HAITIAN RUBBER TIMELINE
By: Thomas D. Fennell, M.D.
At the peak of the Brazilian rubber boom, two Belgian brothers, Fritz and Max Hermann, plant about 90 acres of rubber trees at Bayeux, on the coast west of Cap
The rubber boom goes bust as plantation rubber from Sumatra and the Malay States begins to reach the world market. One of the Hermann brothers dies, and the rubber trees at Bayeux are abandoned.
Dr. David Fairchild, Plant Collector of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), introduces the cryptostegia grandiflora vine at the USDA Plant Introduction Garden at Miami, FL.
USDA Plant Introduction Garden (Miami) moves to larger space at Chapman Field, south of Coconut Grove, FL., and changes its name to USDA Plant Introduction Station.
Loren Polhamus and his team from the USDA spend nine months studying the mature castilla and hevea trees at Bayeux.
The USDA Plant Introduction Station at Chapman Field acquires an additional 65 acres to study rubber plants, specifically hevea, castilla, and cryptostegia.
As war looms in Europe, the USDA begins a program to develop rubber production in every country in the tropical Americas.
In Haiti, President Vincent asks the United States to send Haiti an agricultural Advisor for technical aid. On the recommendations of Dr. Thomas Barbour (Harvard Univ.) and Dr. David Fairchild (USDA) and others, Thomas A. Fennell is selected, and is sent to Haiti in December, 1939. T.A.Fennell had an extensive background in tropical agriculture, and had worked at the USDA Plant Introduction Station at Chapman Field from 1928 to 1934. He was familiar with the ongoing rubber studies that were being done at Chapman Field.
In March, H.F.Loomis from the USDA Plant Introduction Station (Bureau of Plant Industry, USDA), makes a rubber survey of Haiti. Following this work, the USDA enters into negotiations with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture (HMA) to establish a hevea rubber experimental station in Haiti. The USDA’s rubber development program had established their main office and nursery in Costa Rica, and they were setting up an additional nursery in Honduras and Haiti.
Fearing the loss of the rubber plantations in southeast Asia, the USDA sends Professor H.H.Bartlett (Chair, Dept. of Botany, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor.) to the Philippines in December 1940 to bring back high yield hevea breeding stock from the Goodyear plantations in Mindanao.
Early in 1941, the HMA and the USDA reach agreement on the establishment of a USDA rubber experimental station at Marfranc, near Jeremie.
On February 12, Professor Bartlett and 4,800 hevea rubber plants from the Goodyear Rubber Company’s plantation in Mindanao, leave the Philippines by ship. They arrive in Haiti on April 9, and planting is immediately started at Marfranc.
Meanwhile, T.A.Fennell, with the active cooperation of the HMA, the Haitian government, the US State Department, and the USDA proposes a long term program for the development of Haitian agriculture focused on the habits and needs of the small peasant farmer. The initial plans included improving the quality and quantity of the coffee beans, and of cacao, developing small plot plantings of sisal, hevea, lemon grass, and ginger, developing Haitian handcrafts and art, and the improvement of sawmills and forest management in the Foret des Pins.
May 15. Elie Lescot succeeds President Vincent as President of Haiti.
August 1. President Lescot together with the Minister of Agriculture M. Maurice Dartigue and the Minister of Finance M. Abel Lacroix establish the Haitian Corporation named le Societe Haitiano-Americaine de Developpement Agricole (SHADA). SHADA stock is 100% owned by the Haitian government. It is financed by a loan of $5,000,000 from the US Export-Import Bank. SHADA is granted a 50 year lease on 150,000 acres of pine forest, and is given a 50 year monopoly on the sale and export of natural rubber from the Republic of Haiti. SHADA is governed by a six person Board of Directors. Three of the directors are appointed by the Haitian government (M.Dartigue, A.Lacroix, Georges Heraux), and three of the Directors are appointed by the Export-Import Bank (Horace Darton, W.H.Williams. T.A.Fennell). T.A. Fennell is appointed President and General Manager, and Maurice Dartigue is appointed Vice-President of SHADA.
August 16. SHADA buys the plantation at Bayeux, and begins a hevea nursery there. The Haitian government gives SHADA control of a large area of government land in the upper Grand Anse valley, at Souces Chaude, east of Anse d’Hainault. SHADA begins development of this area as a large hevea plantation. SHADA‘s total employees are 257.
October 1. SHADA begins logging at Morne des Commissaires.
December 7. Pearl Harbor attacked by Japanese. US enters WWII.
December 31. SHADA total employees: 3,348.
Early in 1942, Japanese forces conquer all of rubber areas in Southeast Asia. US Congress passes Emergency Rubber Production Act. US Rubber Reserve Co. takes the lead in trying to develop alternative rapid production methods for rubber. They begin studies on cryptostegia and guayule.
April 6. SHADA begins research on cryptostegia.
August 1. SHADA begins planting sisal at Cap Haitian. SHADA buys sisal plantation at St. Marc and begins to expand it. SHADA buys the railroad at Cap Haitian in order to transport sisal in the north Haitian plain. SHADA helps to repair the Haitian National Railroad from Port-au-Prince to St. Marc in order to service the St. Marc sisal plantations.
August 13. US Rubber Reserve Co. authorizes SHADA to extend cryptostegia research.
August 15. Gonaives Cryptostegia Experimental Station started.
October 1. SHADA total employees: 12,972.
November 11. US Rubber Reserve Co. (soon to become the US Rubber Development Corp.) gives SHADA a war production “cost plus” contract to plant and harvest 100,000 acres of cryptostegia. The US Rubber Reserve Co. acknowledges in the contract that this is a “risky” business because no one has ever grown and harvested cryptostegia on a large scale before this program. Nonetheless, the US Rubber Reserve Co. believes that the risk is acceptable given the potential benefits. The Rubber Reserve Co. agrees to pay ALL of the expenses of this program, and to pay SHADA a management fee for implementing this program. This program is in addition to the hevea program that SHADA is developing with its own funds. It is envisioned that the program will last at least three years, and will cost up to $45,000,000.
December 1. SHADA begins rapid expansion to meet cryptostegia contract goals.
January 1. SHADA total employees: 15,796.
January 3. SHADA starts clearing land at Bayeux and Cap Haitian for cryptostegia plantations.
January 15. First field planting of cryptostegia begun. (Cap Haitian)
February 1. Total employees: 29,255.
March 1. Total employees: 41,501.
April 1. Total employees: 69,477.
May 1. Total employees: 92,246.
- Cryptostegia program: Land acquired 67,603 acres
Land cleared 32,328 acres
Land planted 14,944 acres
Sisal program Land cleared 7,551 acres
Land planted 5,911 acres
- Forestry program Board feet/month 243,566
Haiti now produces enough lumber to satisfy local demands, and is able to export small amounts of lumber to other Caribbean islands.
- SHADA now has six divisions with eleven plantations growing cryptostegia.
- Cap Haitian Division (Acul & Bonnet)
- Bayeux Division (Port Margot, Limbe, & Plaisance)
- Cayes Division (Berault & Camp Perrin)
- Grand’Anse Division (Anse d’Hainault & Dame Marie)
- St. Marc Division
- Gonaives Division
- Land acquired 76,511 acres
- Land cleared 47,177 acres
- Land planted 22,304 acres
Dr. John McGavack of the US Rubber Co. reports, following extensive laboratory testing in the United States, that “cryptostegia rubbers are perfectly compatible with and equal to the best hevea rubber,”
October 15. The Division at Cayes becomes the first division to begin field tapping of cryptostegia, eleven months after the original contract was signed.
November. Haiti begins to suffer the agricultural effects of an unusual drought which continues until the spring of 1944.
December. M.Pierre Chauvet replaces M. Georges Heraux on the SHADA Board of Directors.
January 1. SHADA begins the year with 45,350 laborers and 1,250 salaried employees.
February. Haiti is visited by a four man delegation from the Rubber Development Corp. who abruptly cancel the cryptostegia contract. The reasons cited were “poor production” and the success of the synthetic rubber program in the U.S.
President Lescot, Maurice Dartigue, and T.A.Fennell attempt to appeal this decision, but are unsuccessful. T.A.Fennell believed that some of the senior staff at the RDC had severe conflicts of interest, and were following a hidden agenda to remove possible competition in the post WWII era to the American rubber plantations in the Philippines and elsewhere. This idea was supported by the RDC’s refusal to continue support for the Cryptostegia Experimental Station at Gonaives despite the fact that the USDA had been studying Cryptostegia since 1926. However, the USDA did continue their support of the hevea Experimental Station at Marfranc.
March-July. All cryptostegia lands are burned, and the cleared lands are returned to their owners and/or renters ready for cultivation. Shada continues to grow hevea rubber.
August 28. The US government through the Institute of InterAmerican Affairs reaches an agreement with the Haitian government to provide $175,000 for the relief and rehabilitation of the35,000 to 40,000 families that were displaced when SHADA originally acquired the cryptostegia land.
September. T.A.Fennell, feeling betrayed by the US rubber establishment, and by the US State Department, resigns as President and General Manager of SHADA. His place is taken by Robert Pettigrew from the Dauphin sisal plantation at Fort Liberty.
President Lescot awards Mr. Fennell with the Haitian Order of Honor and Merit for his services to Haiti.
December 31. SHADA ends the year as a profitable, active agricultural company in Haiti. Employees consisted of 4,080 laborers and 488 salaried personnel. During this year, SHADA had produced 8,000 pounds of cryptosteria rubber and 6,562 pounds of hevea rubber. It had planted 15,462 acres of sisal, and had produced 1,290,000 pounds of decorticated sisal. The forestry operation produced 3,262,767 board feet of lumber which completely met Haitian needs, and which allowed a surplus of 252,638 board feet to be exported to Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
SHADA was continuing its hevea operations at Bayeux and Sources Chaude. The USDA was continuing its work at the hevea Experimental Station at Marfranc.
January. Huge B Cave reports on a hiking trip through the mountains between Tiberon and Jeremie. He reports rubber trees at Sources Chaude but reports that the buildings there are locked and no longer in use. He reports that the USDA Experimental Station at Marfranc is still active, and still staffed by an American agronomist, Bob Dirks and his wife Jackie. (See the full story on Bob Corbett’s Haiti web page.)