January 8, 1915, and England gives American rubber companies the right to buy and use British rubber under the condition that the raw rubber and manufactured rubber products be exported only to England. This is not a difficult condition to meet, because there are no shipping routes across the Atlantic. The British Navy has the whole ocean closed up to prevent any goods from reaching Germany and it's allies. But some crafty folks try to find a way around the British fleet.
For example, one man in Brooklyn, New York is buying up all the raw rubber he can get his hands on, and at premium prices. His readiness to pay higher than market prices catches the attention of the American rubber control committee. When they go to Brooklyn to investigate, they find only an empty warehouse, from which fifty tons of rubber had left the country. How did he ship the rubber if every shipment is checked for contraband? The rubber was packed in barrels and a resin was melted and poured over the top of the rubber. When the resin dried, the barrels seemed to be filled only with resin. This cargo of "resin" is quickly recovered in a neutral, foreign port, and six German agents were sent to jail.
Shortly thereafter, a company suddenly begins exporting cotton waste to foreign ports. The government became suspicious. Even the government can figure out it does not make good financial sense to start shipping garbage across the ocean. The bales are seized and X-rayed, and found to have a chewy, rubber center.
It gets even better! Shipments labeled "stationery" are found to be large blocks of natural rubber "ink erasers." The most ingenious attempt is the smuggling of rubber "sausages" disguised in jars of pickles.
Now it's 1916, and large shipments of rubber are coming into Baltimore, Maryland. The control committee is concerned, but the only thing that can be done is to prevent it from being smuggled out of the country. The Germans see their chance.
On July 16, 1916, the German submarine, Dueutschland, surfaces off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. Americans look on in admiration at the first submarine to cross the Atlantic as it crawls up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore. Once in port, the Deutschland discharges a cargo of dyes and medicine worth more than one million dollars in exchange for a load of nickel and 500 tons of rubber.
Needless to say, the British are not pleased, and the broker who made the deal promptly looses his license. They try to stop the Deutschland on it's way home, but fail, and the Deutschland returns to port in 22 days. The Germans are so pleased with the success of the mission that the Deutschland makes another trip in November. This time to New London, Connecticut. The cargo is again 500 tons of rubber, and the trip home takes just over a month.
Although this sounds like a lot of rubber, these occasional successes did little to lighten the rubber famine induced by England's blockade.
The Dueutschland's historic crossing and smuggling are not the only notable events of 1916. Here are a few more:
Grigori Efimovich Rasputin, advisor to the last Russian czar, Nicholas II, is poisoned, shot, and thrown into the Neva River (where he eventually drowned) by a group of Russian nobles for suspicion of being a German spy, and the czarina's lover.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad is completed
Two airplane companies, the Lockheed Corporation of Santa Barbera, CA, and the Boeing Company of Seattle, WA, are established.
Rolad Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is born.