Little Bits of History

Rubber Bands

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2011

Rubber bands

March 17, 1845: Stephen Perry of London patents the first rubber band. In other parts of the English speaking world, these handy items are also called binders, elastics, elastic bands, lackey bands, laggy bands, lacka bands, or gumbands. They are today made of either rubber or latex. The trees where the sap is harvested are native to India. Natural rubber has been used commercially since first seen in France in 1736. The product arrived in England in 1770. Joseph Priestly noticed the substance was useful in eradicating pencil marks – the first eraser which was called a rubber.

Today, rubber can be natural or synthetic. In 2005, there were nearly 21 million tons of rubber produced worldwide. Of that, 42% or 8.8 million tons, was natural. The rest is made from a derivative of petroleum. Asia is the world’s main source of natural rubber, accounting for 95% of the natural market. Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia produce about 72% of the world’s natural rubber. It takes a rubber tree about seven years to mature and produce the rubber latex sap. They remain productive for about 25 years.

Natural rubber is more elastic than synthetic rubber and so most rubber bands are made of the natural substance. The rubber is extruded into long tubes to provide the general shape. The tubes are then placed on mandrels, a post-type object used to shape machined work. Next it is cured with heat and then sliced across the width of the tube into little bands. Rubber bands are rated by three dimensions. They are measured for length, width, and thickness. The length is half the circumference, thickness is the distance from the inner to the outer circle. Width is the measure across the surface of the face of the band.

Rubber bands have size numbers. These range from 10-117. The length is from 1.25 to 7 inches while the width measures from 1/16 to 1/4 inch. The thickness remains constant at 1/32 of an inch. Some producers further differentiate by adding letters to signify difference in width. Rubber bands are affected by temperature. Heating causes the band to contract while cooling causes expansion. In the UK, red rubber bands were introduced for the Royal Mail. It was hoped that the more visible bands wouldn’t be discarded as litter. The Royal Mail uses about 342 million red bands every year.

“He’s a million rubber bands in his resilience.” – Alan K. Simpson

“Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands.” –  Ryszard Kapuscinski

“The rubber band was stretched tight and this thing was set up like a slingshot. It doesn’t surprise me it snapped back. It surprises me it went down in a straight line for so long.” – Jeff Saut

“You have to remember these people were stretching the rubber band about as far it would go for five years.” – Roy Smith

Also on this day:
Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Golda Meir – In 1969, Meir became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.

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6 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on April 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Very helpful website for a project i just did. 🙂

  2. hairballexpress said, on November 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    I loved reading about how rubber bands are made! They’re fun to play with,but the human won’t let me play with them unless she’s watching. Something about choking…

    The human loves reading this kind of thing too… Good post!


    • patriciahysell said, on November 3, 2013 at 7:29 am

      Miss Marple, my katniece, loved playing with the stretchy gold bands that came around a local chocolatier’s candy boxes. We had to by the chocolates just so Miss Marple could have the toys, but we suffered thru it. The human also insisted on supervision. Silly humans.

      • hairballexpress said, on November 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm

        Yes, the humans have a way of spoiling things…. The control freaks!


  3. Anonymous said, on April 2, 2014 at 8:34 am

    thank you little bites of history.

  4. Anonymous said, on May 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    thank you… This website helped me with a project also

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