Rubber stamping is a mostly modern art form that has come a long way in just a few decades.
Rubber stamps could not exist without discovery of rubber in the 1730s and the development of the vulcanization process in 1839. Vulcanization makes rubber more flexible and stable when the temperature changes, making it useful in all sort of products from tires to stamps.
Before rubber stamps were developed in the 1860s, stamps were often made of brass. You've probably seen the old style letter stamps that were pressed into wax to seal envelopes. While not exactly the same idea as a rubber stamp, they're in the same family.
Mechanical stamps were developed only a few years before rubber stamps. These are the kinds of stamps still used today to mark a date or address on a piece of paper. The ink pad is included within the stamp, making quick stamping a breeze.
The Advent of Rubber Stamps
No one really knows when rubber stamps were invented or by whom. An Illinois man claimed in 1916 to have invented rubber stamps using a bedpost and rubber letters.
In the 1860s, a New York man saw workers at a bathtub factory using homemade stamps and he worked out a process based on the vulcanization process used by dentists to make bases for dentures to make vulcanized rubber stamps. Unfortunately, the only ink available to use with the rubber stamps used an oil as a solvent and thus ruined the stamps.
A third candidate comes from Massachusetts, who is said to have developed the stamp when working at a print shop. He worked in secret and was hoodwinked by someone who offered to finance the patent and paid for an interest in his business.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, traveling salesmen began to sell rubber stamps as a mark of ownership or craftsmanship. The first trade association of rubber stamp sellers was established in 1911.
Rubber Stamping as a Craft
It wasn't until the 1980s that rubber stamping really took off as a major craft genre. Since that time, the industry surrounding rubber stamping has exploded. A trip to any major crafts store will show you a wide array of stamps with plastic, wooden or composite bases, ink pads in all sorts of colors including dye inks, pigment inks and embossing inks, powders for embossing, heat guns, markers and all sorts of tools.
There are also all sorts of books, magazines and web sties devoted to the craft and its many uses in scrapbooking, card making and more. In just a short time, rubber stamping has been established as a fun and versatile craft for people of all ages.