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The Dow's Synthetic Bounce

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On this day in economic and financial history...

The world is full of so many advanced technologies and synthetic chemicals that it's easy to take them for granted. During wartime, however, the presence of these luxuries is truly appreciated. It's thanks in no small part to an innovative new product, developed by DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) and revealed to the public on Nov. 2, 1931, that the American effort during World War II was never choked off for lack of rubber material.

DuPont's innovation was originally called "DuPrene" and is now more commonly known as neoprene. It was one of the first commercially successful synthetic rubbers ever produced, and today it's used around the world -- on the order of 300,000 tons per year.

Neoprene became especially useful during World War II after a Japanese invasion of Allied rubber-producing territories choked off natural rubber supplies shortly after Pearl Harbor. Strict rubber rationing came into force across the United States, and even President Roosevelt provided rubber for the war effort by volunteering his pet dog's chew toys for melting down and repurposing.

Although neoprene was not usable in tires, it became widely used for connecting parts across a variety of machines and weapons of war. Other synthetic rubbers were soon developed to fill the gaps neoprene couldn't cover. By the end of the war, neoprene and its synthetic cousins had contributed nearly a million tons of material to the construction of all range of tanks, ships, and equipment.

Many modern products make use of neoprene today. Consumers are likely to encounter it in protective coverings for their electronics. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) fans in search of cases and sleeves for their iPads and MacBooks will find no shortage of neoprene-based products to choose from. 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) and other industrially focused manufacturers also offer neoprene-based, high-performance adhesives. The material is also used in a variety of aquatic garb.

DuPont joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) just four years after announcing DuPrene and has remained part of the index ever since. It was a giant even in the 1930s; DuPont was valued at more than $250 million even at the lowest points of the Great Depression. DuPont has continued its chemical innovation to this day, having since introduced a range of products from Teflon to Freon and Kevlar to Lycra, also known as spandex.

A brief history of broadcasting
Several notable broadcasting firsts occurred on the second of November throughout the past century.

Radio station KDKA, broadcasting out of Pittsburgh, claims (controversially) to be the "world's first commercially licensed radio station," having broadcast the results of the presidential election on Nov. 2, 1920. The station is still operational and is now owned by CBS (NYSE: CBS  ) .

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was established on Nov. 2, 1936. This national broadcaster occupies much the same role in Canada that the British Broadcasting Corporation does in the United Kingdom. The BBC had its own broadcasting milestone on Nov. 2, 1936, when it launched its flagship television channel, which became the world's first regularly broadcasting "high-definition" station. In 1936, this meant black and white with a whopping 405 lines of resolution, instead of the 240 lines used by television broadcasts to that point.

Synthetic rubber was just one of many technological innovations pursued in the course of World War II. Today's government research edicts aren't driven by the threat of war, but they're every bit as important to the future of American prosperity. The Fool has identified companies that are likely to earn either Mitt Romney's or Barack Obama's full-throated support after the election is over, and with less than a week to go, there's no better time to educate yourself on the stocks that could skyrocket in 2013 with presidential support. The information is available at no cost in our exclusive free report, so click here to find out more now.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more news and insights.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and 3M. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in 3M. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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