Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston

The India-Rubber Man

MANY years ago a strange-looking man was sometimes seen in the streets of New York. His cap was made of India rubber. So was his coat. He wore a rubber waistcoat. Even his cravat was of India rubber. He wore rubber shoes in dry weather. People called this man "The India-rubber man."

[129] His name was Charles Goodyear. He was very poor. He was trying to find out how to make India rubber useful.

India rubber trees grow in South America. The juice of these trees is something like milk or cream. By drying this juice, India rubber is made.

The Indians in Brazil have no glass to make bottles with. A long time ago they learned to make bottles out of rubber. More than a hundred years ago some of these rubber bottles were brought to this country. The people in this country had never seen India rubber before. They thought the bottles made out of it by the Indians very curious.

In this country, rubber was used only to rub out pencil marks. That is why we call it rubber. People in South America learned to make a kind of heavy shoe out of it. But these shoes were hard to make. They cost a great deal when they were sold in this country.

Men tried to make rubber shoes in this country. They got the rubber from Brazil. Rubber shoes made in this country were cheaper than those brought from South America. But they were not good. They would freeze till they were as hard as stones in winter. That was not the worst of it. In summer they would melt.

[130] Goodyear was trying to find out a way to make rubber better. He wanted to get it so that it would not melt in summer. He wanted to get a rubber that would not get hard in cold weather. The first rubber coats that were made were so hard in cold weather, that they would stand alone, and look like a man.

Goodyear wanted to try his rubber. That is why he wore a rubber coat and a rubber waistcoat and a rubber cravat. That is why he wore a rubber cap and rubber shoes when it was not raining. He made paper out of rubber, and wrote a book on it. He had a door-plate made of it. He even carried a cane made of India rubber. It is no wonder people called him the India-rubber man.

He was very poor. Sometimes he had to borrow money to buy rubber with. Sometimes his friends gave him money to keep his family from starving. Sometimes there was no wood and no coal in the house in cold weather.

But Goodyear kept on trying. He thought that he was just going to find out. Years went by, and still he kept on trying.

One day he was mixing some rubber with sulphur. It slipped out of his hand. It fell on the hot stove. But it did not melt. Goodyear was happy at last. [131] That night it was cold. Goodyear took the burned piece of rubber out of doors, and nailed it to the kitchen door. When morning came, he went and got it. It had not frozen.

He was now sure that he was on the right track. But he had to find out how to mix and heat his rubber and sulphur. He was too poor to buy rubber to try with. Nobody would lend him any more money. His family had to live by the help of his friends. He had already sold almost everything that he had. Now he had to sell his children's school-books to get money to buy rubber with.

At last his rubber goods were made and sold. Poor men who had to stand in the rain could now keep themselves dry. People could walk in the wet with dry feet. A great many people are alive who would have died if they had not been kept dry by India rubber.

You may count up, if you can, how many useful things are made of rubber. We owe them all to one man. People laughed at Goodyear once. But at last they praised him. To be "The India-rubber man" was something to be proud of.


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