Cutthroat Competition: Diamond Tires staked claim in Warren, nation in highly contested space

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton This Diamond Tires advertisement is painted on the back of a building along Pennsylvania Ave. in Warren.

The average price of gas in 1918 was $.25 cents a gallon.

Woodrow Wilson was president and World War I was coming to a conclusion.

The Ford Model T was still the most popular car, presumably in black.

And Marshall Parshall was selling Diamond Tires in Warren.

Given all the talk of the future of the riverfront in Warren, I’ve unsurprisingly been down there quite a bit lately. That’s when I noticed – an old Diamond Tires sign painted on the back of one of the brick buildings along Pennsylvania Ave.

Photo from the Warren Morning Chronicle An 1918-1919 advertisement for Diamond Tires in the Warren Morning Chronicle.

I snapped the photo, assuming that I’d be able to find some information about what this long since gone business was.

I did. And, as it turns out, it also brings in one of the world’s foremost tire brands (more on that next week) as well as a direct connection to where I was born and raised in northeast Ohio.

Marshall Parshall was the dealer of Diamond Tires in Warren in 1918-1919. His address is 202 Hickory St. which doesn’t really jive with the old advertisement on the Pennsylvania Avenue building. That’s a piece of this I haven’t been able to reconcile.

According to an ad Parshall placed in the Warren Morning Chronicle in Sept. 1918, the cost of a fire ranged from $14.25 to $31 based on the size.

“Before you go on your next trip in your car, see that nothing is missing from your list of little necessaries; tube patches, tire sleeves, spark plugs and other ‘needfuls,’ we have the good kind of all things in stock,” another ad explained. “Also, if you need an extra tire, that is your chance to try to Diamond. You’ll find it “Best in the Long Run.”

Patches were needed because Model T tires had inner tubes

“We like to sell Diamond Tires!” Parshall said in another ad. “We find that when one of our costumes tries one Diamond, he wants Diamonds ‘All around.’ Satisfied customers like that keep us in business. We’re glad to tell you that the Diamond Tires we’ve sold are piling up thousands of miles without a ‘come-back.’ And what’s more they cost less than most tires. Don’t you agree that Diamonds must be a pretty good proposition?”

By July 1919, Diamond Tires was promising 6,000 miles for fabric tires and 8,000 for “cords.”

“You will realize why it costs you money if you fail to drive Diamond Tires,” he claimed.

The book “Rubber: An American Industrial Story” gives us a glimpse at the birth and early development of Diamond Tires.

The story starts in Akron, Ohio – what became known as the “Rubber Capital of the World” – in the 1890s.

“Diamond Rubber was started in 1893 by the Sherbondy brothers, who were workers in Goodrich’s bicycle tire department,” that source explains.

We’ll come back to Goodrich next week.

Diamond was tied directly to an item many of us have on our kitchen shelves today – Diamond Matches.

“The original capital came from the ‘Match King,’ O.C. Barber of Akron, president of the famous Diamond Match Company. He later took over Diamond Rubber,” that book details. “The company focused on bicycle and automobile tires. Its factory was built on the old canal near the B.F. Goodrich plant.”

Barber – a good Ohio man (O.C. stood for “Ohio Columbus”) – “was the most diversified of the rubber barons,” the book explains.

Born in 1841 into a farming and macturing family, the Barber family had joined forces with another family to build a cereal and grain company, according to that text.

We know that company as Quaker Oats.

“The family had a side business of homemade matches, which they made in a little red barn on Akron’s Market Street,” the test explains. “Barber took the family sideline and built Barber Company into one of the nation’s largest match manufacturers by 1881. Then in 1882 he guided a merger with eleven other match companies to form Diamond Match Company. As production reached over 250 million matches a year and 85 percent of the American market, Barber moved the company from Akron to nearby Norton Township in 1891. He developed a new community, the city of Barberton.”

The personal connection comes in there? My mom’s parents – my grandfather who I’m sure I’ve mentioned before – lived in Barberton. Suffice it to say I didn’t expect to find a Barberton connection on the back of a building on Pennsylvania Ave. in Warren.

Barber was diversified – concrete, fertilizer, rubber in addition to matches.

“He made Barberton into a working republic with low cost housing for his workers,” the book explained. “It was an industrial utopia with total community resources for his workers…. He was one of the earliest paternal capitalists and was wealthy from many sources.”

The rubber industry in Akron had to be cutthroat. B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear were occupying the same space as Diamond by the early 20th century.

“Diamond Rubber’s edge in the market came from a process of reclaiming used rubber,” the book explained. “The alkali reclaiming process was patented by Marks in 1904. The use of reclaimed rubber gave Diamond a cost edge as it was considerably cheaper than new raw rubber. Diamond soon became a recycler for competing manufacturers just as B.F. Goodrich.”

According to a different text entitled “The Growth of an Ideal,” Diamond Rubber started producing automobile tires in 1896 after originally being founded to make bicycle tires and “drug sundries.”

It was sold to B.F. Goodrich for $45 million in 1912.

As I said earlier, more on Goodrich next week.


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