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Q&AZ: Why Did Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Come To Arizona?

Paul W. Litchfield
Litchfield Park Historical Society
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Paul W. Litchfield in approx. 1900 when he was first hired at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio.

We all know the city of Goodyear gets its name from the tire company, but why did the company come to Arizona in the first place? KJZZ listener Simon Bentley asked via our reporting project Q&AZ.

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company started in Akron, Ohio. In 1916, it sent a factory superintendent to Arizona to look for a specific kind of cotton. That guy’s name might ring a bell: Paul Litchfield, the eventual namesake of the city of Litchfield Park.

“His charge was to come out here to talk to local ranchers and farmers and ask them to grow what was called long-staple cotton,” said Judy Cook of the Litchfield Park Historical Society and Museum.

According to Cook, long staple cotton has longer strands. When woven into a fabric, it made air-inflated tires more puncture-resistant.

Goodyear Tire was looking for a new source of long staple cotton source for two reasons. One was that Egypt, a traditional supplier, was hard to reach during World War I due to German vessels patrolling the Mediterranean Sea. Another source was the American South, but its cotton crop was suffering from an invasion of a destructive pest, the boll weevil.

Ultimately, Arizona farmers were not willing or interested in growing cotton for Goodyear Tire & Rubber.

“Litchfield went back to Akron and he talked to his superiors and he said, ‘Why don’t we come out here and buy and lease our own land and grow our own cotton?’” said Cook.

Within a few years, the company started three cotton-growing ranches in the Valley, in Chandler, Sun City, and what is now Litchfield Park and Goodyear.

“It was a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company under the auspices of the Southwest Cotton Company,” Cook said, with a headquarters in downtown Phoenix.

Bret Jaspers was previously the managing editor for news at WSKG in upstate New York. Before that, he was a producer at WYPR in Baltimore and at Wisconsin Public Radio.His stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Here & Now, and also the BBC and Marketplace. Way back when, he started as an intern and fill-in producer at WNYC’s On the Media, and then helped out on The Brian Lehrer Show and Soundcheck.When he's not covering the news, he's probably running, reading, or eating. Jaspers is also a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union for professional stage actors.