This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Gutta-Percha. [From Malaygutta, gum, and percha, the island from whence it was first obtained. The island is now known as Sumatra]. The juice of an evergreen tree common in the jungles of the Malay peninsula and archipelago. It is a yellowish, inodorous and tasteless substance, nearly inelastic; at ordinary temperature hard, tough and somewhat horny, and flexible only in thin plates. At 130 degress F., it is sufficiently soft to be rolled into plates, and it becomes very soft at the temperature of boiling water. Gutta-percha is used principally for insulating electric wires, in the manufacture of hose, belting, combs and other flexible goods; also as a substitute for leather, for splints and various surgical instruments. It was first introduced into the civilized world in 1842, by Dr. Montgomery, a Scotch surgeon.