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Bakelite Electrical Plug

  • Bakelite, metal
  • On display in Making Modernity
  • Purchased for Collection
  • 2008.051.004


Bakelite is a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin created by mixing carbolic acid and formaldehyde under immense pressure. Bakelite was invented in 1907 by Belgian chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland as a replacement for shellac and is considered to be one the first plastics made from mostly synthetic products. Bakelite gained immense popularity after its invention due to its heat-resistant and nonconductive properties and its ability to be dyed any color of the rainbow. Bakelite was used for jewelry, kitchenware, radios, telephones, tobacco products, and toys, especially billiard balls. Although it was eventually replaced by other fully synthetic plastics that were less expensive to produce, Bakelite has experienced a resurgence in popularity, mostly with regard to jewelry and household items.

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