A band of rubber! Huzzah!

The rubber band is a typically small, elastic band created for the purpose of holding objects together. Rubber bands can stretch and then return to their original size once there is no longer anything to hold them in their stretched state. The bands hold things together by being wrapped around the objects to be held together, after which the rubber band will attempt to revert to its relaxed size. With the various objects inside of the band, the rubber band will be unable to completely shrink and will, instead, hold onto whatever is inside the band tightly. Rubber bands are not invincible though! Stretch one too far and it will snap, becoming a broken shell of its former self.

The history of the rubber band begins with the ancient Mayans in Central America. In central and South America, the Mayans used the sap from the rubber tree to create a sticky latex substance which hardened in the heat. Combining this sap with juice from morning glory vines, the Mayans were able to create a latex which was more durable and elastic and less brittle than the rubber tree sap alone. Among other things, the Mayans used this to secure their axe heads to the handles.

By the time the area had been conquered by Europeans, the natives were creating garments and bottles out of material from rubber trees. British sailors carried some of these products back to England and in 1820, Thomas Hancock, after seeing these rubber products from the Americas, began creating (and patenting) elastic fastenings for gloves, shoes, stockings, and suspenders out of rubber. In 1837, Hancock patented a device called the masticator, which shredded rubber in order for it to be reused in other products. In 1839, Charles Goodyear invented and patented vulcanized rubber, which held up far better to varying weather conditions than contemporary rubbers.

Stephen Perry of a London-based company called Messers Perry and Co. used Hancock's elastic fastenings as a starting point to create the rubber band. On 17 March, 1845, Perry patented the rubber band. The first rubber bands were made of vulcanized rubber. Today, as rubber trees only thrive in hot, tropical climates, roughly 75% of all rubber products are created from a synthetic form of rubber made from crude oil (Kidas informs me that rubber bands are still made from natural rubber). Originally, Perry created the rubber band to hold papers and envelopes together. In the time since then, other uses have been found for the rubber band. Some other uses for rubber bands are...

Sources:
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrubber.htm
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/inventors/indexr.shtml
http://www.todayinsci.com/cgi-bin/indexpage.pl?
http://www.todayinsci.com/3/3_17.htm
http://www.versteegde.nl/Bambustic/RubberBands/
*I shit you not. Check out: http://www.backyardartillery.com/machinegun/

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