JANUARY 13th National Rubber Duck Day
Rubber ducks have been with us nearly as long as the invention of rubber. They are known to have been around in the late 1800’s but the first patent was issued to Landon Smart Lawrence in 1928. The production of rubber ducks has been stopped whenever a war comes along since the military need rubber more than our bathtubs do.
How to celebrate – Break out your rubber duck. Design your own rubber duck. Take a bath.
Have you ever made a mistake you wish you could get rid of? Of course you have, we all have, but back before 1770 it wasn’t all that easy to erase something you wrote down. People used sandstone, pumice or crustless bread crumbs, yes I said crustless bread crumbs, to erase what they wrote down by mistake. The problem with those substances is, they weren’t very effective, were hard to use and more often than not destroyed the paper that was trying to be corrected.
As time passed, rubber tablets, or gum elastic, was used. Even the Native American’s used gum for various things in their culture, they called it caoutchouc. This word was taught to the Native Americans by the French. It was an English engineer, Edward Nairne who, by accident, figured out that this substance made a pretty good eraser. He was trying to win an Invention Competition when he grabbed the gum elastic by mistake instead of the bread crumbs and used it to correct his mistake. It worked beautifully and he knew he was on to something. He began to sell his mistake… er, ah invention for 3 shillings per half-inch tube. That was actually very expensive back in 1770. There was another problem as well, it did not last very long and people continued to make mistakes. Something had to be done.
In 1839 Charles Goodyear vulcanized rubber in order to make it more durable. This process also made it less expensive and the rubber eraser became wildly popular. In 1858 Hyman Lipman, another American, received a patent for placing an eraser on the end of a pencil and the rest of the story is pretty clear.
There are numerous different types of erasers. Most are made from rubber, some out of vinyl and some out of plastic. There is the pencil or cap eraser, the Artist’s gum eraser, the Vinyl Eraser, the Kneaded Eraser, the Poster Eraser and the Fiberglass Eraser to name just few. There are those amongst us that like to use pens to do their crossword puzzles. Pretty bold of them but then, there are even erasers for that.
The word rubber came from being able to use the product to rub against something to make it work better. I guess we are all fortunate that Mr. Nairne made the mistake he did so we can at least correct a small portion of the mistakes we make these days.