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Growing American Rubber: Strategic Plants and the Politics of National Security

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Overview


Growing American Rubber explores America's quest during tense decades of the twentieth century to identify a viable source of domestic rubber. Straddling international revolutions and world wars, this unique and well-researched history chronicles efforts of leaders in business, science, and government to sever American dependence on foreign suppliers. Mark Finlay plots out intersecting networks of actors including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, prominent botanists, interned Japanese Americans, Haitian peasants, and ordinary citizens├╣all of whom contributed to this search for economic self-sufficiency. Challenging once-familiar boundaries between agriculture and industry and field and laboratory, Finlay also identifies an era in which perceived boundaries between natural and synthetic came under review.

Although synthetic rubber emerged from World War II as one solution, the issue of ever-diminishing natural resources and the question of how to meet twenty-first-century consumer, military, and business demands lingers today.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"Finlay has written an engaging, poignant work that demonstrates the strategic connection between agriculture, industry, and national defense and shows the importance of rubber to American industrial and military might. Finlay consulted a variety of archival sources to produce this thoroughly researched, well-documented work. He tells an important story that has broader implications for diplomatic historians and scholars who study the importance of agriculture and industry. Recommended."

Technology and Culture

"Growing American Rubber is a significant contribution to many fields, not the least of which is the history of technology and science. Finlay deftly weaves stories of diplomacy, scientific research, interest-group politics, entrepreneurs, farmers, laborers, and the environment to tell the story of rubber-crop research in the first half of the twentieth century."

Isis

"Finlay's narrative is at its best when he details this interface of economy, ecology, and politics, supported by extensive archival research into seemingly every prospect for growing rubber."

HUNTIA

"Mr. Finlay has produced an outstandingly well-documented and thoroughly researched narrative of the history of the modest rubber plant."

American Historical Review

"A fascinating, well-written, and timely study."

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Finlay's well-researched work makes clear the importance of rubber in American history. The United States shifted from domestic organic to inorganic and foreign solutions to the modern consumer driven economy. Unfortunately the United States still relies on a risky combination of imported natural rubber and synthetic rubber derived from petroleum, making this study timely and relevant."

Isis

"Finlay's narrative is at its best when he details this interface of economy, ecology, and politics, supported by extensive archival research into seemingly every prospect for growing rubber."
Choice

"Finlay has written an engaging, poignant work that demonstrates the strategic connection between agriculture, industry, and national defense and shows the importance of rubber to American industrial and military might. Finlay consulted a variety of archival sources to produce this thoroughly researched, well-documented work. He tells an important story that has broader implications for diplomatic historians and scholars who study the importance of agriculture and industry. Recommended."
Technology and Culture

"Growing American Rubber is a significant contribution to many fields, not the least of which is the history of technology and science. Finlay deftly weaves stories of diplomacy, scientific research, interest-group politics, entrepreneurs, farmers, laborers, and the environment to tell the story of rubber-crop research in the first half of the twentieth century."
American Historical Review

"A fascinating, well-written, and timely study."
Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Finlay's well-researched work makes clear the importance of rubber in American history. The United States shifted from domestic organic to inorganic and foreign solutions to the modern consumer driven economy. Unfortunately the United States still relies on a risky combination of imported natural rubber and synthetic rubber derived from petroleum, making this study timely and relevant."
HUNTIA

"Mr. Finlay has produced an outstandingly well-documented and thoroughly researched narrative of the history of the modest rubber plant."
H-Net Reviews

"Finlay's excellent book indicates just how central rubber has been to American history since the start of the twentiety century."
Annals of Iowa

"Growing American Rubber is a good history of the rubber industry, private and public efforts to control the industry, and its vulnerability to world politics."
director and editor, Thomas A. Edison Papers, Rutgers University - Paul Israel

"By moving beyond the well-known stories of Edison's and Ford's efforts to find domestic sources of rubber, Mark Finlay provides readers with a fresh and important analysis of the connections between military and economic national security and access to a vital strategic natural resource that has implications for the present day."
author of Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture - Deborah Fitzgerald

"At last, the humble rubber plant takes center stage, vividly demonstrating the interdependence of agriculture and industry in twentieth-century America. A remarkable and timely book!"
author of Fruits and Plains: The Horticultural Transformation of America - Philip J. Pauly

"Mark Finlay's research has been extensive and is unlikely to be duplicated any time in the near future. He writes with fluency and great narrative verve and he successfully weaves together the biological, technological, economic, political, and military strands of a complex story."
professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State - David E. Wright

"This is a good story, well-told. The range and variety of resources t
Isis

"Finlay's narrative is at its best when he details this interface of economy, ecology, and politics, supported by extensive archival research into seemingly every prospect for growing rubber."
Choice

"Finlay has written an engaging, poignant work that demonstrates the strategic connection between agriculture, industry, and national defense and shows the importance of rubber to American industrial and military might. Finlay consulted a variety of archival sources to produce this thoroughly researched, well-documented work. He tells an important story that has broader implications for diplomatic historians and scholars who study the importance of agriculture and industry. Recommended."
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Product Details

Meet the Author


MARK R. FINLAY is a professor of history at Armstrong Atlantic State University. He is the author of numerous articles on the history of "chemurgy," the intersection of agriculture and industry.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction
The American Dependence on Imported Rubber
Domestic Rubber Crops in an Era of Nationalism and Internationalism
Thomas Edison and the Challenges of the New Rubber Crops
The Nadir of Rubber Crop Research, 1928-1941
Crops in War: Rubber Plant Research on the Grand Scale
Sustainable Rubber from Grain
Resistance to Domestic Rubber Crops and the
Decline of the Emergency Rubber Project
From Domestic Rubber Crops to Biotechnology
Notes
Index
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