Vulcanite plaques (two in one frame), c 1840.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made from vulcanised rubber by Thomas Hancock (1786-1865), the inventor of rubber manufacturing proceses. Vulcanite, also known as ebonite or hard rubber, is a semi-synthetic plastic as it is a modification of a natural substance, rubber. To make vulcanite, sulphur is heated with natural rubber, producing a harder material. These ornate plaques were sealed in glas-fronted frames for a Rubber Exhibition held at the Science Museum in 1929.