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Wild Things

19th century Rubber objects


The Economic Botany Collection in Kew Garden's contains an archive of wild rubber objects, largely from the 19th century.

Early explorers in the Amazon rainforest described a local waterproof foot covering made of a white 'sap' now known as rubber latex. The shoe was created by Charles Macintosh & co in 1852.

The medallion is made of wild rubber and features an image of Charles Macintosh.

The water bottle is the oldest dated rubber object. It was bought locally in the Amazon by a Yorkshire botanist, William Swainson, on his Amazonian trip and brought back to England in 1817. It is "perhaps the oldest specimen of rubber of known date existing."

A breast pump by Macintosh C & Co 1853.

A delicate card rubber dish.

Rubber denture presented by dental surgeon GH Jones.

Rubber shoe from 1898, made in the Amazon region. The the main way rubber was exported was in the shape of shoes until the mid 19th century.

Finally, two Para tree seeds, brought to Kew in 1876 by Wickham. Of the 70,000 seeds sent less than 2500 germinated but those seedlings were sent to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, forming the basis of the Far Eastern rubber industry.


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