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When Charles Goodyear was just twenty-six years old, he had made his first fortune. He had set up the first hardware store in America that sold only domestically manufactured farm implements. Everything was going in his direction. Then suddenly, things changed. Several of his suppliers closed their doors, unable to make a profit anymore, and Goodyear’s store soon followed, and he found himself in debtor’s prison.

Many people would have given up at that point, but Charles Goodyear had a dream. It was a dream to mass-producing rubber products. The problem with rubber at this time was that no one could stabilize it. In hot weather, it became sticky and soft. In cold weather, it was brittle and hard, and easily cracked. Since he had nothing much else to do with his time, he spent his days in prison experimenting with his wife’s rolling pin, trying to find the right formula that would make rubber stable and useful.

After prison, he continued his quest, spending the next five years in looking for just the right formula. But nothing worked. Many of us, most of us perhaps, would have given up and tried to find some other way to make a living, but Goodyear kept trying. Everywhere he went, and with everything he tried, he seemed like a failure.

In 1839, he went into a general store to demonstrate a new formula, but the gathered men laughed at him. In disgust, he threw his mixture on the potbellied stove in the store. He stormed out of the store, angry and humiliated once again, but just at the...

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