The use of whitewall rubber for wheels has been traced to a small tire company in Chicago called Vogue Tyre and Rubber Co that made them for their horse and chauffeur drawn carriages in 1914.
Early automobile tyres were made of pure natural rubber with various chemicals mixed into the tread compounds to make them wear better. The best of these was zinc oxide, a pure white substance that increased traction and also made the entire tire white.
However, the white rubber did not offer sufficient endurance, so carbon black was added to the rubber to greatly increase tread life. Using carbon black only in the tread produced tyres with inner and outer sidewalls of white rubber.
Later, entirely black tyres became available, the still extant white sidewalls being covered with a somewhat thin, black colored layer of rubber. Should a black sidewall tire have been severely scuffed against a curb, the underlying white rubber would be revealed; it is in a similar manner that raised white letter (RWL) tyres are made.
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