PROBABLY no raw material of vegetable origin has been put to such multifarious uses as indiarubber. No other vegetable product has risen with equal rapidity from a position of comparative insignificance to one of the highest commercial prominence.
Although the use of rubber by natives of the Western Hemisphere is historically chronicled upwards of 400 years ago, indiarubber was first used in England in the eighteenth century, and then only in the first instance for removing the marks of black lead pencils. The first patent for the employment of rubber for waterproofing purposes was not taken out until 1791. The,further development of this use is closely associated with the name of Thomas Hancock, of the firm of Charles Macintosh and Co.; but the modern extensions of indiarubber manufacture only became possible after the discovery by Nelson Goodyear in 1839 of the process of combining rubber with sulphur, which is known as vulcanisation. Goodyear took out a further patent in
1851 for the manufacture of vulcanite by more complete combination of rubber with sulphur.