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Wheels of Fortune

The Story of Rubber in Akron

by Steve Love and David Giffels Foreword by Rita Dove

Pages: 359; Size: 8.5" x 11"
Series: Ohio History and Culture -- series
Imprint: University of Akron Press

Wheels of Fortune is a tale of two cities—both of them Akron. One city, built on rubber, turned itself into a model for Middle America industrial success. The other city has had to learn to live on in rubber's wake, to remake itself, to come to terms with its remade self. To tell this tale of two cities is to tell the tale of America's rubber industry. The stories interlock like tire and wheel. From its earliest days, Akron has been a city of multiple incarnations: canal boat stopover, farm machinery manufacturer, cereal maker. But for more than a century after Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich came to town in 1870, Akron was the Rubber Capital of the World. Its people worked in the rubber shops of Goodrich, Goodyear, Firestone, General, Seiberling, Mohawk, and Sun. They lived in Goodyear Heights and Firestone Park, the neighborhoods fostered by their employers. Even the air they breathed was heavy with the odor of rubber. To some, it stank. To others, it smelled like money.

By the 1980s, much of the rubber industry and, thus, Akron had disappeared. Not into the night. Not overnight. Everyone had seen it coming for years. Union and rubber companies management squared off against each other as if the city were a boxing ring. There were no winners. Akron was the loser. First, the plants closed, the production moving south. Then the company headquarters, with the exception of Goodyear, followed. The people rubber left behind discovered they had not only their memories but also the ability to remake Akron into a center for polymer knowledge, a remnant of rubber research and a bridge between the two cities. Wheels of Fortune is their story, these people who made more than rubber. They made lives—and a city.

[Wheels of Fortune] is a narrative of daring and determination, greed and compassion, triumphs wrested from adversity, and generosity borne from injustices righted. In the course of this journey, you will see how Akron became what it undeniably still is today: a unique American city built with vision and grit and love, a monument to the resilience of the human spirit and its capacity to create, to explore, and to persevere.
—Rita Dove, Foreword, Wheels of Fortune

About the authors


David Giffels

David Giffels’ books include two memoirs -- Furnishing Eternity: A Father, a Son, a Coffin, and a Measure of Life (Scribner 2018) and All the Way Home (William Morrow/HarperCollins 2008) -- and an essay collection, The Hard Way on Purpose (Scribner 2014). He is the coauthor, with Jade Dellinger, of the rock biography Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! (SAF 2003) and, with Steve Love, Wheels of Fortune: The Story of Rubber in Akron (University of Akron Press, 1998). A former Akron Beacon Journal columnist, his writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the, Parade, the Wall Street Journal,,, The Iowa Review, and many other publications. He is an associate professor of English at the University of Akron, where he teaches creative nonfiction in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program.

Steve Love

Steve Love is failing retirement by continuing to write after more than thirty-five years as a journalist. He is the author or coauthor of four books, including Wheels of Fortune: The Story of Rubber in Akron. He also has taught the Writing Biography class in Hiram’s Weekend College, where he received his master’s degree interdisciplinary studies when he was in his sixties. He lives in Green with his wife, Jackie, and their literary cat—Harper-Lee.

Other books by Steve Love

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