Issue Date: December 3, 2012
Early Days Of Harvesting Latex
The search for a source of natural latex to lessen U.S. dependence on Southeast Asian rubber trees goes back to the early part of the last century in this country (C&EN, Sept. 10, page 16). In 1927, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone joined with Thomas Edison to form the Edison Botanic Research Corp. for that very purpose.
The Edison Botanic Research Laboratory (still in existence with its original apparatus) was built in Fort Myers, Fla., in 1928. More than 17,000 plant specimens were checked for possible latex content. Edison was well acquainted with the attempt of the Intercontinental Rubber Co. to use guayule as a domestic source of rubber, but he finally decided to work on goldenrod (Solidago sp.) as a potential emergency source of rubber for the U.S.
In 1929, he was granted a patent for the extraction of rubber from plants. Edison died in 1931, and in 1936 the laboratory was closed and the goldenrod project turned over to the Department of Agriculture.
Carl M. Horner
Fort Myers, Fla.
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