Statue is a behemoth of Goodyear’s success

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The gentleman looks towards the horizon as he waits around the corner. Dressed in a three-piece suit and overcoat, he holds a hat in his left hand and clutches a roll of blueprints with his right.

Passing motorists can’t help but notice the man. It is 9 feet tall and is greenish blue.

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The bronze statue of Paul Weeks Litchfield (1875-1959), former president and chairman of the board of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron, has stood for 60 years on a granite pedestal at Goodyear Boulevard and Martha Avenue.

Company executives unveiled the 3,000-pound sculpture with a grand ceremony on November 8, 1962, paying final respects to the respected leader who helped transform the rubber industry.

“People have two ways of going through life,” Litchfield said. “One is the selfish way they swell to great proportions. The other is the service delivery you grow into. The future is what you want to do with your own skills.

A giant in the history of Goodyear

Litchfield, a Boston native affectionately known as PW, joined Goodyear in 1900 at the age of 24 just two years after Akron brothers FA Seiberling and CW Seiberling founded the company as a tire manufacturer. bike and car.

The town had only 42,000 inhabitants when Litchfield arrived. Hired as a factory superintendent for $2,500 a year (about $86,000 today), he became vice president in 1915, president in 1926, and president in 1930.

Litchfield and his wife, Florence, had two daughters: Katherine and Edith. In 1925 the family built The Anchorage, a 14-room mansion on Merriman Road.

Paul W. Litchfield, Chairman of the Board of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., takes a portrait in 1951.

As a leader for nearly 60 years, Litchfield led the development, research and production of tires for automobiles, trucks, tractors and other vehicles. He designed the first pneumatic tires for airplanes and formed Goodyear’s aeronautical department, dotting the sky with balloons, airships, airplanes and blimps.

He oversaw the construction of rubber facilities around the world, created the Wingfoot Clan newspaper, directed his efforts into synthetics, plastics and chemicals, wrote four books, appeared on the cover of Time Magazine and founded the towns of Goodyear and Litchfield Park in Arizona.

His career began in the horse and buggy era and ended in the atomic age.

In October 1958, Litchfield resigned from active leadership, retaining the title of honorary president, and retiring to Arizona. He was 83 when he died on March 18, 1959.

“The death Wednesday night of Paul W. Litchfield in Phoenix, Arizona ended one of the most important chapters in the history of the world,” reported the Beacon Journal. “The Litchfield name – even the initials ‘PW’ alone – is synonymous with rubber with great industry, with progress.”

Flags flew at half mast at Akron and Goodyear factories around the world.

Sculptor committed to a lasting tribute

Wanting to pay a lasting tribute to the industrialist, Goodyear hired sculptor Walker Hancock (1901-1998), curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to create a statue.

The artist’s best-known works at the time included the Soldiers Memorial in St. Louis, the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial in Philadelphia, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Inaugural Medals in Washington, DC. He also sculpted portraits of such famous Americans as President Woodrow. Wilson, naval commander John Paul Jones, composer Stephen Foster, poet Robert Frost and banker Andrew Mellon.

Sculptor Walker Hancock, creator of the PW Litchfield statue in Akron, painted a portrait of it in 1960.

Hancock spent two years on the Akron project. He chatted with Litchfield’s friends, watched video footage of the industrialist, and studied hundreds of photos before he began working at his studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

“The qualities of character that account for a man’s accomplishments must be analyzed and expressed in his statue,” Hancock explained. “Contemplating these qualities in Paul Weeks Litchfield, the foresight and vision that made him a wise and daring planner and builder were immediately apparent. But many months spent studying his life and work brought to fruition a wide range of powers and enthusiasms, will and wisdom, which combined to produce a truly great man.

Hancock made a dozen models of a foot in various poses, before selecting the one he thought best captured the spirit of Litchfield. He then created a detailed 3-foot model and used it as a guide to sculpt a 9-foot plaster statue which he sent to a foundry in New York to be cast in bronze.

Litchfield statue unveiled

A large sheet covered the statue as hundreds of people gathered outside the Goodyear Research Building for the 1962 grand opening. The shrouded figure stood on a polished base of rainbow granite quarried by Cold Spring Granite Co. in Minnesota.

Landscape architect Ralph E. Griswold of Pittsburgh had designed the park’s setting, a granite-paved circle about 26 feet in diameter with a backdrop of English yews and Canadian hemlocks.

The Goodyear Youth Band provided patriotic music for the ceremony. Reverend Harry D. Rose, pastor of Goodyear Heights United Presbyterian Church, delivered the invocation. Goodyear President Russell DeYoung served as emcee.

A hush fell over the crowd as widow Florence Litchfield, accompanied by Goodyear chairman EJ Thomas, approached the statue. In the audience were Litchfield’s daughters, Katherine Hyde of Hudson and Edith Denny of Toronto, Ontario.

Florence Litchfield pulled on a lanyard and the sheet fell off. There stood a giant likeness of her husband, Paul, in suit and overcoat, hat in hand, map under arm. It was hard not to be emotional. The audience applauded.

Florence Litchfield, 90, widow of Goodyear executive Paul W. Litchfield, receives a kiss on the cheek from boy scout Frankie Mitchell during a 1970 wreath laying ceremony at the industrialist's statue in Akron.  Scout Jeff Hicks holds the crown.

Thomas, who joined Goodyear in 1916 as a clerk, praised Litchfield for his leadership and humanitarianism.

“He was truly one of the great men of our time,” Thomas told the crowd. “The principles by which he lived and worked are firmly embedded in our company and our organization and will be remembered for as long as there is a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.”

DeYoung said the Litchfield statue symbolized “the enduring nature of his work.”

“Those of us who were privileged to know him don’t need a spark to rekindle the warm memories he left us,” DeYoung said. “Those who did not know him personally need only glance around this section of Akron to see the solid substance of his work. Across the free world, every Goodyear installation is a monument to him.

RS Wilson, retired executive vice president of sales, said Litchfield was a man of integrity and idealism who led Goodyear to the top of the rubber industry.

“In these days when opportunism seems to be in fashion, it is a fine legacy for the people of Goodyear to have as their guiding star the career of this man who made his business decisions not on what was opportune, not about what was best for any one individual or group, whether shareholders, customers or employees, but always and always about what was best for Goodyear.

RP Dinsmore, retired vice president for research, hailed Litchfield as a business genius.

“He had an amazing ability to notice the shortcomings and shortcomings of new approaches and to select investigative channels that Goodyear could attack with a high probability of success, making new ideas and methods practical,” Dinsmore said.

In a cable from Rome, sculptor Walker Hancock noted: “I hope this statue has embodied in bronze at least some measure of those ingredients of grandeur in the character of its subject which have revealed themselves so clearly to the sculptor. “

Litchfield’s likeness stared at the horizon as the ceremony wrapped up and the crowd parted.

Hancock’s next project was to oversee the Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia. He went on to create many notable statues, including Abraham Lincoln at the National Cathedral in Washington, General Douglas MacArthur at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and President James Madison for the Library of Congress.

He sculpted busts of Chief Justices Earl Warren and Warren E. Burger for the United States Supreme Court, busts of Vice Presidents Hubert H. Humphrey, Gerald R. Ford and George HW Bush for the United States Capitol. States and a bust of civil rights leader WEB DuBois for Harvard University.

He also presented a bust of PW Litchfield to Litchfield Junior High School in Akron in 1962.

“Over time, people remember the person by the image the artist created,” Hancock said.

He died in Gloucester in 1998 aged 97.

Ellen Bell and her sons Benjy and Jonathon Bell take a closer look at the 1972 statue of Paul W. Litchfield in front of the Goodyear Research Building in Akron.  Her husband, W. Robert Bell, worked for Goodyear Aerospace.

This local man

For 60 years, Litchfield has stood on this corner, keeping tabs on the business he once ran. The 1950s style clothes and hat are reminiscent of a bygone era. The bronze has oxidized over the decades, taking on a greenish blue patina.

Although the Litchfield name isn’t as well-known as it once was, Goodyear brings in nearly $20 billion in annual sales.

Those in need of a reminder should stop to read the gold inscription on the base of the statue on Goodyear Boulevard:

PAUL WEEKS LITCHFIELD

1875-1959

PRESIDENT 1926-1940

CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL 1930-1958

HONORARY CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL 1958-1959

INDUSTRY LEADER, CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, PIONEER OF HUMAN RELATIONS. HE JOINED GOODYEAR ON JULY 15, 1900 AND GUIDED THE COMPANY TO WORLD LEADERSHIP IN THE RUBBER INDUSTRY

It takes a great statue to remember a great man.

Mark J. Price can be reached at [email protected]

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