Hevea BrasiliensisDuring the industrial revolution there was a growing demand for rubber. More and more glands, seals and gaskets were needed. Most rubber was imported from Brasil, but their rubber was of a poor quality and of a very limited quantity.

Therefore the management of Kew Gardens decided to start their own rubber-plantation. The only problem was: how to get the seeds of the high valued Brasilian rubbertree.

It happened to be that an English planter by the name of Wickham lived in Brasil and was a well-known rubber-expert. In 1876 he was asked to get the seeds. But the only way to get them was to steal them, and that is what he did. He stole 70.000 seeds, brought them to Kew Gardens and there they grew 1700 trees out of the seeds. These trees were brought to Indie and England started their own plantations.

Draining Rubber

It took another 25 years before the trees started to produce rubber, but in 1916 England was the biggest rubber-country in the world. If this had not happened, it is feasable that without this action rubber had become scarse and that could have slowed down the industrial revolution!

Mr Wickham never was rewarded for his theft, but we should honour him as an important contributor to the industrial revolution and to steam.