Wheels of Fortune is the story of the rise and fall and transformation of the rubber industry in Akron, a book rich in anecdotes and photographs. This is history told by people who lived it, on the factory floors and in executive offices, their voices ringing through a narrative that has all the heroes and villains and epic sweep of a Steinbeck novel. For more than a century after Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich came to town, in 1870, Akron, Ohio was the rubber capital of the world. The city prospered along with the tire factories, becoming a model for Middle America's industrial success. Its people worked in the rubber shops and lived in neighborhoods fostered by companies like Goodyear and Firestone. Even the air they breathed was heavy with the odors of rubber. But by the 1980s, most of the rubber industry had gone south, first the plants and then the company headquarters, a result of stubbornness in the union ranks, intransigence in the corporate boardrooms, and takeovers by foreign competitors. Akron began an awkward metamorphosis from a stronghold of blue-collar labor to a research and development center, finding its new identity in the broader fields of polymer science and technology.
About the Author
David Giffels is a staff writer for the Akron Beacon Journal. A native of Akron, Giffels completed B.A.s in English and Mass Media and an M.A. in English from The University of Akron.