This is the first of 5 pages studying Hard Rubber buttons generally made between 1853 and 1872 carrying the Goodyear Patent (on buttons as Goodyear's P=T 1851). The vulcanization of rubber was discovered in 1839 by Charles Goodyear. Information regarding patent date start and expiration is shown a few paragraphs below.

The most common back mark found on hard rubber buttons (and other objects) is from the Novelty Rubber Co. which usually shows as "N.R. Co." abbreviated on buttons. N.R. Co. was founded 1853, incorporated 1855 and produced until 1886. Other marks found on hard rubber buttons and objects are: India Rubber Comb Co. (IRC Co.) and American Hard Rubber Co. (AHR Co.) and there may be others including "India Rubber". The "India Rubber" mark does not have the Goodyear patent information and may have been made in England or France or could be considered a "pirated" item lacking the required patent info. I know of one button style with this back mark, a cameo profile, one can assume this is an antique button due to the styling, it is not thought to have been made by any of the large companies noted above.

Hard rubber buttons will differ from other look-alike materials because they are back marked. Some dyed, pressed horn buttons are also back marked but they should not be confused. The company names shown above will appear on hard rubber buttons and objects, horn has different marks.

Collectors call hard rubber buttons "Goodyear buttons", Charles Goodyear held the patent but did not make any buttons. A relative of Charles Goodyear did produce pewter metal buttons much earlier than rubber buttons made an appearance, his name was Amasa Goodyear. Charles Goodyear's vulcanization patent expired in 1865. However, the Goodyear hard rubber patent of May 6, 1851 (covering buttons, combs, etc.) was extended (by Nelson Goodyear) in 1865 and did not expire until May 6, 1872. After the patent expired in 1872, the largest manufacturers still put their names on items they made. Many later Novelty Rubber Co. buttons are marked with only "Novelty Rubber Co." Additionally, the India Rubber Comb Co. (IRC Co.) used their name along with "Goodyear 1851" as a trademark and their successor, The American Hard Rubber Co., filed this as an official trademark in 1906 and used it at least through 1917.

See more pages on this hard rubber buttons study linked at page bottom and please visit CC's Buttons on-site link to find hard rubber and many other types of buttons for sale. To contact me just click here: carolc@vintagebuttons.net or copy my e-mail and paste into your own e-mail program: carolc@vintagebuttons.net

gutta percha
Minerva composition button shown closer below.
Tested with hot tool as compo, not gutta percha.
gutta percha bks

gutta percha
(c) 2004 by author, Jocelyn Howells. All rights protected.
gutta percha


James W. Hall
Goodyear Rubber
Buttons Book

Here's some interesting information on Gutta Percha
in a book called Early Plastics by Sylvia Katz.

"Gutta-percha is a completely natural plastic, and from the mid nineteenth century until the 1930s it was moulded into many domestic and industrial products. Often mistakenly though to be a type of rubber,it is a hard substance scrapped by hand form Palaquium trees in Malaya, Borneo and Sumatra. Cleaned, kneaded and softened in hot water, it becomes a malleable plastic. Gutta-percha can be thought of as an early type of polythene. Many of the objects it was moulded into, such as buckets, containers, tubing and board games, have been made in polythene for many years.

In 1843 samples of gutta-percha reached England in the shape of tool handles and small animal sculptures made by natives in Malaya. Micheal Faraday identified its excellent insulating properties and its acid resistance made it immediately suitable for the expanding photographic industry. In 1845 the Gutta Percha Comapny was established in London and its first major commission was to insulate the submarine telegraphic link between England and France.

Bewley designed the first extrusion machine in 1845, and gutta-percha was one of the first plastics to be extruded. All kinds of tubing were extruded, as were lengths of imitation wood mouldings for panels and friezes, almost identical to modern foamed polyurethane designs." (Thanks to Robyn G. for providing this info.)

Here's some additional information about Gutta Percha provided by Jocelyn Howells ((c) 2004 by author, Jocelyn Howells. All rights protected):

GUTTA PERCHA is the sap from tropical Malaysian Palaquium trees in the form of milky latex, a rubbery substance that is chemically the same as that other tree extract, rubber, but the shape of the molecule gives it different properties.

1. Gutta percha buttons may have a mixture of gutta percha latex and rubber.
2. Usually dark colored, but may range from dark yellow through red to dark brown and black.
3. Resembles rubber but is glossier and lighter weight than rubber. Buttons are often fairly thin wafers with separately molded gutta percha escutcheons, although one-piece examples do exist with nicely molded surface designs.
4. Some composition and Vulcanite buttons are misidentified as gutta percha.
5. Gutta percha functions well in water, but doesn't do so well exposed to other elements. I read that many gutta percha items became brittle with use and are easily broken.
6. Rub it with your thumb or hot needle it, and it will not have that acrid sulfur smell of rubber - it's a much "sweeter" and milder rubbery smell. That can vary if blended with some rubber.
7. Taste test: Salty. Just touch the tip of your wet tongue to the back of a suspected gutta percha button. Salt sensors are located on the tip, and your saliva is needed to conduct the taste. Be aware that not everyone's ability to taste is the same, and may be affected by factors such as medicines you are taking.
8. Gutta percha is harder than rubber and has excellent molding properties that lent it so well to detailed buttons, giving them a better defined and "crisper" look than rubber or compositions.
(c) 2004 by author, Jocelyn Howells. All rights protected.

Composition & Horn. Here are some images of compositon and horn buttons. These are easy to misidentify as hard rubber. Learning which materials might have backmarks, what those backmarks are likely to say and what the backs and shanks look like will go a long way toward helping you learn how to properly identify look-alike materials such as these. Time, proper testing and experience will also assist in materials identification. Hot tool testing will be the most valuable technique to learn if you would like to know what precise material antique buttons are made of.


Rubber Buttons:
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Rubber Buttons:
Ginny Flis Article
Page 3
Rubber Buttons:
The Charles
Goodyear Story:
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Rubber Buttons:
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