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away the entire property of his partner, which put a complete stop to the operations in India-rubber, and reduced
Good year to his normal condition of beggary. Beggary it literally was; for he was absolutely dependent upon others for the means of sustaining life. He mentions that, soon after this crushing blow, his family having previously joined him in New York, he awoke one morning to discover that he had neither an atom of food for them, nor a cent to buy it with. Putting in his pocket an article that he supposed a pawnbroker would value, he set out in the hope of procuring enough money to sustain them for one day. Before reaching the sign, so familiar to him, of the three Golden Balls, he met a terrible being to a man in his situation, a creditor! Hungry and dejected, he prepared his mind for a torrent of bitter reproaches; for this gentleman was one whose patience he felt he had abused. What was his relief when his creditor accosted him gayly with, “ Well, Mr. Goodyear, what can I do for you to-day ?” His first thought was, that an insult was intended, so preposterous did it seem that this man could really desire to aid him further. Satisfied that the offer was well meant, he told his friend that he had come out that morning in search of food for his family, and that a loan of fifteen dollars would greatly oblige him. The money was instantly produced, which enabled him to postpone his visit to the pawnbroker for several days. The pawnbroker was still, however, his frequent resource all that year, until the few remains of his late brief prosperity had all disappeared.
But he never for a moment let go his hold upon India-rubber. A timely loan of a hundred dollars from an old friend enabled him to remove his family to Staten Island, near the abandoned India-rubber factory. Having free access to the works, he and his wife contrived to manufacture a few articles of his improved cloth, and to sell enough to provide daily bread. His great object there was to induce the directors of the suspended Company to recommence operations upon his new process. But so completely sickened were they of the very name of a material which had involved them in so much loss and discredit, that during the jix months of his residence on the Island he never succeeded in
persuading one man to do so much as come to the factory and look at his specimens. There were thousands of dollars' worth of machinery there, but not a single shareholder cared even to know the condition of the property. This was the more remarkable, since he was unusually endowed by nature with the power to inspire other men with his own confidence. The nagnates of Staten Island, however, involved as they were in the general shipwreck of property and credit, were inexorably deaf to his eloquence.
As he had formerly exhausted Philadelphia, so now New York seemed exhausted. He became even an object of ridicule. He was regarded as an India-rubber monomaniac. One of his New York friends having been asked how Mr. Goodyear could be recognized in the street, replied: “If you see a man with an India-rubber coat on, India-rubber shoes, an Indiarubber cap, and in his pocket an India-rubber purse, with not a cent in it, that is he.” He was in the habit then of wearing his material in every form, with the twofold view of testing and advertising it.
In September, 1836, aided again by a small loan, he packed a few of his best specimens in his carpet-bag, and set out alone for the cradle of the India-rubber manufacture, — Roxbury. The ruin of the great Company there was then complete, and the factory was abandoned. All that part of Massachusetts was suffering from the total depreciation of the India-rubber stocks. There were still, however, two or three persons who could not quite give up India-rubber. Mr. Chaffee, the originator of the manufacture in America, welcomed warmly a brother experimenter, adınired his specimens, encouraged him to persevere, procured him friends, and, what was more important, gave him the use of the enormous machinery standing idle in the factory. A brief, delusive prosperity again relieved the monotony of misfortune. By his new process, he made shoes, piano-covers, and carriage-cloths, so superior to any previously produced in the United States as to cause a temporary revival of the business, which enabled him to sell rights to manufacture under his patents. His profits in a single year amounted to four ar five thousand dollars. Again he had his family around him, and felt a
, boundless confidence in the future.
An event upon which he had depended for the completeness of his triumph plunged him again into ruin. He received an order from the government for a hundred and fifty India-rubber mail-bags. Having perfect confidence in his ability to execute this order, he gave the greatest possible publicity to it. All the world should now see that Goodyear's India-rubber was all that Goodyear had represented it. The bags were finished; and beautiful bags they were, — smooth, firm, highly polished, wellshaped, and indubitably water-proof. He had them hung up alı round the factory, and invited every one to come and inspect them. They were universally admired, and the maker was congratulated upon his success. It was in the summer that these fatal bags were finished. Having occasion to be absent for a month, he left them hanging in the factory. Judge of his consternation when, on his return, he found them softening, fermenting, and dropping off their handles. The aquafortis did indeed “cure ” the surface of his India-rubber, but only the surface. Very thin cloth made by this process was a useful and somewhat durable article; but for any other purpose, it was valueless. The public and signal failure of the mail-bags, together with the imperfection of all his products except his thinnest cloth, suddenly and totally destroyed his rising business. Everything he possessed that was salable was sold at auction to pay his debts. He was again penniless and destitute, with an increased family and an aged father dependent upon him.
His friends, his brothers, and his wife now joined in dissuading him from further experiments.
Were not four years of such vicissitude enough? Who had ever touched India-rubber without loss ? Could he hope to succeed, when so many able and enterprising men had failed ? Had he a right to keep his fainily in a condition so humiliating and painful? He had. succeeded in the hardware business; why not return to it There were those who would join him in any rational under taking; but how could he expect that any one would be will
ing to throw more money into a bottomless pit that had already ingulfed millions without result ? These arguments he could not answer, and we cannot; the friends of all the great inventors hare had occasion to use the same. It seemed highly absurd to the friends of Fitch, Watt, Fulton, Wedgwood, Whitney, Arkwright, that they should forsake the beaten track of business to pursue a path that led through the wilderness to nothing but wilderness. Not one of these men, perhaps, could have made a reasonable reply to the remonstrances of their friends. They only felt, as poor Goodyear felt, that the steep and thorny path which they were treading was the path they must pursue. A power of which they could give no satisfactory account urged them on.
And when we look closely into the lives of such men, we observe that, in their dark days, some trifling circumstance was always occurring that set them upon new inquiries and gave them new hopes. It might be an ignis fatuus that led them farther astray, or it might be genuine light which brought them into the true path.
Goodyear might have yielded to his friends on this occasion, for he was an affectionate man, devoted to his family, had not one of those trifling events occurred which inflamed his curiosity anew During his late transierit prosperity, he had employed a man, Na. thaniel Hayward by name, who had been foreman of one of the extinct India-rubber companies. He found him in charge of the abandoned factory, and still making a few articles on his own account by a new process. To liarden his India-rubber, he put a very small quantity of sulphur into it, or sprinkled sulphur upon the surface and dried it in the sun. Mr. Goodyear was surprised to observe that this process seemed to produce the same effect as the application of aquafortis. It does not appear to have occurred lo him that Hayward's process and his own were essentially the
A chemical dictionary would have informed himn that sulphuric acid enters largely into the composition of aquafortis, from which he might have inferred that the only difference between the two methods was, that Hayward employed the sun, and Goodyear nitric acid, to give the sulphur effect. Hayward's goods, however, were liable to a serious objection: the sır.ell of the sui
phur, in warm weather, was intolerable. Hayward, it appears, was a very illiterate man; and the only account he could give of bis invention was, that it was revealed to him in a dream. His process was of so little use to him, that Goodyear bought his patent for a small sum, and gave him employment at monthly wages until the mail-bag disaster deprived him of the means of doing so.
In combining sulphur with India-rubber, Goodyear had approached so near his fmal success that one step more brought him to it. He was certain that he was very close to the secret. He saw that sulphur had a mysterious power over India-rubber when a union could be effected between the two substances. True, there was an infinitesimal quantity of sulphur in his mail-bags, and they had melted in the shade; but the surface of his cloth, powdered with the sulphur and dried in the sun, bore the sun's heat. Here was a mystery. The problem was, how to produce in a mass of India-rubber the change effected on the surface by sulphur and sun ? He made numberless experiments. He mixed with the gum large quantities of sulphur, and small quantities. He exposed his compound to the sun, and held it near a fire. He felt that he had the secret in his hands; but for many weary months it eluded him.
And, after all, it was an accident that revealed it; but an accident that no man in the world but Charles Goodyear could have interpreted, nor he, but for his five years' previous investigation. At Woburn one day, in the spring of 1839, he was standing with his brother and several other persons near a very hot stove. He held in his hand a mass of his compound of sulphur and gum, upon
which he was expatiating in his usual vehement manner, — the company exhibiting the indifference to which he was accus. tomed. In the crisis of his argument he made a violent gesture, which brought the mass in contact with the stove, which was hot enough to melt India-rubber instantly ; upon looking at it a moment after, he perceived that his compound had not melted in the least degree! It had charred as leather chars, but no part of the surface had dissolved. There was not a sticky place upon it. To say that he was astonished at this would but faintly express his ecstasy of amazement. The result was absolutely new to all ex