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time it began to be subjected to experiments with a view to ren. dering it available in the arts. It was found useful as an ingre. dient of blacking and varnish. Its elasticity was turned to ac
ount in France in the manufacture of suspenders and garters, – threads of India-rubber being inserted in the web. In England, Mackintosh invented his still celebrated water-proof coats, which are made of two thin cloths with a paste of India-rubber between them. In chemistry, the substance was used to some extent, and its singular properties were much considered. In England and France, the India-rubber manufacture had attained considerable importance before the material had attracted the attention of American experimenters. The Europeans succeeded in rendering it useful because they did not attempt too much. The French cut the imported sheets of gum into shreds, without ever attempting to produce the sheets themselves. Mackintosh exposed no surface of India-rubber to the air, and brought no surfaces of India-rubber into contact. No one had discovered any process by which India-rubber once dissolved could be restored to its original consistency. Some of our readers may have attempted, twenty years ago, to fill up the holes in the sole of an India-rubber shoe. Nothing was easier than to melt a piece of India-rubber for the purpose ; but, when applied to the shoe, it would not harden. There was the grand difficulty, the complete removal of which cost so much money and so many years.
The ruinous failure of the first American manufacturers arose from the fact that they began their costly operations in ignorance of the existence of this difficulty. They were too fast. They proceeded in the manner of the inventor of the caloric engine, who began by placing one in a ship of great magnitude, involving an expenditure which ruined the owners.
It was in the year 1820 that a pair of India-rubber shoes was seen for the first time in the United States. They were covered with gilding, and resembled in shape the shoes of a Chinaman. They were handed about in Boston only as a curiosity. Two or three years after, a ship from South America brought to Boston five hundred pairs of shoes, thick, heavy, and ill shaped, which sold so readily as to invite further importations. The business increased until the annual importation reached half a million pairs, and India-rubber shoes had become an article of general use. The manner in which these shoes were made by the natives of South America was frequently described in the newspapers, and seemed to present no difficulty. They were made much as farmers' wives made candles. The sap being collected from the trees, clay lasts were dipped into the liquid twenty or thirty times, each layer being smoked a little. The shoes were then hung up to harden for a few days; after which the clay was removed, and the shoes were stored for some months to harden them still more. Nothing was more natural than to suppose that Yankees could do this as well as Indians, if not far better. The raw India-rubber could then be bought in Boston for five cents a pound, and a pair of shoes made of it brought from three to five dollars. Surely here was a promising basis for a new branch of manufacture in New England. It happened too, in 1830, that vast quantities of the raw gum reached the United States. It came covered with hides, in masses, of which no use could be made in America ; and it remained unsold, or was sent to Europe.
Patent-leather suggested the first American attempt to turn India-rubber to account. Mr. E. M. Chaffee, foreman of a Boston patent-leather factory conceived the idea, in 1830, of spreading India-rubber upon cloth, hoping to produce an article which should possess the good qualities of patent-leather, with the additional one of being water-proof. In the deepest secrecy he experimented for several months. By dissolving a pound of India rubber in three quarts of spirits of turpentine, and adding lampblack enough to give it the desired color, he produced a composition which he supposed would perfectly answer the purpose. He invented a machine for spreading it, and made some specimens of cloth, which had every appearance of being a very use ful article. The surface, after being dried in the sun, was firm and smooth; and Mr. Chaffee supposed, and his friends agreed with him, that he had made an invention of the utmost value. At this point he invited a few of the solid men of Roxbury to look at his specimens and listen to his statements. He convinced
them. The result of the conference was the Roxbury India-rubber Company, incorporated in February, 1833, with a rapital of thirty thousand dollars.
The progress of this Company was amazing. Within a year its capital was increased to two hundred and forty thousand dollars. Before another year had expired, this was increased to three hundred thousand; and in the year following, to four hundred thousand. The Company manufactured the cloth invented by Mr. Chaffee, and many articles made of that cloth, such as coats, caps, wagoncurtains and coverings. Shoes, made without fibre, were soon introduced. Nothing could be better than the appearance of these articles when they were new. They were in the highest favor, and were sold more rapidly than the Company could manufacture them. The astonishing prosperity of the Roxbury Company had its natural effect in calling into existence similar establishments in other towns. Manufactories were started at Boston, Framingham, Salem, Lynn, Chelsea, Troy, and Staten Island, with capitals ranging from one hundred thousand dollars to half a million ; and all of them appeared to prosper. There was an India-rubber mania in those years similar to that of petroleum in 1864. Not to invest in India-rubber stock was regarded by some shrewd men as indicative of inferior business talents and general dulness of comprehension. The exterior facts were certainly well calculated to lure even the most wary. Here was a material worth only a few cents a pound, out of which shoes were quickly made, which brought two dollars a pair! It was a plain case. Besides, there were the India-rubber Companies, all working to their extreme capacity, and selling all they could make.
It was when the business had reached this flourishing stage that Charles Goodyear, a bankrupt hardware merchant of Philadelphia, first had his attention directed to the material upon which it was founded. In 1834, being in New York on business, he chanced to observe the sign of the Roxbury Company, which then had a depot in that city. He had been reading in the newspapers, not long before, descriptions of the new life preservers made of India-rubber, an application of the gum that was much extolled. Curiosity induced him to enter the store to examine the life pr uservers. He bought one and to k it home with him. A native of Connecticut, he possessed in full measure the Yankeo propensity to look at a new contrivance, first with a view to un. derstand its principle, and next to see if it cannot be improved. Already he had had some experience both of the difficulty of introłucing an improved implement, and of the profit to be derived from its introduction. His father, the head of the firm of A. Goodyear and Sons, of which he was a member, was the first to manufacture hay-forks of spring steel, instead of the heavy, wrought-iron forks made by the village blacksmith; and Charles Goodyear could remember the time when his father reckoned it a happy day on which he had persuaded a farmer to accept a few of the new forks as a gift, on the condition of giving them a trial. But it was also very fresh in his recollection that those same forks had made their way to almost universal use, had yielded large profits to his firm, and were still a leading article of its trade, when, in 1830, the failure of Southern houses had compelled it to suspend. He was aware, too, that, if anything could extricate the house of A. Goodyear and Sons from embarrassment, it was their possession of superior methods of manufacturing and their sale of articles improved by their own ingenuity.
Upon examining his life-preserver, an improvement in the inflating apparatus occurred to him. When he was next in New. York he explained his improvement to the agent of the Roxbury Company, and offered to sell it. The agent, struck with the ingenuity displayed in the new contrivance, took the inventor into his confidence, partly by way of explaining why the Company could not then buy the improved tube, but principally with a view to enlist the aid of an ingenious mind in overcoming a difficulty that threatened the Company with ruin. He told him that the prosperity of the India-rubber Companies in the United States: was wholly fallacious. The Roxb'ıry Company had manufactured vast quantities of shoes and fabrics in the cool months of 1833 and 1834, which had been readily sold at high prices; but! during the following summer, the greater part of them had! melted. Twenty thousand dollars' worth had been returned, reduced to the consistency of common gum, and emitting an odot
so offensive that they had been obliged to bury it. New ingredi. ents had been employed, new machinery applied, but still the ar. ticles would dissolve. In some cases, shoes had borne the heat of one summer, and melted the next. The wagon-covers became sticky in the sun, and rigid in the cold. The directors were at their wits' end ; — since it required two years to test a new process, and meanwhile they knew not whether the articles made by it were valuable or worthless. If they stopped manufacturing, that was certain ruin. If they went on, they might find the product of a whole winter dissolving on their hands. The capital of the Company was already so far exhausted, that, unless the true method were speedily discovered, it would be compelled to wind up its affairs. The agent urged Mr. Goodyear not to waste time upon minor improvements, but to direct all his efforts to finding out the secret of successfully working the material itself. The Company could not buy his improved inflator ; but let him learn how to make an India-rubber that would stand the summer's heat, and there was scarcely any price which it would not gladly give for the se, ret.
The worst apprehensions of the directors of this Company were realized. The public soon became tired of buying Indiarubber shoes that could only be saved during the summer by putting them into a refrigerator. In the third year of the mania, India-rubber stock began to decline, and Roxbury itself finally fell to two dollars and a half. Before the close of 1836, all the Companies had ceased to exist, their fall involving many hundreds of families in heavy loss. The clumsy, shapeless shoes from South America were the only ones which the people would buy. It was generally supposed that the secret of their resisting heat was that they were smoked with the leaves of a certain tree, peculiar to South America, and that nothing else in nature would answer the purpose.
The two millions of dollars lost by these Companies had one result which has proved to be worth many times that sum ; it led Charles Goodyear to undertake the investigation of India-rubber That chance conversation with the agent of the Roxbury Com pany fixed his destiny. If he were alive to read these lines, he