Technical Reports and Standards
The Synthetic Rubber Project
In 1942, U.S. rubber and tire companies, university research
institutes, and government laboratories joined forces to produce synthetic
and to make and test tires for aircraft and vehicles from this material.
This unique venture, which lasted until 1953, is documented in 8,000
technical reports describing meetings, research, technical processes,
and tire tests. One complete set of this documentation is archived in
Synthetic Rubber Program: A Brief History
The Synthetic Rubber Program: A Brief History
When the United States entered
World War II, the ability to manufacture synthetic rubber had existed
for over two decades. Acting jointly, Standard Oil in the United States
and IG Farben in Germany had acquired in the early 1920's patents related
to the production of synthetic rubber and its products. This positioned
the two countries to control further developments and markets, but Germany
and the United States took much different paths. The Germans, preparing
for war under government guidance and control, pursued the development
rubber, tires, fuels and lubricants relentlessly. In the U.S., Goodyear
began research in synthetic rubber after it had acquired Zeppelin patents
in 1924, and in 1933 synthetic rubber research became a
full-time project at the company. Four years later, Goodyear built and
tested the first American-made synthetic rubber tire. However, despite
a substantial synthetic rubber industry was created, the American military
would be left with cars, trucks, tanks, and aircraft without tires,
the United States continued to rely on natural rubber supplies
from Southeast Asia. Top
end of 1939, with the war in Europe already underway, the Americans counted
only 125,800 tons of crude natural rubber in stock – substantially
less than half the stocks available in the first five years of the decade.
It was not until June 28, 1940 that Congress amended the Reconstruction
Finance Corporation (RFC) Act to authorize the creation of corporations
for the purpose of acquiring strategic and critical materials.
Rubber was quickly placed on the “critical” list
and the Rubber Reserve Company (RRC) created. Between December 7,1941
(Pearl Harbor) and February 3, 1942 (fall of Singapore) all available
in the Far East, amounting to 114,000 tons, was sent to the U.S.
But as attacks on Allied shipping increased and supplies became limited
to what could be grown primarily in South America, two new programs
were designed by the RRC: The Scrap
Rubber and the Idle Tire Projects. Citizens were asked to collect whatever
and send the Government any unused tires in their
possession. Greeted enthusiastically by the American people,
the amounts of rubber collected gave the United States military some
Paralleling these developments, representatives of the chemical, petroleum
and rubber industries met with the National Defense Advisory Committee
of 1940 to
synthetic rubber program. Company officials brought preliminary engineering
plans to build commercial units capable of producing 100,000 tons annually.
However, the following
questions had to be resolved before production could take place:
1. What were the most satisfactory standards for synthetic rubber
used for tires and tubes?
(Approximately seventy percent of the total annual rubber consumption in the
U.S. was required just for tires and tubes).
2. What production processes should be employed?
3. Are the necessary raw materials readily available?
4. How much critical construction material was required
for the producing plants, and how quickly could plant construction
5. What are the optimal sizes and locations for the producing plants?
With time running short, on March 26, 1942 industry representatives
and the U.S. government agreed upon a common formula to
produce synthetic rubber. Almost immediately, the RRC had U.S. Rubber
(Uniroyal), Goodrich, Goodyear and Firestone design, build and manage
government-owned facilities at their company locations. Goodyear for
example built government synthetic
rubber plants in Ohio, Texas
the end of
the war, the nation had spent as much money on its rubber program as
it did on the atomic bomb.
war, the main plants owned by the Government but operated by industry
off (Goodyear purchased two of the plants in 1954)
the less important auxiliary plants
(those that had supplied raw materials) were closed down.
In the aftermath,
much was written and said about the success of the Synthetic Rubber
the reports issued by the Rubber
Reserve Company for example
praise the cooperation between industry and Government and the way
a potential crisis was turned into a success story. But there were also
severe critics. Robert A. Solo, a professor of economics at the City
College of New York, argued in a
study for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks,
and Copyrights of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
that the program was a wasteful tug of war between the oil
and non-technical Government officials.
Several hardcopy reports
series issued by the Program and focusing on the questions listed
above (standards, production processes, raw materials, plant construction
and size) were acquired by the Library of Congress. Also included was
film produced by the
Office of Technical Services. Both the hardcopy and film materials can
be located thru the card catalog that was also sent to the Library
containing about 58,000 index
cards (arranged by subject,
author, company, and decimal classification).
Copolymer Development Reports (CD), 3,392 documents, PB 126248
and PB 126248s
Copolymer Reports (CR) 3,962 documents, PB 118310 and PB 118310
Compilation of Abstracts (4 vols.) PB 111736 and PB 13 096
Apparently not filmed were the Government Tire Testing Reports containing
photographs that would have been hard to film in 1957 because of the very thin cracks
in the tire surfaces and the nuances in the tire profiles. Also not filmed were Copolymer
Process Development Reports, Copolymer Equipment Development Reports, Reports of Meetings, Standards Development Reports,
and some smaller record groups.
The hardcopy collection is in the custody
of TRS. Most of the documents are in fairly good condition
and have been placed into archival storage boxes to prevent further
The films, on 35 mm diazo substrate, are losing their images, making
the documents illegible.
Artificial rubber industry.
Rubber industry and trade.
World War, 1939-1945--Equipment & supplies.
Babcock, Glenn D.
History of the United States Rubber Company: a case study in corporation
Bloomington: Bureau of Business Research, Graduate School of Business,
University, 1966. 477 p.
LC CALL NUMBER: HD9161.U54 U7
Howard, Frank A.
Buna rubber: the birth of an industry.
New York: D. Van Nostrand company, inc., 1947.
LC CALL NUMBER: HD9161.U52 H68
Chronological List of Technical Papers from the Government
Synthetic Rubber Program. Washington, DC: Reconstruction Finance
Corporation, Office of Synthetic Rubber, 1953.
LC CALL NUMBER: Z6297 .R43
Great Britain. British Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee. BIOS
Surveys (synthetic rubber).
CALL NUMBER: T26.G3G72
Herbert, Vernon and Attilio
Synthetic rubber : a project that had to succeed.
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1985. 243 p.
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1925 .H47 1985
Morris, Peter John Turnbull.
The American synthetic rubber research program.
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c1989. 191 p.
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1925
Popple, Charles Sterling.
Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) in World War II.
New York: Standard Oil Co. (N.J.), 1952.
LC CALL NUMBER: HD2769.O4 P6
Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
The Government’s rubber projects: a history of the U. S. Government’s
natural and synthetic rubber programs, 1941-1955. Washington, D.C.: 1955. 662
LC CALL NUMBER: HD9161.U52 R36
Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Office
of Synthetic Rubber. Abstracts of technical papers
from Government Synthetic Rubber Programs. Washington: 1953-
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1925.R425
- Copolymer development reports. CD- (In TRS, PB-126248 includes
some of these)
- Copolymer reports. CR- (In TRS, PB-118310)
- Indexes to Copolymer reports (TRS card indexes)
Reserve Company. Report on the Rubber Program, 1940-1945.
Washington, DC, 1945.
LC CALL NUMBER: HD9161.U52 R77
Solo, Robert A. Synthetic Rubber: A Case Study in Technological
Development Under Government Direction. Study of the Committee
on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-fifth Congress, Second
Session, Pursuant to S. Res. 236. Study no. 18 of the Subcommittee
on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights. Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1959.
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1925 .S64
Synthetic Rubber. Hearings
Before a Special Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Serves,
House of Representatives, Eighty-first Congress, Second Session, on
President’s Recommendations Concerning Synthetic Rubber. Hearings
held February 20-27, 1950. No. 171. Washington, DC, 1950.
LC CALL NUMBER: HD9161.U52
United States. Special Commission for Rubber Research.
Recommended future role of the Federal Government with respect to research in
synthetic rubber. Washington: 1955.
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1885.U6 A38
Vernon Herbert and Attilio Bisio. Synthetic Rubber: A Project
That Had to Succeed. Westport, CT, 1985.
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1925 .H47 1985
Whitby, G. Stafford, C.C. Davis and R.F. Dunbrook. Synthetic Rubber.
New York: J. Wiley, 1954.
LC CALL NUMBER: TS1925 .W45
Launching the Synthetic
Rubber Industry. National Institute of Standards and Technology
Corporation Archives. Box 2: Union
Carbide Corporation History: The Synthetic Rubber Program, Butadiene
and Styrene. By Frank M. Branner, January 1996. West Virginia
States Synthetic Rubber Program, 1939-1945. National Historic
Chemical Landmarks, American Chemical Society.
United States Copyright restrictions prevent copying entire
copyrighted documents. However, the fair use provision does
of relevant portions (small parts) of these documents. Photocopiers,
microform reader/printers and computer terminals are available
for patron use in the Science
Reading Room. TRS materials are non-circulating and are not
to leave the Science Reading