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Most natural rubber was obtained from the Hevea Brasiliensis tree, which is native to South America.
In 1876 Henry Wickham smuggled thousands of hevea seeds from Brazil to Kew Gardens in London. The resulting seedlings were then taken to botanical gardens, then plantations in India and South East Asia.
In the course of its work, the Royal Mail consumes one billion rubber bands per year to tie together bundles of letters.
Following complaints from the public about discarded rubber bands littering the streets, in 2004 the Royal Mail introduced red bands for their workers to use in the hope that they were easier to spot than the traditional brown ones and since only the Royal Mail used them, employees would see (and feel compelled to pick up) any red bands which they had inadvertently dropped. The Royal Mail no longer uses red rubber bands.
During the late 19th and early 20th century, consumer oriented industrialisation often called the second industrial revolution, rubber was what sugar and cotton were to the 'first' Industrial Revolution. Rubber was a global agricultural commodity transformed into increasingly affordable consumer goods.
Today there is irony in the fact that early 20th century consumers talked about rubber prices and shortages the way that Americans would later talk about supplies and prices of oil.The World History of Rubber - Stephen L. Harp
The feature film Indochine which won an Oscar as best foreign film starring actress Catherine Deneuve, takes place on a rubber plantation, symbolic of the very essence of French Indochina. Female labourers played an important part in the process: they tapped rubber trees, weeding and hauled latex after tapping in buckets up to 10 gallons. In 1927 a government rule stipulated that at least 10% of labourers should be women. Whatever the planters' intentions, the proportion of women to men, combined with women's inadequate wages eventually led to informal prostitution on the plantations. The World History of Rubber - Stephen L. Harp
Rubber is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon, a polymer of the monomer isoprene. It draws its remarkable elasticity from its molecular structure of long crinkled chains, the structure of which is modified by high heat and the application of sulphur to create a uniquely manmade product by the process of vulcanization.
Today, roughly half of the world's rubber comes from natural sources, and half is made synthetically.
Rubber ball games were played by the Aztecs. The game batey is still played by the indigenous people of Mexico today. Some ancient pre-columbian balls still exist: one dating from 10th century Yucatan and can be found at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, another at the Museum of Nimes, France
Rubber tapping is the process by which latex is collected from a rubber tree. The latex is harvested by slicing a groove into the bark of the tree at a depth of one-quarter inch (6.4 mm) with a hooked knife and peeling back the bark. Trees must be approximately six years old and six inches (150 mm) in diameter in order to be tapped for latex.
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