Cheap, reliable, and with a variety of different uses, rubber bands are found in just about every home on the planet. For such a simple item, however, the rubber band has a very interesting history.
Rubber was discovered by the native people of Central America several thousand years ago. By mixing tree sap with juice from certain plants, they created a solid that they used to make balls, shoes, and even jewelry.
In 1736, rubber arrived in Europe, and the new material quickly became popular. Thomas Hancock, an Englishman, invented rubber bands in the early 1800s but never sold any, as they were susceptible to going soft or hard depending on the temperature. It wasn’t until vulcanization—the process that makes rubber strong and elastic—was developed a few years later that reliable rubber bands became a possibility.
For many years, rubber bands were mostly used in factories. However, in 1923 American businessman William Spencer persuaded some local newspaper companies to bind their newspapers with his rubber bands to keep them from blowing apart on people’s lawns. As a result, rubber bands soon became a common item in people’s homes.