Cheap, reliable, and also strong, the rubber band is among the world's many ubiquitous products. That holds records together, stays clear of long hair from falling in a face, acts together a reminder around a wrist, is a playful weapon in a pinch, and also provides a means to quickly castrating baby male livestock… if rubber itself has been about for centuries, rubber bands were just officially patented less than 2 centuries ago. Here now is a brief background of the humble, yet extremely useful, rubber band.

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It has only recently been uncovered that Mesoamerican peoples (which consists of Aztecs, Olmecs, and also Mayans) to be making rubber (though they didn't speak to it this) 3 thousand years ago. Mix milky-white sap recognized as latex from the indigenous Hevea brasiliensis tree (later referred to as Para rubber trees) v juices from the morning glory vines, they can create a solid that was, surprisingly, fairly sturdy. The civilizations used this ancient rubber for a variety of purposes, indigenous sandals to balls come jewelry. In fact, while Charles Goodyear is generally credited with the invention of vulcanized rubber (a much more durable and also non-sticky rubber compound via the enhancement of sulfur and heat), it appears that the Aztecs were merely varying the ingredient proportions (between the latex and also the morning glory juice) to produce different sport in strength.

When Spanish explorers arrived in south America in the 16th century, they discovered for themselves the countless uses of this elastic, simple sap. When the French traveler Charles de la Condamine "discovered" it in the 1740s, he referred to as it "caoutchouc", a French word, however a sport on the southern American word because that latex. In attempting to figure out what it was exactly, Condamine came to a wrong conclusion – he thought it was condensed resinous oil. The surname "rubber" was just attributed to this latex material when, in 1770, the well known British chemist Joseph priesthood (who additionally discovered oxygen) listed that the material rubbed pencil marks appropriate off paper, thereby inventing the eraser and giving the "rubbing material" a name. By the end of the 18th century, the product was forever well-known as "rubber."

In 1819, Englishmen thomas Hancock was in the stagecoach service with his brothers once he check to figure out far better ways to keep his customers dried while traveling. The turned come rubber to construct elastic and also waterproof suspenders, gloves, shoes, and also socks. He was so enamored through the product that he began to mass create it, yet he soon realized he to be generating massive quantities of wasted rubber in the process. So, Hancock emerged his "Pickling machine" (later referred to as a masticator) come rip increase the leftover rubber right into shreds. He, then, mashed the easy rubber together, developing a brand-new solid mass, and also put it into molds to architecture whatever that wanted. One of his first designs were bands made the end of rubber, despite he never ever marketed or offered them, no realizing the virtually of rubber bands. Plus, vulcanization hadn't been found yet (which we will talk about in a moment), for this reason the bands would soften significantly on warm days and also harden on cold days. In short, this rubber bands just weren't an extremely practical in ~ this phase of the game, in state of many of the species of points rubber bands would later be used for. Hancock didn't patented his maker or the shreds that rubber the produced, rather hoping to store the production process totally secret. This would come to be a rather large mistake.

By 1821, Hancock had perfected his machine, though he would store it an enig for around ten years, in an effort to overcome the market. In fact, the is why he referred to as it a "pickling machine," to litter everyone off the scent. It worked. Hancock turn rubber into a commercially useful item and also he conquered the sector for the next twenty years.


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In 1833, if in prison for fail to salary debts, Charles Goodyear began experimenting through India rubber. In ~ a few years, and also after he got out the jail, Goodyear discovered his vulcanization process. Teaming with chemist Nathaniel Hayward, who had actually been experimenting with mixing rubber with sulfur, Goodyear emerged a process of combine rubber v a specific amount that sulfur and heating it approximately a certain point; the result material came to be hard, elastic, non-sticky, and fairly strong. A few years later, in 1844, he had actually perfected his process and was taking out patents in America for this procedure of vulcanization the rubber. He climate traveled to England come patent his process oversees, however ran right into a fairly huge problem – cutting board Hancock had already patented the practically identical procedure in 1843.

There appears to be conflict reports on even if it is Hancock had emerged the vulcanization procedure independently of Goodyear or if, as numerous claim, that he had got a sample the Goodyear vulcanized rubber and also developed a slim variation on the process. Either way, Hancock's patent stopped Goodyear from being able come patent his procedure in England. The taking place patent battle dragged top top for around a decade, v Goodyear eventually coming come England and watching in human being as a referee proclaimed that, also if Hancock had gained a sample front to arising his own process for this type of rubber, together seems to have been the case, there was no means he could have figured out how come reproduce it merely by examining it. However, famous English inventor Alexander Parkes declared that Hancock had once said him that running a series of experiment on the samples indigenous Goodyear had permitted him come deduce Goodyear's, at the time, unpatented vulcanization process.

But in the end, in the 1850s the court sided v Hancock and also granted the the patent, fairly than Goodyear, rather literally costing Goodyear a fortune; had they chose otherwise, Goodyear would have actually been entitled to significant royalties from cutting board Hancock and also fellow rubber pioneer Stephen Moulton.

Though he had actually a ideal to it is in bitter end the ruling, Goodyear made decision to look in ~ it thusly, "In mirroring upon the past, together relates to these branches that industry, the writer is no disposed come repine, and also say the he has actually planted, and others have actually gathered the fruits. The benefits of a career in life need to not be estimated exclusively through the traditional of dollars and also cents, together is too frequently done. Man has just cause for regret once he sows and also no one reaps."

Goodyear, though at some point receiving the credit he deserved, died in 1860 soon after collapsing upon learning of his daughter's death, leaving his family around two hundred thousand dollars in blame (about $5 million today).

The patent dispute with Goodyear also had a profound, eventually negative, result on Hancock together well. As he was entangled in the time-consuming chaos for years, others started to reap the services on Hancock not patenting his masticator procedure nor patenting the seemingly useless bands that they created. Special, in 1845, Stephen Perry, functioning for Messers Perry and also Co, Rubber Manufacturers of London, filed a patent for "Improvements in Springs come be used to Girths, Belts, and also Bandages, and Improvements in the to produce of Elastic Bands." he had uncovered a usage for those rubber bands – holding documents together. In the patent itself, Perry distances himself and his invention from the continuous vulcanized rubber conflict by saying,

"We make no insurance claim to the ready of the india rubber herein mentioned, our invention consisting the springs the such ready of india rubber used to the short articles herein mentioned, and additionally of the peculiar forms of elastic bands do from such manufacture the india rubber."

While the rubber tape was invented and also patented in the 19th century, in ~ this point it was greatly used in factories and also warehouses, quite than in the typical household. This changed thanks to wilhelm Spencer that Alliance, Ohio. The story goes, according the Cincinnati Examiner, that in 1923, Spencer noticed the pages that the Akron Beacon Journal, his local newspaper, were constantly gift blown throughout his and his neighbors' lawns. So, he come up with a solution for this. As an employee the the Pennsylvania Railroad, the knew where to obtain spare rubber pieces and discarded inner tubes – The Goodyear Rubber firm also situated in Akron. He cut these pieces into circular strips and began come wrap the newspapers with these bands. They operated so well the the Akron Beacon Journal to buy Spencer's rubbers bands to do the deed themselves. He then proceeded to offer his rubber bands to office supply, file goods, and also twine stores throughout the region, all the while continuing to occupational at Pennsylvania rail (for much more than a te more) when he constructed his organization up.

Spencer additionally opened the very first rubber band manufacturing facility in Alliance and, then, in 1944 the 2nd one in warm Springs, Arkansas. In 1957, that designed and also patented the Alliance rubber band, i m sorry ultimately set the human being rubber tape standard. Today, Alliance Rubber is the number one rubber band manufacturer in the world, churning out more than 14 million pounds that rubber bands per year.

So, following time you space shooting a friend v this small elastic device, you have the right to thank the Mayans, Charles de la Condamine, thomas Hancock, Charles Goodyear, and William Spencer for the simple, yet amazingly advantageous rubber band.

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This post has actually been republished v permission indigenous Photo by Graham under creative Commons license.