On March 1, 1931, in Kurume, Fukuoka, Japan, Shojiro Ishibashi founded Bridgestone, the company that is now one of the world’s largest tire and rubber companies.
Translated literally, the name “Ishibashi” means “Stone Bridge,” which became the origin of Bridgestone’s name. But why, you may ask, are “stone” and “bridge” reversed, and why did Ishibashi give his company an English name in the first place? To answer, let’s take a look at the history of Bridgestone’s founding and the origin of its name.
Do you know this mark? You may have seen it in at old tire shops or on tires from years ago. This mark, called the “keystone mark,” was the Bridgestone logo at the time of its founding.
In March 1906, a 17-year-old Ishibashi took over the family tailoring business and transformed it into a specialist manufacturer of Japanese Tabi socks. Ishibashi later entered the jikatabi rubber-soled work shoe business by attaching rubber soles to the tabi socks. His success in this rubber venture was a critical first step for Ishibashi to advance closer to the Bridgestone of today.
As Ishibashi steadily grew his business in the years that followed, even going as far as to enter into overseas markets by exporting rubber shoes, he began to focus attention on the automobile industry.
In 1930, Ishibashi began producing tires with a commitment to domestic production of tires using Japanese capital and Japanese techniques.
Even in there early years, Ishibashi began plans for overseas expansion. In his books, he said he chose to use an English name to make it easier for the Company’s products to be accepted in overseas markets. But, there was one catch: Ishibashi didn’t like the sound of “Stone Bridge,” so he flipped the words to get “Bridgestone.” Officially named Bridgestone Tire Co., Ltd., the company was thereby established in 1931.
Getting back to the mark… the keystone wedges that play a crucial role when building stone bridges are also sometimes referred to as bridge stones. This was the reason why, at the time of its founding, Bridgestone adopted a logo that was a wedge-shaped keystone adorned with “BS,” a shortened version of “Bridgestone.” Ishibashi noted how “BS” could also be a contraction of “best service,” which is a hallmark of the mission the company still bears today: Serving Society with Superior Quality.