August 23, 2018 | Matt
August 23, 1904
Today in 1904, the US Patent Office issued a patent to Harold D. Weed for “Grip-Tread Pneumatic Tires.” It was the world’s first non-skid tire chain, that allowed people to drive safely on roads impaired by mud and ice.
Weed lived in Canastota, New York and worked for a machine shop named the Marvin and Casler Company. He noticed that some locals would cope with muddy roads by wrapping rope around their tires. The rope did not last very long, and Weed had the idea of making a device to “provide a flexible and collapsible grip or tread composed entirely of chains lined together and applied to the sides and periphery of the tire and held in place solely by the inflation of the tire, and which is reversible.” That run-on sentence would make him a great deal of money.
He put the idea into practice, making a tire chain that could be put on the tire while it was half-inflated. It proved very effective at driving on muddy roads, and was soon found to be equally useful for roads covered in snow or ice.
He founded the Weed Chain Tire Grip Company, and promoted the invention by challenging Harry Houdini to be locked into two tires locked with multiple tire chains. Turns out, it was a good advertisement. Houdini was choked almost to death by one of the chains, which wrapped around his throat. The chain had to be moved lower by an assistant.
In addition to the tire chain, Weed, a WWI veteran, also invented bomb-release mechanisms and devices used to synchronize aircraft-mounted machine guns. Weed eventually sold his multiple patents to the American Chain and Cable Company. He passed away in 1961.