rubber has been known for centuries. The French explorer Charles-Marie
de la Condamine reported in 1745 that South American Indians used
it for footwear and bottles. It is obtained primarily from the latex
of the rubber tree, which is native to South America.
gained its name after its introduction to Europe and its use for
erasing pencil marks. It was soon called (Indian) "rubber".
first major use for rubber was balloon cloth, fabric coated with
rubber dissolved in turpentine. In 1823, Charles Macintosh, using
naphtha, a better solvent, laminated sticky rubber cloth and fabric
together to make raincoats.
rubber captured the public's imagination, there were problems. Rubber
froze rock hard in the winter and melted in the summer. In the early
1830s, there was great demand for goods made from this waterproof
gum, but the "rubber fever" ended abruptly because of
was Charles Goodyear who discovered a way to cure natural rubber
to make it more useful. Working on a kitchen stove in 1839, he mixed
rubber with sulphur and white lead. This process, vulcanization,
made rubber more resistant to changes in temperature and accelerated
the growth of the rubber industry.
1910, Asian rubber plantations, started from seeds brought from
the Amazon Basin, displaced rubber from the wild trees of South
America and became the primary source for a growing market.