[Union Carbide] Trademark name for a series of thermosetting synthetic resins. The original Bakelite synthetic resin, composed of phenol formaldehyde, was discovered in 1907 by Dr. Leo Baekeland. It was a hard, thermosetting polymer that was resistant to water, oils, and solvents. The original Bakelite polymer was also a poor conductor of electricity and for the first 10 years of production, the company primarily made electrical insulators. From the 1920s - 40s, the dark-color, phenolic resin was used to make molded articles such as radio cabinets, telephone receivers, costume jewelry, dishes, and other household items. It was also used to laminate paper and fabric and to make imitation amber. Early Bakelite products were made in 5 colors (yellow, butterscotch, brown, green, and red) along with mixtures forming marbleized patterns. In 1927, the Bakelite patent expired and competing companies, such as Catalin, began selling colorful cast phenolic resin products. Soon Bakelite also introduced a colorful line of cast products called Bakelite cast resin. In 1939, the Bakelite Company merged with Union Carbide. During the early 40s, only black products were made because of the war. Since 1975, the term Bakelite has been used for a series of molded polymers and adhesives that may be composed of polyethylene, polypropylene, epoxy, phenolic, polystyrene, phenoxy, polysulfone, ABS, acrylic, or vinyl resins.
Synonyms and Related Terms
Fireproof Celluloid [Damard Lacquer Co.]; Luxene (translucent); baquelita (Esp.); Catalin
° Sharon Blank, "An introduction to plastics and rubbers in collections", Studies in Conservation, 35, 1990, 53-63.
Authority (List of sources checked for information on this subject)
- G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 792
- Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
- Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
- Thomas C. Jester (ed.), Twentieth-Century Building Materials, McGraw-Hill Companies, Washington DC, 1995
- Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
- Sharon Blank, An introduction to plastics and rubbers in collections, Studies in Conservation, 35, 53-63, 1990
- Website address 1 Comment: www.me.umist.ac.uk/historyp/history.htm
- Website address 2 Comment: www.deco-echoes.com/bakelite.html
- Website address 3 Comment: www.nswpmith.com.au/historyofplastics.html
- Website address 4 Comment: www.n=mesothel.com (1975)