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Bakelite Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: National Plastics Center & Museum.
Title: Bakelite Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1924-1956
Quantity: 0.25 linear ft.
Abstract: Collection contains correspondence and printed material related to the Bakelite Corporation.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Bakelite was developed in 1907-1909 by a Belgian, Dr. Leo Baekeland (who also invented Velox photographic paper, bought by Kodak); shortly thereafter Baekeland founded the General Bakelite Company (1910) to produce and distribute his invention. The material's ingredients are phenol and formaldehyde, often with a wood flour filler. Electrically nonconductive and heat-resistant, it has been used in everything from radio and telephone casings and electrical insulators to kitchenware, jewellery, and children's toys. In 1924 Baekeland, then president of the American Chemical Society, appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In 1993 the American Chemical Society named the "Bakelizer," Baekeland's original steam pressure vessel, a National Historical Chemical Landmark as "the world's first completely synthetic plastic."

The Bakelite Corporation was formed in 1922 by a merger of the General Bakelite Company, the Condensite Company, and the Redmanol Chemical Products Company founded by L.V. Redman. The patent on the Bakelite formulas expired in 1927 and numerous companies began manufacturing Bakelite items. Another company, Bakelite Limited, was formed in England in 1926 from three suppliers of phenol formaldehyde materials; in 1939 the company was acquired by the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Bakelite Collection contains correspondence and printed material. Correspondence consists of a letter detailing two of the Bakelite Company's standard testing methods. Printed material includes a 1924 issue of TIME magazine with Leo Baekeland on the cover, a clipping from an issue of Bakelite Review and several issues of two newsletters:Trefoil, published monthly by "the employees of the Bakelite Division, Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation," and The Wyandotte Peace Pipe, published "by and for the personnel of the Halowax Products Division" of Bakelite.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has numerous holdings in the areas of plastics and industrial design. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing. There are also items made of Bakelite in the artifacts holdings.

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Subject Headings


Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944.

Corporate Bodies

Bakelite Company.

Associated Titles

Wyandotte Peace Pipe.


Bakelite -- History.
Plastics industry and trade.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Bakelite Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Transfer from National Plastics Center and Museum, 11/06/2008.

TIME magazine, gift of Dennis Paradise, 2013.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 2009
Revision history: Feb 2009 - converted to EAD (MRC); July 2012 - added material (SDG); 25 Sep 2013 - adds, M13-086 (MRC); 5 Jun 2017 - bio update (MRC)

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Box 1 Miscellaneous 1956
Printed material
Box 1 Booklet, "The Bakelizer" 1993 - 8-page booklet published by the American Chemical Society commemorating the designation of the original Bakelizer as a National Historic Chemical Landmark
Box 1 Booklet, "Information No. "2 March 1912 - 44-page illustrated booklet about Bakelite published by the General Bakelite Company and printed by Rogers & Company
Box 1 Clipping, "Bakelite: The Material of a Thousand Uses' by Julie Robinson Antique Week 13 Jul 1995
Box 1 Clipping, "Fifty Years of Phenolics" Bakelite Review Nov 1960
Box 1 Magazine, Currents 2010
Box 1 Magazine, TIME, Leo Baekeland on the cover 22 Sep 1924
Gift of Dennis Paradise, 2013.
Box 1 Newsletters, Trefoil and Wyandotte Peace Pipe 1944-1945, 1949-1950
Box 1 The Bakelite jewelry book 1988
Box 1 Technical booklets 1942 1944-1945
Includes several booklets on Vinylite: Fabrication of Vinylite plastics by screw extrusion; Vinylite wire and cable compounds: Technical data; Vinylite plastics screw extrusion of wire and cable compounds; Vinylite plastics rigid sheets: Technical data and fabrication; Vinylite plastics: Bonding elastomeric compounds.

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