Although the remarkable properties of the rubber tree were known to the Aztecs and other South American Indians, for perhaps a thousands years, rubber was unknown in Europe until the discovery of the New World.
Pietro Martyre d’Anghiera, chaplain to the court of Ferdinand of Aragon, Castile and Leon, gave the first written account of the elastic gum in his book De Orbo Novo. In it he described a game played by Aztec children using rubber balls. He was particularly amazed by the balls’ ability to bounce back into the air after being thrown to the ground.
In 1615, about 100 years later, another Spaniard, Juan de Torquemada, described how the Indians made incisions into rubber trees and collected the milk or sap which oozed out. When dried, this rubber milk was used for making bottles and soles for footwear.