With the longest coastline in the world, and an export economy founded upon natural resources, shipbuilding and ship repair is arguably Canada’s most iconic industry. Rubber has been a key part of Canadian shipping since the 19th century, becoming ubiquitous in shipbuilding and shipyards, where it was used for everything from hoses to protective coatings and shock proofing to protect ships, docks and ocean platforms. One of the largest sources of rubber in North America in the 20th century was the industrial city of Naugatuck in Connecticut, home to the United States Rubber Company. Realizing that chemistry was needed to make rubber more serviceable, the company formed the Naugatuck Chemical Company, which made sulphuric acid, used to reclaim used rubber, according to ColorantsHistory.org. Naugatuck expanded its product lines to include nitric acid, muriatic acid, hydrofluoric acid, acetic acid, nitrobenzene, aniline and antimony sulphides. Other products included synthetic rubbers, rubber chemicals, aromatic chemicals, agriculture chemicals, dye intermediaries, plastics, lacquers and explosives. It is probably most famous for producing faux leather Naugahyde vinyl.
According to the Canadian Register of Commerce and Industry, Naugatuck Chemicals, headquartered in Elmira, Ont. began operations during the Second World War, producing aniline oil and other chemicals for explosives manufacturing. Chemistry in Canada, march issue Naugatuck was one of the few industrial laboratories in Canada to carry out pure research, experimenting with new rubber,chemical and plastics products. In 1951, Naugatuck commercially produced polyester resins and, five years later, Kralastic, the only ABS-type plastic made in Canada.
In 1946, Naugatuck entered into an agreement with Elmira council members to rid the town of weeds. Buying Naugatuck chemicals at cost, the town quickly became famous as the first weed-free community in Canada. Two of its biggest products: DDT and 2,4-D, were later banned, the former thanks in part to Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, the latter due to studies showing a link to cancer. Naugatuck had a close connection with the Chemical
Institute of Canada, hiring its director, research chemist Taylor Evans, as manager of market research in 1959,according to The Montreal Gazette.
Naugatuck wasn’t safe from the corporate takeovers of the 1960s and 1970s, morphing into Uniroyal Chemical Company. Despite the passage of time, the opening line of this 1960 advertisement in Chemistry in Canada, “Nothing
takes the measure of materials so quickly as sea duty — whether dockside or at large,” remains as relevant now as it was then. Today, rubber is used in modern ships to line tanks carrying bulk loads of chemicals such as phosphoric acid and hydrochloric acid.