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David Spence: Guayule Rubber Project Records


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

David Spence was a Scottish-American rubber chemist. Born in The Manse at Udny, Scotland on September 26, 1881, Spence earned his Ph.D. from the University of Jena in Germany in 1906. He moved to the United States in 1909 when he accepted a position as the research laboratory director at Diamond Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio.

Spence stayed at Diamond Rubber after it was purchased by B.F. Goodrich Company in 1912. He left B.F. Goodrich in 1914 and founded Norwalk Tire & Rubber Company, where he served as vice president and manager until 1925. While working at Norwalk Tire & Rubber, he served on the National Research Council's Rubber Division during World War I. After leaving Norwalk Tire & Rubber, he worked at Intercontinental Rubber Company, where he served as vice president and manager.

Between the mid-1920s and mid-1930s, Spence oversaw Intercontinental Rubber's efforts to develop an alternative natural rubber source from the guayule plant (Parthenium argentatum), a Mexican desert shrub that contains latex. It was found that this plant contained enough latex to be harvestable and that it could be refined into natural rubber. In 1926, Intercontinental Rubber started large scale cultivation of guayule in California's Salinas Valley. Under Spence's guidance, the firm cultivated eight thousand acres of guayule, which produced up to five tons of latex per day.

Over the course of this project, Intercontinental Rubber determined that natural rubber produced from guayule was a useful alternative, but it could not be produced as cheaply as imported rubber from Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, Spence published a paper urging the United States not to become too dependent upon imported natural rubber. This paper attracted the attention of the United States War Department, who sent two majors (one of whom was future United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower) to inspect Intercontinental Rubber's guayule operation.

The outbreak of World War II and Japan's conquest of much of Southeast Asia cut off the flow of natural rubber to the United States at a time when it was vitally needed for the American war effort. To address this problem, the federal government passed the Emergency Rubber Project Act in 1942. Under this legislation, the Emergency Rubber Project was established to find domestic sources of natural rubber, which included cultivation of guayule and kok-sagnyz.

Under the auspices of the Emergency Rubber Project, the Guayule Rubber Project was created, which placed Intercontinental Rubber's guayule operation under the direction of the United States Forest Service. As part of this project, more land in California's Salinas Valley was devoted to growing guayule and nurseries were set up in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. By 1944, more than 32,000 acres were devoted to growing guayule.

During World War II, David Spence served as a consultant to Guayule Rubber Project, where he worked with the Office of the Rubber Director. He also served on the War Production Board. As one of the United States' leading rubber experts, he contributed the expertise he acquired as head of Intercontinental Rubber's guayule operation.

As Spence learned during the 1920s and 1930s, it was once again found that while natural rubber produced from guayule was a useful alternative during wartime, it was not a truly viable commercial proposition. The cost of growing guayule in the United States and competition from Mexican grown guayule made its cultivation unattractive to American farmers. The Guayule Rubber Project's demise was further hastened by the successful wartime production of wholly synthetic Buna (butadiene and natrium) rubber by Standard Oil of New Jersey and a consortium of large rubber companies (Firestone, B.F. Goodrich, Goodyear, and United States Rubber). After the end of the war, the Guayule Rubber Project was terminated and the land used for growing guayule was turned over for the production of other crops.

David Spence was awarded several patents over the course of his career. In 1941, he became the first recipient of the American Chemical Society Rubber Division's Charles Goodyear Medal.

David Spence passed away on September 24, 1957.


David Spence: Guayule Project Records, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Guayule Rubber Industry in Salinas, California, University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California. Guayule Rubber Industry in Salinas, California, ca. 1942 (

The David Spence: Guayule Rubber Project Records contain the personal papers of American rubber chemist David Spence. This collection documents two separate projects, both of which were attempts to establish guayule as an alternative source of natural rubber. The documents from the period 1926-1936 detail experiments carried out under David Spence's oversight by Intercontinental Rubber Company to determine the quality and yield of guayule rubber. The documents from the period 1941-1946 concern the Guayule Rubber Project, a World War II defense project carried out as part of the Emergency Rubber Project in co-operation with the United States Forest Service, which was a federal effort to produce natural rubber from American grown guayule. Spence served as a consultant on this latter project. The collection is arranged into the following four series:

  1. Guayule Rubber Project Reports
  2. Reprints
  3. Patent Files
  4. Images

The materials were found in existing collections preserved at the Science History Institute. There is no clear provenance.

The David Spence: Guayule Rubber Project Records were processed by Andrew Mangravite in 2005 and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig in 2021.

Science History Institute Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid created by Andrew Mangravite and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials.

Use Restrictions

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the David Spence: Guayule Rubber Project Records. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Collection Inventory

Series Description

This series contains David Spence's guayule project reports. This series consists of sixty-three files in Boxes 1-6. The files in this series mainly document the Guayule Rubber Project, on which Spence served a consultant during World War II. To a lesser extent, materials documenting Intercontinental Rubber Company's guayule rubber operation during the 1920s and 1930s, which was directed by Spence, are also preserved here. The contents of the Guayule Rubber Project Reports are arranged into the following two sub-series:

  1. United States Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) Reports
  2. Miscellaneous Reports
Sub-series Description

Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series consists of six files in Box 1. These files contain monthly reports, period reports, and miscellaneous reports about the Guayule Rubber Project, which were generated by the United States Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) during and immediately following World War II.

Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) - Miscellaneous Reports - Eastern Regional Research Laboratory, Wyndmoor, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "Recovery of Natural Rubber from Domestic Plants", 1942 May-1943 November.
Box 1 Folder 1
Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) - Guayule Rubber Extraction Research Unit, Salinas, California - Period Reports, 1944 June-1944 August.
Box 1 Folder 2
Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) - Guayule Rubber Extraction Research Unit, Salinas, California - Period Reports, 1944 March-1944 May.
Box 1 Folder 3
Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) - Guayule Rubber Extraction Research Unit, Salinas, California - Monthly Reports, 1945 November-1946 March.
Box 1 Folder 4
Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) - Guayule Rubber Extraction Research Unit, Salinas, California - Monthly Reports, 1944 November-1945 October.
Box 1 Folder 5
Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry (BAIC) - "Spence Mill Tests of Bale Retting in Comparison with Other Storage Methods", 1945 August-1945 October.
Box 1 Folder 6
Sub-series Description

Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series consists of fifty-seven files in Boxes 2-6. These files contain reports collected by David Spence regarding the production of natural rubber from alternative sources. Most of the materials in this sub-series pertain to the Guayule Rubber Project during World War II. Smaller amounts of materials regarding Intercontinental Rubber Company's guayule operation and materials produced by other miscellaneous entities regarding rubber from guayule and other sources (including kok-sagnyz) are also present here.

Reports make up the bulk of the materials in this sub-series. Noticeable amounts of other accompanying materials, including, but not limited to, correspondence, government documents, data, graphs, charts, and photographs are preserved here as well.

"Acid Coagulation Treatment", 1945.
Box 2 Folder 1
Analytical Methods (Rubber Bromides), 1944-1945.
Box 2 Folder 2
Analysis of Rubber in Plants (Includes a Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin, "Rapid Photometric Methods for the Determination of Rubber and Resins in Guayule Tissue, and Rubber in Crude Rubber Products" by Hamilton F. Traub.), 1942-1946 .
Box 2 Folder 3
Anderson, John Z. (U.S. House of Representatives, Republican-California) - "A Domestic Rubber Supply", Congressional Record, 1941 April 16.
Box 2 Folder 4
Related Materials

See also Box 3 Folder 2.

Antioxidants (For preservation during storage.), 1942-1946.
Box 2 Folder 5
Botanical Records of Field Guayule, 1928-1931, 1943.
Box 2 Folder 6
Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) - Guayule Reports, 1942-1944.
Box 2 Folder 7
California Institute of Technology (Correspondence with James F. Bonner, Sterling H. Emerson, and Frits Warmolt Went on guayule.), 1940-1945.
Box 2 Folder 8
Canadian National Research Council - "Rubber from Canadian Grown Plants" (Includes photographs.), 1943 April.
Box 2 Folder 9
Chem Laboratory (Correspondence; includes letters from Thomas Edison.), 1930-1933.
Box 2 Folder 10
Chilte Rubber (Blending possibilities.) - Two reports on "Vulcanization of Chilte", 1942-1943.
Box 2 Folder 11
Compounding of Guayule and Physical Testing (Includes graphs.), 1931, 1943-1945.
Box 2 Folder 12
Cornell University - Miscellaneous Reports, 1943.
Box 3 Folder 1
Correspondence, 1941-1946.
Box 3 Folder 2
Cost Data, 1945.
Box 3 Folder 3
Cryptostegia - Miscellaneous Reports, 1942-1943.
Box 3 Folder 4
Cryptostegia - Societe Haitiano Americaine de Developpment Agricole (SHADA) Reports (Includes photographs and graphs.), 1942-1943.
Box 3 Folder 5
Deresinated Solvent Extraction, 1942-1943.
Box 3 Folder 6
Diseases, Plant Breeding, Physiology - Pollarding, Soils (Six reports.), 1944-1945.
Box 3 Folder 7
Drying Worms and Tests (Includes machine plans.), 1942-1944.
Box 3 Folder 8
Eisenhower Report on Guayule (Photostat copy of "Report on Inspection of Guayule Rubber Industry" by Major Gilbert Van B. Wilkes and Major Dwight D. Eisenhower.), 1930 June 6.
Box 3 Folder 9
Experiment 260 S' (Rubber content of seedlings.), 1930.
Box 3 Folder 10
Factory Operations, 1930, 1943-1946.
Box 4 Folder 1
Field Data, 1930, 1943-1945.
Box 4 Folder 2
Final Summary Report on the Emergency Rubber Project (Includes photographs and graphs.), 1944 June 30.
Box 4 Folder 3
Flotation vs. Screening Guayule Worms Experiment 360-S2, 1930.
Box 4 Folder 4
Forest Service Reports on Guayule (Includes graphs and charts; reports are on various topics.), 1943-1946.
Box 4 Folder 5
Goldenrod - Miscellaneous Reports, 1942-1943.
Box 4 Folder 6
Goodrich 1936 (Company reports.), 1930, 1935-1936.
Box 4 Folder 7
Related Materials

See also Box 7 Folder 17.

Guayule Rubber Day - Salinas, California, March 5, 1942 (Program illustrated with photographs.), 1942.
Box 4 Folder 8
Hammer Mill (Report on use of Greundler hammer mill.), 1945.
Box 4 Folder 9
Harvesting (Cutting vs. pulling.), 1930, 1931.
Box 4 Folder 10
Hearing Investigating Guayule (Poage Sub-Committee, Salinas, California, April 3-4, 1944.), 1944.
Box 4 Folder 11
Related Materials

See also Box 3 Folder 2.

Index-Experimental Files (American Rubber Producers) (Includes complete list of experiments conducted by Intercontinental Rubber Company at Salinas Assay Laboratory.), 1943.
Box 4 Folder 12
Jordan Milling (Use of Jordan mills in extraction of rubber from Guayule.) - Forest Service Report Number 1, 1944-1946.
Box 4 Folder 13
Latex, 1934-1949.
Box 5 Folder 1
Metal Deactivators (Metal content in guayule.), 1942-1944.
Box 5 Folder 2
Mexico ("Report on Trip to Mexico," G. W. Miller and C. B. Kaley, June 19-July 12, 1944; inspection of guayule mills.), 1944.
Box 5 Folder 3
Milling (Problems relating to…), 1926-1929.
Box 5 Folder 4
Milling Experiments, 1929-1930.
Box 5 Folder 5
Miscellaneous Sources of Natural Rubber (Reports and correspondence.), 1939-1943.
Box 5 Folder 6
Office of Rubber Director (War Production Board) - Guayule Reports, 1942-1944.
Box 5 Folder 7
Patent and Literature Lists (Includes original and revised editions of United States Department of Agriculture Library List #4.), 1942-1944.
Box 5 Folder 8
Processing - Worms (High pressure treatment.), 1946.
Box 5 Folder 9
Recovery of Rubber from Two-Year Old Guayule, 1943.
Box 5 Folder 10
Retting (Includes David Spence's "Improvements in Guayule Rubber".), 1927-1930.
Box 5 Folder 11
Retting - Allen and Emerson ("The Microbiological Improvement of Guayule Rubber by Shrub-Retting"), 1946.
Box 5 Folder 12
Rubber Content of Guayule Seedlings 260-S, 1929-1930, 1944.
Box 5 Folder 13
Shrub Storage, 1945.
Box 6 Folder 1
Soviet Plant Industry Record, 1940-1943.
Box 6 Folder 2
Special Report Prepared for the State Guayule Rubber Project Committee of California by Agricultural Trade Relations, Incorporated, Washington, D.C., 1946 January 1.
Box 6 Folder 3
Stacom Process (Fiber decortication.), 1942-1943.
Box 6 Folder 4
Summary of Kok-sagnyz Investigations, Spring and Summer 1942, 1943 March.
Box 6 Folder 5
Synthetic Rubber (Also latex.) - Miscellaneous Reports (Includes a 1942 report on the Houdry Process.), 1942-1944.
Box 6 Folder 6
Truman Committee Reports (Includes a transcript of Dr. David Spence's testimony before the committee.), 1942.
Box 6 Folder 7
United States Rubber Company - Miscellaneous Reports: January 1943-July 1944 (Reports upon various topics of interest relating to guayule.), 1943-1944.
Box 6 Folder 8
Wood Tar Salves and Treatment (Against worms.), 1930-1934.
Box 6 Folder 9

Series Description

This series contains David Spence's reprints. Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series consists of two files in Box 7. These files contain reprints of guayule-related articles, and reprints of Soviet guayule-related articles. The file containing Soviet guayule-related articles includes reprints in Russian.

Reprints of Guayule-Related Articles, 1949-1951.
Box 7 Folder 1
Reprints of Soviet Guayule-Related Articles (Includes several reprints in Russian.), 1943-1945, undated.
Box 7 Folder 2

Series Description

This series contains David Spence's patent files relating to natural and synthetic rubber. Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series consists of thirty-three files in Box 7. These files contain only a portion of David Spence's patent files. The series' contents consist of patents relating to natural (including guayule) and synthetic rubber awarded to various companies and individuals (including David Spence).

Eastman Kodak Company (Latex), 1923-1936.
Box 7 Folder 3
Thomas A. Edison, Incorporated (Sound Recordings), 1940.
Box 7 Folder 4
Emulsions Process Corporation (Treatment of Crude Rubber), 1942.
Box 7 Folder 5
I.G. Farbenindustrie, A.G. (Butadiene, Hydrocarbons, Styrene, Latex), 1912-1942.
Box 7 Folder 6
Filatex Corporation (Latex-Thread), 1938.
Box 7 Folder 7
Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (Latex), 1937-1943.
Box 7 Folder 8
Fischer, Albert G. (Seed Planting), 1931.
Box 7 Folder 9
Fisk Rubber Company (Vulcanizing Rubber), 1922.
Box 7 Folder 10
Gardner, Henry A. (Pigmented Rubber), 1939.
Box 7 Folder 11
General Aniline Works, Incorporated (Ethylene), 1938-1944.
Box 7 Folder 12
General Cable Corporation (Curing Plastics), 1937.
Box 7 Folder 13
General Dyestuff Corporation (Polymeric Ethers), 1939.
Box 7 Folder 14
General Electric Company (Hydrocarbons, Silicones), 1937-1944.
Box 7 Folder 15
Gewerkschaft, Auguste (Hydrocarbons), 1939.
Box 7 Folder 16
B.F. Goodrich Company (Caoutchouc, Rubber Isomers, Butadiene, Diene Hydrocarbons) (Includes David Spence patents.), 1912-1945.
Box 7 Folder 17
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (Butadiene, Rubber Hydrochloride), 1923-1944.
Box 7 Folder 18
Griffith, Thomas R. and Reaney, Russell J. (Bonding Rubber and Metal), 1936.
Box 7 Folder 19
Halowax Corporation (Hydrocarbons), 1936.
Box 7 Folder 20
Hercules Powder Company (Chloroprene), 1936-1943.
Box 7 Folder 21
Hevapar S.A. (Artificial Rubber), 1939.
Box 7 Folder 22
Heveatex Corporation (Latex), 1935.
Box 7 Folder 23
Hodgkinson, William E. (Isoprene), 1910.
Box 7 Folder 24
Hood Rubber Company (Elastic Substances), 1914.
Box 7 Folder 25
Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited (Butadiene, Ethylene), 1936-1942.
Box 7 Folder 26
Intercontinental Rubber Company (Guayule) (Includes David Spence patents.), 1928-1933.
Box 7 Folder 27
International Latex Processes (Latex-Thread), 1936.
Box 7 Folder 28
International Standard Electric Corporation (Styrene-Stability), 1940.
Box 7 Folder 29
Jasco, Incorporated (Butadiene), 1940-1944.
Box 7 Folder 30
Jean, James W. (Hydrocarbon Reactions), 1944.
Box 7 Folder 31
Johnson and Johnson (Latex-Emulsions), 1927.
Box 7 Folder 32
K. D. P. Limited (Caoutchouc), 1923, 1924.
Box 7 Folder 33
Kenda, Paul (Guayule-Recovery), 1945.
Box 7 Folder 34
Kuniarz, Tomasz (Butadiene), 1944.
Box 7 Folder 35

Series Description

This series contains David Spence's image collection. Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series consists of two files in Box 7. These files contain photographs depicting various aspects of the growing, harvesting, and processing of guayule shrubs.

Loose Images - All black and white in various sizes, 1928-1929, undated.
Box 7 Folder 36
Two disassembled 4" x 6" albums of black and white photographs, 1942.
Box 7 Folder 37

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