US “Rubber City” Akron to collect rubber workers’ stories in preservation project

The city of Akron, in US state Ohio, is asking its past and present rubber workers to tell their stories to help preserve Akron’s rich rubber history. Since the 19th century, numerous rubber companies – including the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company – have operated in or around Akron, making the city the “Rubber Capital” of the world. Apart from the much-anticipated storytelling project, an interactive kiosk, with audio and visual storytelling featuring former rubber workers, will be installed in the northeast corner of a well-known intersection in the city.

According to artist and business owner Mac Love, who leads Akron Stories, collected transcripts will be archived with the Akron-Summit County Public Library and be available online, with excerpts featured as part of the interactive kiosk as well.

“This is our opportunity to celebrate the people who made Akron the rubber capital of the world,” Love said. “We want to help visitors and residents learn about Akron’s unique history, how it shapes our identity and how it is driving our future.”

Josy Jones, the project’s director of storytelling, added in a statement: “We are hearing from people who remember their family members coming home coated in black tyre remnants. They remember the sounds and energy of Main Street and the brilliance and resilience of their working mothers –many workers were standing up for their rights and shaping a future for their children.”

In addition, the city announced in September that it would be installing a 12-foot bronze statue of a rubber worker in a new roundabout at Main and Mill streets. Designed by sculptor Alan Cottrill, the statue was inspired by the image on the cover of the book “Wheels of Fortune” by David Giffels and Steve Love.