The Chamber of Commerce of New York

The Science of Industry > Synthetic Rubber

In June 1943, the members of the Chamber turned over their luncheon room to an exhibit on the importance of synthetic rubber.

Ninety-seven percent of U.S. rubber supplies had come from the Far East. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Washington’s emergency stockpile consisted of one year’s supply. As soon as fighting started, the nation “witnessed the virtual cessation of passenger-tire manufacture … rationing of tires, mileage rationing and … rubber scrap drives.”

A year and a half later, when the Chamber of Commerce heard a lecture by the president of B.F. Goodrich, stockpiles had shrunk and the government was investing hundreds of millions of dollars in synthetic rubber. “Today, gentlemen, you are in the rubber business!” he told the audience. “You are in it as taxpayers.”

What was necessary for fighting a war, however, was not necessarily good for peacetime business. A government monopoly of the synthetic rubber industry would be inconvenient for the executives and stockholders of B.F. Goodrich. Yet, the public could hardly be expected to abandon its investments without some compensation. “It seems inevitable,” the businessman predicted, “that the American people will want to continue at least stand-by operation of these plants.”

As soon as possible executives wanted the government to “get out of the business.” It took another decade before the government sold the last of its war plants.

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