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The History of Rubber Bands

Rubber bands are so commonplace today that you probably don’t even notice them. But do you know the history behind this workhorse item? Mesoamerican peoples were making rubber over 3,000 years ago. Later, European explorers “discovered” the substance and introduced it to Europe; Joseph Priestley’s discovery that the material could rub pencil marks off paper gave it the name “rubber,” while Charles Goodyear is generally credited with the invention of vulcanized rubber. The first rubber bands were created by Englishman Thomas Hancock, who made rubber goods and used the extra scraps to create rubber bands and other small items. However, he never sold his rubber bands as he didn’t recognize their usefulness. After a patent battle between Goodyear and Hancock, Stephen Perry, an employee at Messers Perry and Co, Rubber Manufacturers of London, filed a patent in 1845 for "Improvements in Springs to be applied to Girths, Belts, and Bandages, and Improvements in the Manufacture of Elastic Bands." Perry realized rubber bands could be used to hold papers together. His creation was used mostly in factories and warehouses until 1923, when William Spencer of Alliance, Ohio cut spare pieces of rubber into circular strips and began to wrap newspapers with them. Spencer opened the first rubber band factory in Alliance and in 1957, he designed and patented the Alliance rubber band, which set the world standard for rubber bands – in fact, Alliance Rubber is the number one rubber band manufacturer today. Each year, they manufacture over 14 million pounds of rubber bands!

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