• FA - 80598/1 © Technisches Museum Wien
Collection Area
Production Technology
Chemical Production Engineering
1900 - 1909
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Sample board with rubber goods, early 20th century


Tyres, batons and condoms – these are all products made from the ‘tree that weeps’. For almost 200 years now, rubber and caoutchouc as a natural substance have played a crucial role in technology, the economy, and our everyday lives.

It was in the 18th century that scientists first brought samples of this exotic substance back to Europe. But back then it was highly sensitive to fluctuations in temperature; it produced a strong odour and perished when in contact with grease, oil and acids. Around 1840 Charles Goodyear finally made a technological breakthrough after many years, with a process known as vulcanisation. It gave rise to a compound comprised of caoutchouc and sulphur that was then put to all sorts of uses in the form of rubber. In 1888 English veterinarian John Dunlop patented the principle of the air-filled tyre, which further increased the demand for rubber. Around that time the King of Belgium, Leopold II, established a reign of terror in the Congo to secure the supply of this sought-after material. Many thousands of indigenous people were driven into forced labour; those that resisted or refused were mutilated and murdered.

In Austria, Johann Nepomuk Reithoffer, the son of a Moravian tailor, established the industrial processing of rubber from very modest beginnings. By the time of his death in 1872 his factory in Wimpassing (Lower Austria) employed around 800 people. In 1881 several stakeholders founded an ‘Austro-American Rubber Goods Factory’ in Wien-Breitensee. The business was later converted into a public limited company (Aktiengesellschaft) and formed the core of a huge process of amalgamation, with additional factories and shareholdings in Lower Austria, Bohemia, Hungary and Germany. The concern was renamed Semperit and supplied tyres, rubberised fabrics, balls, technical items and asbestos products. By the time the First World War broke out, it already had 3,100 employees on its payroll.

Manufacturer: Semperit Österreichisch-Amerikanische Gummiwerke AG

Manufacturing period: first third of the 20th century

Inv.Nr. 80598/1
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