Free History Studies: Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear was instrumental in finding a way to make rubber keep its elasticity even in very hot or very cold weather.

Read the current chapter online: “The India-Rubber Man”

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
    • Connecticut
    • New Haven, Connecticut (where Goodyear was born)
    • South America
    • Brazil
  • Men typically do not wear cravats today.  The cravat is considered the forerunner of the neck tie.  See if you can identify the cravat in the image of Goodyear above — and imagine wearing one made of rubber!
  • View the leaves and fruit of an India rubber tree.
  • Learn more about latex (the juice from the rubber tree).
  • Read more about the history of the eraser.
  • Make a list of all of the things Goodyear made out of rubber while he was trying to find a better way to use it.
  • What are two (usually undesirable) properties of natural rubber mentioned in the story?  (Melts in summer and gets hard in winter.)
  • Goodyear’s experiments with sulfur led to his invention of vulcanization.  You’ll learn more about the vulcanization process by watching the video below.
  • Accept the challenge in the story and make a list of everything you can think of that is made with rubber.
  • More about Charles Goodyear from the Book of Knowledge:

    The great trouble about…rubber, or caoutchouc, was that in damp, warm weather it became soft and sticky and in cold weather it became stiff.  Many inventors tried to think of ways to overcome this drawback, and among them were Charles Goodyear of the United States and Thomas Hancock of England.

    After much labor and experiment, Goodyear, about 1843, discovered that the gum, if moderately heated, would absorb sulphur, and that even in small amounts the sulphur would make a remarkable change in the nature of the rubber. The rubber would lose its stickiness and become far more elastic, and it would keep its elasticity even in very hot or very cold weather. Hancock, the Englishman, working independently, added to this discovery and did much to make the new product a commercial success. This process is called vulcanizing.

    The discovery of vulcanizing marks the beginning of the use of rubber on a wider scale. New uses were found for it, and the production gradually increased. In the last part of the nineteenth century electric light and power systems began to spread over many countries, and this greatly increased the demand for rubber. Rubber tires began to be used for vehicles, especially bicycles: first solid tires and then hollow tires filled with air — or pneumatic tires. Then came the growth of the automobile industry in the twentieth century, and the need for rubber tires became enormous.

    “The Story of Rubber,” The Book of Knowledge

Further Investigation

Charles Goodyear
Biography from MIT.

Thinkquest that includes a very brief timeline.

The Charles Goodyear Story
Reprint of a Reader’s Digest story hosted at Goodyear.

Charles Goodyear’s patent for vulcanized rubber including a not-too-hard-to-understand description of the process.

Ficus elastica: Rubber Tree
More about the rubber tree at the University of Florida.


Connecticut Map/Quiz Printout

Label the South American Countries

Interactive Map Maker {Free}
Make your own maps.


“Charles Goodyear”
Biography featured in Inventors by Philip G. Hubert Jr., part of the Men of Achievement Series.

Trials of an Inventor: Life and Discoveries of Charles Goodyear by Rev. Bradford K. Peirce
Interesting public domain biography.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Rubber Bands and Heat
Experiment from the University of Wisconsin exploring the thermal properties of rubber.

Rubber Band Experiment
Ask a Scientist extension to the above — the last reply is particularly helpful.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map map for locating Connecticut.

Connecticut State Map
Map for locating New Haven.

World Map map for locating South America.

South America Map map for locating Brazil.

Charles Goodyear Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans

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