In 1860, Charles Goodyear lay dying at the Eighth Street Hotel in New York City. The inventor of the process of rubber vulcanization should have been a wealthy man, but his end came in deep poverty and failure. Bankruptcy, debtor’s prison, the deaths of seven children, and legal battles had left him $200,000 in debt.
His body failing, he dreamed he was rising through the air, moving toward the next world, the earth receding, the sky padded with fluffy clouds. Flying toward him was a giant airship. As it passed, emblazoned on its side, in huge letters, was his name.