Kamptulicon was an elastic, waterproof material invented in 1843.
It was first manufactured by Walter and Gough at Greenwich. The business seems to have had various names, including Patent Elastic Pavement and Kamptulicon Co, and the material was later produced by other firms, presumably under licence.
It was manufactured by sprinkling powdered cork on to thin bands of rubber, which was then rolled and rerolled until thoroughly mixed. It was then coated on one or both sides with linseed oil varnish or oil paint. Powdered sulphur was also sometimes mixed in, and the material then heated to produce a form of vulcanized kamptulicon.
As well as a floor covering, Kamptulicon was also used as cushions in stamping presses, and as polishing wheels for metals.
D. K. Brown credits Lt. George Walter with the invention of Kamptulicon . Walter proposed it as a lining for the hulls of iron warships, with the aim of preventing gunshot holes and arresting splinters. Admiralty firing trials carried out in 1845 gave mixed results. In one case the Kamptulicon almost completely sealed the hole after the shot had passed through.
'A variety of floor cloth, invented in 1843, but not generally introduced until about 1855. The materials and processes employed in its manufacture vary considerably, but it is essentially a preparation of india-rubber masticated up with ground cork, the preparation and mixture being effected by repeated passing of the material between heavy grooved metal rollers. When thoroughly mixed it is rolled out into sheets; sometimes over a backing of canvas by passing it between pairs of wide and steam-heated rollers. In addition to the substances above mentioned, gutta-percha, saw-dust, ground leather, boiled oil, resins, pitch, asphalt, and chalk have all been used in kamptulicon making. The rolled sheets are ornamented by printing simple patterns on their surface. Kamptulicon forms a warm, pleasant, soft and noiseless floor-cloth, but the higher qualities, in which india-rubber and ground cork are the main ingredients, are rather expensive, and the manufacture has been curtailed since the introduction of linoleum.'
1844 'New Life Boat.— A new and extraordinary life boat is being built upon the diagonal principle by the Patent Kamptulicon and Flooring Company, near Waterloo-bridge, the planks of which are composed of India rubber and ground cork. Its specific gravity is stated to be two-thirds lighter than oak, and from which it is believed the boat is incapable of being bilged or sunk.— Her length is thirty-four feet, and breadth eleven feet, is copper fastened, and pulls twelve oars has two lug sails, and steers with either rudder or oar. The Belgian government has directed three to be built for that coast.'
1844 'The Kamptulicon.
On Thursday morning, at the wharf of the Elastic Pavement Company, in the Commercial-road, Lambeth, a new life boat, the invention of Lieut. Walter, R.N., F.R.S., called the Kamptulicon, was launched. The boat, which is destined for the service of the Belgian Government, is composed principally of cork and india-rubber. She capable holding about fifty persons, and though an open boat, with no sails or rigging of any description, little doubt can be entertained of her capability to live in the roughest sea, the specific gravity of the material of which she composed being small that she would not sink, it is considered, if full of water.'
1849 'Kamptulicon Wharf, Greenwich-road, Greenwich.
—Important Plant Sale.
MR. ARMITAGE will Sell by Auction THIS DAY, Feb. 1, at 12, by virtue of the Queen’s Writ of Fieri Facias, on the Premises, as above, all the newly-erected MACHINERY, rotary engine of 25 horse-power, valuable Kamptulicon life-boat, with masts, oars, sails, patent anchor and cable complete ; and a quantity of large cylinder rollers, with wheels, shaftings, and stands, plummer block, and carriages, two large wrought-iron steampans, steam-chest fitted with pipes, two large steam-boilers 22 feet each, a large quantity of steam-piping, pair large mill-stones, with wheels and fittings, force-pump, stone-paving, brick-work, counting-house fittings, Kamptulicon paving, a chaise, harness, and spring cart. May be viewed, and Catalogues had, at the Auctioneer's office, Broadway, Deptford.' 
1849 'The floors of the Bankruptcy Court, which were covered with the patent kamptulicon about five years since, in order to deaden the sound, are undergoing partial repair. The wear of this extraordinary mechanical appears to have given great satisfaction.'
1860 Patent. '2969. To William Richard Jeune, of No. 4, Flower-terrace, Campbell-road, Bow, in the county of Middlesex, Manufacturer, for the invention of "improvements in the manufacture of Kamptulicon or covering for floors, and for other purposes."'
Sources of Information
- 'Before the Ironclad' by David K. Brown, Seaforth Publishing, 1990
- "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole
- Cork Examiner, 2 October 1844
- Reading Mercury, 9 November 1844
- Morning Advertiser, 1 February 1849
- Illustrated London News, 10 November 1849
- The London Gazette Publication date:14 December 1860 Issue:22459 Page:5048
- See advert of Gough and Boyce page