestone employed 26,000 workers; in 1944 that number had increased to 72,500. In an attempt to avoid another unemployment crisis at the end of the War, since the workers have been employed mainly on war materials, Firestone has created the Firestone Postwar Planning Division, a full-time organization geared for action. "The whole object of planning," it is said, "was to figure out how to make new and better products more economically and thus develop new markets, with an accompanying rise in employment and real income." As a result of a study of the post-War market, Firestone is branching into new fields. In addition to manufacturing tires, the company will make a complete line of aircraft products, tires, tubes, wheels, spark plugs, storage batteries; flying accessories and apparel for pilots, such as gloves, sun glasses, cameras, field glasses, and radio sets; and the company is already working in the autogiro and helicopter field.
But despite the importance of these activities to the company, Firestone's work in Liberia may have more lasting value. Since the early '20's Harvery S. Firestone, Sr., had been conducting a one-man crusade to have America grow its own rubber. During the First World War, American manufacturers had paid high prices for Dutch and British rubber, because, between them, Britain and Holland had controlled about 98 per cent of the raw material. In addition, in 1922 Great Britain had imposed a Rubber Restriction Act which shot up the price to an abnormally high level. "To give substance to his own protests against the British control," says Firestone, "my father sent me [in 1924] on a world-wide search to determine where Americans should best grow their own rubber." The twenty-six-year-old junior industrialist and his party of experts visited the Philippines, Sarawak, Java, Ceylon, Malaya, Sumatra, Singapore, and Mexico--where they experimented with planting--before the little country of Liberia in West Africa was selected for the project. In 1926 the Firestone Plantations Company was started, and young Firestone was put in full charge. (He became president in 1932.)
From Liberia's area of about 45,000 square miles, Firestone leased 1,500 square miles, or 1,000,000 acres. It has been said by some writers that the financial arrangements for the transaction "virtually mortgaged Liberia to the Firestone Company." It was implemented by a forty-year loan (of $5,000,000 at 7 per cent interest) from an American finance company, apparently established and financed by Firestone for that sole purpose, wrote Raymond Buell in 1928. The loan was a lien on the Liberian customs, which had to be applied first to the cost of collecting those customs and then to the payment of the service of the loan. The remainder was to go to the Liberian Government. Altogether interest and sinking-fund charges, plus salaries, were estimated to equal about two-fifths of the total expenditures of the Government in 1925.
Because of the Firestone Company's large holdings in the small republic, it has come in for a share of the criticism directed against Liberia's "ruling clique." When the enterprise was started the population of the country included some 12,000 descendants of former American slaves, who had set themselves up as a ruling aristocracy, and some million and a half native blacks. Slave-trading had been prevalent until exposed by a commission of the League of Nations, and had afterward continued covertly. According to a former Firestone employee, Arthur Hayman, Liberia's ruling clique permitted the company to come to Liberia "simply because the Government was penniless after years of graft and extravagance" and in need of the money the enterprise would bring and the employment it would provide.
An article of the Firestone agreement provided that the Liberian Government would assist the company in securing an adequate labor supply. To this end the Government established a labor bureau through which Firestone paid 1c per day to the Government and to the chiefs for each man recruited. Says Hayman in his book Lighting Up Liberia: "When the Firestone Company first came to Liberia it wanted to pay its native laborers the high wages, for Africa, of $1 a day. But the rulers insisted upon maintaining a coolie wage ... for men with money in their pockets would eventually have demanded the ballot and schools for their children ... would have eventually turned out the rotting little Cabinet and legislature in a political revolution that would have shaken the structures of foreign imperialism and domestic tyranny in huge, enslaved Africa."
To supplement the rubber supply from the Liberian plantation, Firestone has done considerable experimenting with synthetic materials, beginning as early as 1933 to make tires by a synthetic process. After Pearl Harbor the United States Government asked the four largest rubber companies in the country to build plants with funds provided by the Defense Plant Corporation and to operate them under Government contract. In April 1942 Firestone claimed that his company had become the first to produce synthetic rubber in one of these plants. He also reported that the Firestone facilities for reclaiming used rubber were the largest in the world. In the spring of 1944, speaking for the rubber industry as a whole, he said: "In two years of war we have licked, for good and all, one of the greatest problems car owners of America have constantly faced for years.... This year America will have an annual productive capacity in its own synthetic rubber plants nearly 25 per cent greater than our average annual consumption of rubber in the past three pre-War years." A post-War synthetic rubber industry, he had already declared, would need no tariff protection. He is optimistic about the outlook for both synthetic and natural rubber during the first peace years, holding that both types will be required to meet the huge pent-up demand. However, he loses no opportunity to repeat his faith in synthetic rubber as a "$700,000,000 insurance policy against high prices for natural rubber. It may be recalled," he said to a New York Times reporter, "that, during the six years following the Stevenson Restriction Act, consumers here paid $1,250,000,000 more for rubber than if the prices had held at the 14c level which prevailed when the restriction became effective."
In May 1944 one of the nation's largest integrated high-octane gasoline and synthetic rubber plants--operated by Cities Service Company and the Firestone Company--was opened in Louisiana. It was a joint project of the two companies and the United States Government and represented an investment of about $100,000,000, only about 25 per cent of which came from the Government. According to Firestone, the plant will produce enough to fill one-tenth of the nation's normal rubber demands.
Since December 1928 the company has had its own musical radio program, The Voice of Firestone. The opening and closing themes, "In My Garden" and "If I Could Tell You," respectively, were composed by Firestone's mother. He himself frequently addresses the public on the program. A series of his weekly talks from September 1931 to September 1932 has been published under the title The Romance and Drama of the Rubber Industry (1932).
Slender, dark-haired Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., has been president of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company since 1941. (He was made vice-president in 1929.) He makes many business trips, and in Akron averages ten to eleven hours a day of work at the plant. In addition to the Akron plant and the Liberian plantations, moreover, his business connections are numerous. He is director or president-director of Firestone subsidiaries in England, Switzerland, and Central America and South America; in the United States he is director or president-director of eight companies, five of them bearing the Firestone name and manufacturing rubber and metal products. In addition he is president-director of the United States-Liberia Radio Corporation and of the Bank of Monrovia, Inc.
Outside of his business, he is active in various Episcopalian organizations; he is a trustee of Princeton University and a director of the Booker T. Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Liberia and the National Association of Manufacturers. He is also a member of many clubs, a member of the International Committee of the YMCA, the chairman for the rubber industry of the National Citizens Committee of Navy Relief Society, and general chairman for the USO organizations in Ohio.
Despite Firestone's position in the rubber world, his private life has been little publicized, for he moves quietly in his own small social circle. For relaxation he plays tennis; and at one time he and his four younger brothers formed a creditable polo team. (There were five boys in the Firestone family and one girl. The men all hold high executive positions in the rubber company.) Music is a hobby he shares with his wife, Elizabeth Parke Firestone, whom he married in 1921. The couple have four children: Elizabeth Chambers, Martha Parke, Anne Idabelle, and Harvey Samuel 3d. Elizabeth, Firestone's daughter, has inherited the musical ability of her grandmother, Idabelle Firestone. Young Elizabeth has some forty compositions to her credit. Two of her lighter compositions have been featured by name bands and on radio programs.

Newsweek 18:44 N 17 '41 por; Sat Eve Post 216:12-13+ Mr 4 '44 il pors; Firestone, H. S. and Crowther, S. Men and Rubber 1926; Firestone, H. S., Jr. The Romance and Drama of the Rubber Industry 1932; Hayman, A. I. and Preece, H. Lighting Up Liberia 1943; Who's Who in America 1944-45
Birth* 20 April 1898  Chicago, Cook Co., IL1,2,4,5 
Census 1900  1900 Federal Census, Ohio, Summit County, Akron Township, Akron, Ward 2, ED: 60, Series: T623, Roll: 1323, Page: 76A, June 12
Sheet 11A, 200 Fir Street
(enumerated with husband, Harvey S Firestone)
09, 194, 237, Firestone, Jr Harvey, Son, W, M, Apr 1848, 2, S, , , , Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, , , , , , , , , , , , ,6 
Census* 1910  1910 Federal Census, Ohio, Summit County, Akron Ward 2, ED: 128, Series: T624, Roll: 1233, Page: 137B, April 15
Sheet 13B, 46 Fir Street
(enumerated with father, Harvey S Firestone)
71, 244, 257, Firestone, Harvey S Jr, Son, M, W, 11, S, , , , Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, , , English, None, , , , , Yes, Yes, Yes, , , , , , ,1 
Census 1920  1920 Federal Census, Ohio, Summit County, Akron Township, Akron, Ward 8, ED: 231, Series: T625, Roll: 1438, Page: 259A, January 13
Sheet 9A, West Market Street
(enumerated with father, Harvey Firestone)
16, 243, 185, Firestone, Harvey, Son, , , M, W, 21, S, , , , Yes, Yes, Yes, Illinois, , Ohio, , Michigan, , Yes, None, , ,7 
Marriage* 1921  Principal=Elizabeth E. Parke8,2 
Census 1930  1930 Federal Census, Ohio, Summit County, Akron Township, Akron, Ward 8, ED: 77-147, Series: T626, Roll: 1880, Page: 18A, April 2
Sheet 18A, Block 85 Tract G, 50 Twin Oaks Road
01, 170, 179, Firestone, Harvey S Jr, Head, O, 100000, R, No, M, W, 31, M, 23, No, Yes, Illinois, Ohio, Ohio, , 61, , , , , Yes, Manufacturer, Rubber Factory, 7265, E, Yes, , Yes, WW,
02, 170, 179, Firestone, Elizabeth P, Wife-H, , , , No, F, W, 31, M, 23, No, Yes, Illinois, Illinois, Nebraska, , 61, , , , , Yes, None, , , , , , , ,
03, 170, 179, Firestone, Elizabeth C, Daughter, , , , No, F, W, 7, S, , Yes, Yes, Ohio, Illinois, Illinois, , 59, , , , , No, None, , , , , , , ,
04, 170, 179, Firestone, Martha P, Daughter, , , , No, F, W, 4 6/12, S, , No, No, Ohio, Illinois, Illinois, , 59, , , , , No, None, , , , , , , ,
05, 170, 179, Firestone, Harvey S III, Son, , , , No, M, W, 1/12, S, , No, No, Ohio, Illinois, Illinois, , 59, , , , , No, None, , , , , , , ,
06, 170, 179, Hamscom, Harry E, Servant, , , , No, M, W, 39, M, 27, No, Yes, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, , 60, , , , , No, Chauffer, Private Family, 3996, W, Yes, , No, ,
07, 170, 179, Hamscom, Mary, Servant, , , , No, F, W, 46, M, 34, No, Yes, Kentucky, Kentucky, Virginia, , 80, , , , , No, House Keeper, Private Family, 6v96, W, Yes, , , ,
08, 170, 179, Lynch, Winifred, Servant, , , , No, F, W, 41, Wd, , No, Yes, Pennsylvania, Maryland, England, , 58, 00, 2, , , No, Cook, Private Family, 6096, W, Yes, , , ,
09, 170, 179, Robertson, Mary, Servant, , , , No, F, W, 35, S, , No, Yes, Scotland, Scotland, Scotland, English, 00, 91, v, 1928, Al, No, Maid, Private Family, 9596, W, Yes, , , ,
10, 170, 179, Rilly, Grace M, Servant, , , , No, F, W, 22, S, , No, Yes, Vermont, Vermont, Vermont, , 52, , , , , No, House Keeper, Nurse, 8796, W, Yes, , , ,8 
SSN* June 1973  Harvey FIRESTONE
Birth Date: 20 Apr 1898
Death Date: Jun 1973
Social Security Number: 274-01-2447
State or Territory Where Number Was Issued: Ohio
Death Residence Localities
ZIP Code: 44313
Localities: Akron, Summit, Ohio4 
Death* 1 June 1973  Akron, Summit Co., OH2,4,5 
News/Obit* 2 June 1973  Obituary,
Led tire firm Harvey Firestone dies

AKRON, June 1 -- Harvey S. Firestone Jr., 75, internationally known industrialist and son of the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., died at his home here today.

A company spokesman attributed death to cancer.

The eldest of five sons of the company founder, Firestone had been active in the family business 50 years until he retired as board member in 1969.

Firestone became a director of the company in 1919 while a senior at Princeton University and became actively associated when he was graduated.

WHEN HE BECAME president in 1941, Firestone was deeply involved in making the firm internationally known, having opened plants in England, Argentina, Switzerland and Africa.

In the years before World War II, Firestone figured in two decisions which proved to be of strategic importance to the United States during that conflict.

The senior Firestone had long held that the U. S. should be independent of foreign controled sources of raw rubber. He said the firm should organize its own rubber plantations overseas.

THE ELDER FIRESTONE named his son manager of the Firestone Plantations Co. Young Firestone toured the world looking for suitable sites. In 1926 he negotiated a 99-year lease with Liberia on up to one million acres of land.

The other decision was to branch into the production of synthetic rubber prior to World War II.

Firestone had been president of Firestone Foundation since 1948, a year after it was founded as a nonprofit organization. The foundation aids religious, charitable, scientific and educational projects and institutions.

Firestone fell in his home in 1965 and suffered a broken hip. The fracture did not mend and he was confined to a wheel chair.

BEGINNING IN 1946, he served as chief executive officer of the rubber company for 17 years. It was a period in which sales doubled to $1.3 billion in 1963. He relinquished the top post when he became 65 years old.

Firestone was two years old when his father, who died in 1938, founded the company. By his freshman year at Princeton, he was going on camping trips with his father, Thomas A. Edison, and Henry Ford.

Born on April 20, 1898, in Chicago, he left with his family for Akron when he was 2. Harvey Jr. attended Asheville School, Asheville, N. C., from 1912 until 1916 when he entered Princeton.

During his freshman year in college he trained in aviation, obtaining a pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and subsequently enlisting in the United States Naval Aviation Corps.

Firestone married Elizabeth Parke of Decatur, Ill., in 1921. Their children are Elizabeth Firestone Willis; Martha Parke, wife of William Clay Ford; Anne Idabelle, wife of John F. Ball; and the late Harvey S. Firestone III.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Appeared in the Chicago Tribune (IL) - June 02, 1973


Last Edited 1 Jun 2005

  1. [S73] 1910 U.S. Federal Census , 1910 U.S. Federal Census.
  2. [S658] Firestone Family of Frederick Co. MD (1993), George Ely Russell.
  3. [S406] Biographies Plus Illustrated, online
  4. [S129] SSDI Death Index,.
  5. [S323] News Bank.
  6. [S246] 1900 U.S. Federal Census , 1900 U.S. Federal Census.
  7. [S247] 1920 U.S. Federal Census , 1920 U.S. Federal Census.
  8. [S248] 1930 U.S. Federal Census , 1930 U.S. Federal Census.

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