The earliest tires were bands of iron , placed on wooden wheels, used on carts and wagons. The tire would be heated in a forge fire, placed over the wheel and quenched, causing the metal to contract and fit tightly on the wheel. A skilled craftsman, known as a wheelwright, carried out this work.
The tension of the metal band served the purpose of holding or "tying" the wooden spokes of the wheel together, hence the term "tire".In addition to tying the spokes together, the tire also provided a wear-resistant surface to the perimeter of the wheel. As wheels changed over time, the term "tire" continued to be used for the outer band even when it no longer served the purpose of tying the spokes together.
The Wheelwright's craft is amongst the oldest known to man, with the origins of the wheel dating back to prehistoric times. It was probably Stone Age man who first realised that a rolling stone or a round log of wood moved more easily than an object, which needed pulling or pushing. The first wheels were simply solid discs, carved out of one lump of wood, with solid wheels made from three shaped planks following dating from about 5000 BC. Solid wheels were not only heavy, but also tended to break across the grain of the wood, and so an improved and lighter wheel became desirable. By around 2000 BC, spoked wheels had begun to appear in Asia Minor, with the rims of these early spoked wheels made from one or two pieces of wood bent to a full circle. The rim itself connected to the hub, known to wheelwrights as the nave or stock, by wooden spokes. As the Iron Age proceeded, so the wheel developed, with tyres and nave bonds being introduced, and by the Roman period, many wheels were very much as the Victorians were making them, with sectional felloes and one-piece tyres. It was also about this time that the one-piece hoop tyre seems to have disappeared, only to re-emerge in the 18th century. Wheel construction in the period before the 18th century used short strips of iron, called strakes (or sometimes shoes), nailed across the joints of the felloes, and these wheels were known as 'being shod'.
Wheelwrights, apart from the use of differing materials, have been making wheels in the same way made since the early seventeenth century. The only significant design change being the development of the 'dished wheel', which was shaped like a saucer and having the hollow side facing outwards. With the spokes driven into the nave at an angle, so that the lowest spoke stood perpendicularly to the load, the upper part of the wheel was sloping away from the body of the cart or carriage. This produced two distinct advantages. Firstly, it enabled the body of the vehicle to be wider at the top than at the floor, and secondly it helped the wheel withstand the lateral thrust of the axle caused by the action of the horse.
Tire is an older spelling than tyre, but both were used in the 15th and 16th centuries for a metal tire; tire became the settled spelling in the 17th century. In the UK, tyre was revived in the 19th century for pneumatic tyres, possibly because it was used in some patent documents, though many continued to use tire for the iron variety.
The first practical pneumatic tire was made by the Scot, John Boyd Dunlop, in 1887 for his son's bicycle, in an effort to prevent the headaches his son had while riding on rough roads (Dunlop's patent was later declared invalid because of prior art by fellow Scot Robert William Thomson).
Pneumatic tires are made of a flexible elastomer material, such as rubber, with reinforcing materials such as fabric and wire. Tire companies were first started in the early 20th century, and grew in tandem with the auto industry. Today, over 1 billion tires are produced annually, in over 400 tire factories, with the three top tire makers commanding a 60% global market share.
The rubber wheel is one of the greatest inventions in human history due to its wide range of applications. These applications include any type of transportation; whether it is people, materials, or equipment being moved. Charles Goodyear invented the first rubber tires in 1839. Before the advent of these tires, riding in a car was very uncomfortable due to the rough ride.
In 1830, Goodyear wanted to develop a rubber product that was useable by the general public. To carry out his experiments, Goodyear bought a truckload of raw rubber from a shoe factory and attempted to turn it into a complete solid. His experiments were halted, when he was sent to prison for not paying his debt from the rubber purchase. This set back did not stop Goodyear. While in debtor’s prison, Goodyear continued his experiments with the raw rubber and when he was released from jail, the product he was making had the consistency of gum. This rubber material was called natural or India rubber. Goodyear did not stop there with his experiments. He discovered that he was able to harden the rubber by mixing the rubber with sulfur and then treating it with an acid gas. The rubber ball was tossed around and it accidentally landed on top of a hot stove. To the surprise of Goodyear, the rubber began to change phase and melt, instead of scorching. However, when Goodyear attempted to scrape the rubber off the stove, he discovered it had hardened to the consistency that he was trying to achieve . With the discovery of vulcanization, and the beginning of the industrial revolution in both Europe and North America, the tire evolved from a rubberized canvas protecting a rubber tube to a complex fabric, steel and elastomeric composition.