Tire History

Iron tires
The earliest tires were bands of iron (later steel), 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 worker, known as a wheelwright, carried out this work. The outer ring served to "tie" the wheel segments together for use, providing also a wear-resistant surface to the perimeter of the wheel. The word "tire" thus emerged as a variant spelling to refer to the metal bands used to tie wheels. So these tires were able to sustain very heavy pressures.

Rubber tires
The first practical pneumatic tire was made by John Boyd Dunlop, born in Scotland, while working as a veterinarian in May Street, Belfast, 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). Dunlop is credited with "realizing rubber could withstand the wear and tear of being a tire while retaining its resilience".

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.