Rubber & Gutta Percha Industry

From London's Ghost Acres

Revision as of 14:05, 12 May 2016 by Dkb394 (Talk | contribs)

This industry overlaps with the clothing and electrical industries.

"Gutta-percha refers to trees of the genus Palaquium and the rigid natural latex produced from the sap of these trees, particularly from Palaquium gutta but also Isonandra gutta and Dichopsis gutta.

Scientifically classified in 1843, it was found to be a useful natural thermoplastic. In 1851, 30,000 long cwt (1,500,000 kg) of gutta-percha was imported into England. During the second half of the 19th century, gutta-percha was used for myriad domestic and industrial purposes, and it became a household word. In particular, it was needed as insulation for underwater telegraph cables,which, according to author John Tully, led to unsustainable harvesting and a collapse of the supply.

Gutta-percha latex is biologically inert, resilient, and is a good electrical insulator with a high dielectric strength.

By 1845, telegraph wires insulated with gutta-percha were being manufactured in the UK. It served as the insulating material for early undersea telegraph cables, including the first transatlantic telegraph cable. Gutta-percha was particularly suitable for this, as it was not attacked by marine plants or animals, which had disabled previous undersea cables. The material was a major constituent of Chatterton's compound used as an insulating sealant for telegraph and other electrical cables.

In the mid-19th century, gutta-percha was also used to make furniture, notably by the Gutta-Percha Company (established in 1847). Several of these ornate, revival-style pieces were shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. When hot it could be moulded into furniture, decorations or utensils.

It was also used to make "mourning" jewelry, because it was dark in color and could be easily molded into beads or other shapes. Pistol hand grips and rifle shoulder pads were also made from gutta-percha, since it was hard and durable, though it fell into disuse when plastics such as Bakelite became available. Gutta-percha found use in canes and walking sticks, as well.

The material was adopted for other applications. The "guttie" golf ball (which had a solid gutta-percha core) revolutionized the game. Gutta-percha remained an industrial staple well into the 20th Century, when it was gradually replaced with superior (generally synthetic) materials, though a similar and cheaper natural material called balatá is often used in gutta-percha's place. The two materials are almost identical, and balatá is often called gutta-balatá."

"Currently, rubber is harvested mainly in the form of the latex from certain trees. The latex is a sticky, milky colloid drawn off by making incisions into the bark and collecting the fluid in vessels in a process called "tapping". The latex then is refined into rubber ready for commercial processing. Natural rubber is used extensively in many applications and products, either alone or in combination with other materials. In most of its useful forms, it has a large stretch ratio and high resilience, and is extremely waterproof.

The Para rubber tree is indigenous to South America. Charles Marie de La Condamine is credited with introducing samples of rubber to the Académie Royale des Sciences of France in 1736. In 1751, he presented a paper by François Fresneau to the Académie (eventually published in 1755) which described many of the properties of rubber. This has been referred to as the first scientific paper on rubber. In England, Joseph Priestley, in 1770, observed that a piece of the material was extremely good for rubbing off pencil marks on paper, hence the name "rubber". Later, it slowly made its way around England.

South America remained the main source of the limited amounts of latex rubber used during much of the 19th century. The trade was well protected and exporting seeds from Brazil was said to be a capital offense, although there was no law against it. Nevertheless, in 1876, Henry Wickham smuggled 70,000 Pará rubber tree seeds from Brazil and delivered them to Kew Gardens, England. Only 2,400 of these germinated after which the seedlings were then sent to India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Indonesia, Singapore, and British Malaya. Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia) was later to become the biggest producer of rubber. In the early 1900s, the Congo Free State in Africa was also a significant source of natural rubber latex, mostly gathered by forced labor. Liberia and Nigeria also started production of rubber.

In India, commercial cultivation of natural rubber was introduced by the British planters, although the experimental efforts to grow rubber on a commercial scale in India were initiated as early as 1873 at the Botanical Gardens, Calcutta. The first commercial Hevea plantations in India were established at Thattekadu in Kerala in 1902.

In Singapore and Malaya, commercial production of rubber was heavily promoted by Sir Henry Nicholas Ridley, who served as the first Scientific Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens from 1888 to 1911. He distributed rubber seeds to many planters and developed the first technique for tapping trees for latex without causing serious harm to the tree. Because of his very fervent promotion of this crop, he is popularly remembered by the nickname "Mad Ridley".


Waterproof Clothing, Tires, Telegraph Cables

Raw Materials

Rubber, Gutta-Percha, Copper, Caoutchouc