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SS Republic Artifact

The excavation of the SS Republic yielded an assorted cargo of toiletry and hygiene aids including a handful of hair combs, both straight and folding varieties. The combs are made of vulcanite (vulcanized rubber), a typically black, rubber-like substance patented in 1844 by the American inventor Charles Goodyear. For a number of years Goodyear had been experimenting with vulcanization, the process of turning raw rubber into a useful, pliable, non-rotting substance, and perfected the process in 1839. Not long after, Charles' brother Nelson figured out how to turn the soft, malleable substance into a hard rubber (hard vulcanite) which he patented in 1851. Present on a number of the combs is the now barely visible stamp: "I. R. COMB Co. Goodyear Patent Ma." The "Ma" is likely the remaining letters representing the May 6, 1851 date in which Nelson Goodyear patented hard vulcanite. The I.R. stands for the India Rubber Comb Company, which in addition to hair combs, produced a host of other products including buttons, brushes, and croquet and bowling balls. 

Hair combs such as those recovered from the Republic wreck site were often accompanied by a cardboard slip-case, which in this case, would have long since eroded away on the Atlantic seabed. In near pristine condition, the comb looks quite similar to the plastic combs available in modern pharmacies today.

Hair Comb

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