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SS Republic Artifact

The excavation of the SS Republic yielded an assorted cargo of toiletry and hygiene aids including ladies' headbands, many of them still in their original stacked shipping arrangement. The headbands 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.

A number of other vulcanite items were recovered from the wreck site, including hair combs of both the straight and folding varieties. The barely visible stamp featuring ‘I. R. COMB Co." and "Goodyear Patent Ma" is present on a number of the hair comb examples. The "Ma" is likely the remaining letters representing the May 6, 1851 date in which Nelson Goodyear patented hard vulcanite. The "I.R. Comb Co." stands for the India Rubber Company, which produced a host of products including buttons, brushes, and croquet and bowling balls, and very likely headbands as well.

Lady's Headband

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