Run-Flat Tires Are Nothing New

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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Too often, it seems, significantcontributions tied to the early wooden vehicle industry are overlooked,forgotten, or discounted as trite reflections from a non-relevant era.  This week we’re pleased to share anotherdiscovery that may help keep history books and modern perceptions in line withrealities of early vehicle innovation. 

While transportation designs havedefinitely changed over the years, many of the purposes and expectationshaven’t.  In fact, as long as the wheelhas existed, there have been challenges associated with keeping it rolling ingood order.

To that point, many are familiar with a21st century offering referred to as a ‘run-flat tire.’  These types of products are engineered toallow folks to continue driving on a punctured tire at lower speeds forlimited distances.  Ultimately, they’remarketed as providing greater confidence, flexibility, security, and safety tocontemporary drivers.  As innovative asthe concept may seem, though, it’s far from being a new idea.

Looking back to the 1880’s – yep the1880’s – we begin to see the first American patents related to pneumatic tires.  Previously, wooden wagons and carriages werelimited to the use of iron, steel, and hard rubber as a running surface (tire)for the wheel.  The addition of pneumatictires to spring wagons, buggies, and carriages made for an even smoother, morecomfortable ride.

Initial descriptions of thenewly-developed pneumatic tires often stated that they could be inflated withair, gas, or liquid.  (Incidentally, allthree of these materials are still used within inflated tires today).  By the 1890’s, there were even more pneumatictire patents introduced, with at least one touting a version of what we referto today as a ‘run-flat’ tire. 

This original advertisement from 1896 promotes the confident advantages of what we often refer to as a ‘run-flat’ tire.  So much for new ideas in our modern age.
During the 1890’s, the BeebeTire Manufacturing Company (shown in the advertisement above) was promotingthis innovative new design through print advertising as well as editorials fromtrade publications.  The text below isfrom an 1896 issue of “The Hub,” clearly outlining the ability of thisparticular pneumatic tire to run flat without collapsing...

“A new carriage tire, known as the Beebe PneumaticVehicle Tire, manufactured by the Beebe Tire Manufacturing Co., of Sandusky,O., under patents of John D. Beebe, the patentee of the bicycle tire of thatname, has created much interest among carriage men, who have looked in vain fora pneumatic carriage tire which was practical. This tire is made of alternate layers of rubber, fabric and crimpedspring piano wire, in sufficient layers to make it puncture proof, as repeatedtests have shown.  Its constructionprevents elongation and creeping on the wheel, and although the air in the tireadds to its resiliency, it is not absolutely necessary to the use of the tire.  The great superiority of the tire lies in itsability to go for necessary distances even though punctured, since the wireprevents the possibility of a collapse.”    

Originally submitted in July of 1895, this patent for an early run-flat tire design was awarded to John D. Beebe in April, 1896.
So it was that roughly 120 years ago,the first pneumatic ‘run-flat’ tire was born. That will be a bit of news to at least one contributor to a popularon-line encyclopedic website.  The writerin that case points to 1935 as the beginnings of the design.  In spite of the well-meaning but flawedinternet post, our research has uncovered a much earlier factory-made precursorto the idea.  As we’ve shared here, theorigins of the commercial  "self-supporting” run-flat tire clearly began in the mid-1890’s– four decades before the 1935 date mentioned and well in advance ofwhat is often viewed today as a ‘modern’ invention.   This, and so much more earlytransportation history, is typical of what we work so hard to find.  From documented, primary source confirmation of legendary St.Louis wagon maker, Joseph Murphy’s strict vehicle construction standards tofirst-hand verification of Studebaker’s early paint designs and much, muchmore, we’ve been privileged to uncover a wealth of truths related to America’sfirst transportation industry.  Day inand day out, it’s just part of our commitment to preserving and sharing so manyrare parts of our country’s past before they’re forever lost.
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Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.
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