Born in the small town of Columbiana, Ohio, Firestone worked for a buggy company before starting his own company in 1890, making rubber tires for carriages.
In 1904 Firestone joined Henry Ford to make rubber tires for the newly popular automobiles. In 1900 he created the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, which became one of the world's largest companies. Firestone was concerned both with the manufacture of tires and with securing supplies of rubber from trees: At one point, the company had a rubber plantation in Liberia that covered more than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres).
Firestone, Ford and Thomas Edison were generally considered the three leaders in American industry at the time, and often worked and vacationed together.