Did you know that Leo Baekeland announced the creation of “Bakelite” in 1909? Plastics are made from polymers, or large molecules that are made from smaller identical parts (like a long chain that is made from Legos of the same size). Earlier plastics were made using existing natural polymers, such as cellulose from plants. Bakelite was the first synthetic or ‘man-made’ plastic; the polymers that make Bakelite were created in laboratories and then produced in factories. Bakelite was used to make electrical insulators, knobs, telephones, radios, toys, kitchenware, jewelry, and more.
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Bakelite is also known as polyoxybenzylmethyleneglycolanhydride.
Because Bakelite was nonconductive and heat resistant, it was a perfect material to be used in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings, bases for light bulbs, automotive distributor caps, and more.
Bakelite was the first of the new materials that started the “Age of Plastic”.
Telephones and radios became less costly to make when parts made from Bakelite became available. This in turn made owning a telephone or radio more accessible for more people.
Some Bakelite items such as jewelry, radios, and telephones, are collectibles now.
Bakelite was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark on November 9, 1993.