Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Creator:
Rubber Development Corporation.
Collector:
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Title:
Rubber Development Corporation, Amazon Division Records
Repository:
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/5x21tf41w
Dates:
1942-1945
Size:
22 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-22
Language:
Portuguese English

Abstract

The Rubber Development Corporation, Amazon Division Records (1942-1945) reflect Philip H. Williams' interests and concerns as manager of the Manaos Office in Brazil. As manager, Williams was called upon to play various roles including diplomat, manager and administrator. His fellow staff members were C. Homer McDuff–Acting General Manager, Mr. Swain–Accounting Department, H. A. Beck–Acting Manager, Manaos Office, George A. Seaman–Assistant to Mr. Williams, John Herman Neumann–Manager of Amazon Division and Douglas H. Allen–President of the Rubber Development Corporation. The bulk of this collection consists of copies from William's personal files. The majority of the collection is composed of correspondence, memoranda, reports, charts, photographs and newspaper clippings.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Description:

Consists of records of the Rubber Development Corporation's Amazon Division, managed by Philip H. Williams in Manaos, Brazil, during World War II. Included are business and financial files (1942-1945)–correspondence, memoranda, technicians' reports, charts, photographs, newspaper clippings–relating to personnel, supplies, accounts, sales, stock, native tappers, and sources and treatment of rubber.

Arrangement:

Organized into the following series:

The branch agencies include Benjamin Constant, Boca Do Acre, Guajara Mirim, Joao Pessoa, Porto Belho, Rio Branco, Sena Madueira, and Vila Feijo. Specific folders for the eight branch agencies are in Series I, except for Guajara Mirim (which is only found in the general folder). General references to all the agencies are found in Series 2, 3, 5, and 6. The Rio Branco branch is mentioned specifically in Series 9.

Collection Creator Biography:

World War II had many rippling effects throughout the world during and after the war. The dual occurrence of an increased need for synthetic rubber during the war and the threat of being cut off from present suppliers sent the United States in search of new and more stable sources of rubber. No longer could the United States completely depend on foreign countries to provide rubber. For instance, the Asian supply was suffering from a leaf blight which drove up prices and the Japanese supply was limited due to political tensions. Consequently, the formation of the Rubber Development Corporation (RDC) attempted to meet this need, but without much success.

The RDC evolved out of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) which had three functions. First, low interest loans were given to banks, businesses and industries in an attempt to stabilize a faltering economy. Second, the RFC financed the newly formed Rubber Reserve Company (RRC) which bought rubber from Southeast Asia and tried to develop synthetic rubber in the United States. Third, the RFC supported the Rubber Development Corporation (RDC) which wanted to maximize rubber production from Brazil.

Eventually, the RDC was divided into three sections under the supervision of its president, Douglas H. Allen. The Banco de Credito da Borracha financed production costs and purchased the products of the RDC. The SEMTA division dealt with labor acquisition and transportation to the Amazon. Once in the Brazil area, the SAVA ( Services de Abasteciment do Vale Amazonico) division distributed the labor in order to maintain balanced and well-equipped posts.

The United States held two common interests in Brazil. An experimental nursery was set up in Brazil on the grounds of the Agronomic Institute of the North (IAN) under the supervision of Dr. Felisberto Cardoso de Camargo. This was an attempt to gain extensive knowledge about synthetic rubber production. Also, the Hevea trees in the Amazon Valley attracted the interest of the United States which eventually led to a rubber agreement on March 3, 1942 between Brazil and the United States. The initial rubber agreement guaranteed that the United States would buy all excess rubber at forty-five cents a pound until December 31, 1946. This allowed Brazil to produce rubber at an unlimited rate without the threat of monetary loss. Ten months later in December, the agreement was modified to increase Brazil's exportation to 50,000 tons of rubber in 1943.

The presence of the RDC is still felt in Brazil. Many families mourn for the seventeen to twenty thousand tappers who never returned from the forest because primitive and dangerous conditions such as the ever present threat of illness and Indian attacks were not favorable to the workers. However, many braved these conditions because the RDC was paying top dollar to ensure high production and favorable results. Before the RDC arrived in Brazil, tappers or seringueiros were managed by seringalistas in small groves. Today, the majority of tappers who did survive the forest are not receiving pensions due to lost paper work.

As shown above, time, effort, and money were seriously invested into this project, but a lack of efficiency eventually lead to the failure of RDC, Amazon Division. At one point, RDC purchased a crop of Brazilian nuts in the hopes that it would incite Brazilian workers to produce more rubber as well as satisfy eager American buyers. While the connection between nuts and rubber production is blurry, the purchase would definitely meet the American demand for nuts. For one million dollars, the nuts were purchased. However, transportation of the nuts to America was not provided for. The nuts spoiled and the RDC suffered a net loss of $800,000. The only sign of a slight improvement was in 1946 when production increased, but the quality of the rubber remained pathetically poor. While the intentions behind this venture were sincere, the execution of the project failed to meet with its high expectations. Eventually, the company dissolved and the United States continued its search for rubber elsewhere.

Collection History

Acquisition:

The Rubber Development Corporation, Amazon Division Records were acquired in two accessions in 1968 from Philip H. Williams.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No information about appraisal is available for this collection.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Michelle Axelrod in May 1992 and Laurie Alexander in August 1992. For preservation purposes, photographs were removed from their original order and housed together in a separate box at this time. Finding aid written by Michelle Axelrod in May 1992 and Laurie Alexander in August 1992.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

Credit this material:

Rubber Development Corporation, Amazon Division Records; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/5x21tf41w
Location:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345