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Bakelite Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 2009

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.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Bakelite Collection contains correspondence, printed material, and technical reports.

Correspondence consists of a letter detailing two of the Bakelite Company's standard testing methods.

Printed material includes advertisements, books, clippings, and several issues of two company employee newsletters: The 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.

Technical reports contains printed reports on specific products such as Vinylite.

Arrangement of the Collection



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.

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.

Subject Headings


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

Corporate Bodies

Bakelite Company.
Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation. -- Bakelite Company.

Associated Titles

The Bakelite jewelry book -- Corinne Davidov and Ginny Redington Dawes.
Wyandotte Peace Pipe.


Bakelite -- History.
Plastics industry and trade.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Technical reports.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Bakelite Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Original collection, transfer from National Plastics Center and Museum, 11/06/2008.

TIME magazine, gift of Dennis Paradise, 2013.

Advertisements, gift of Plastics Pioneers Association, 2020.

Bakelite Laminated and Bakelite Molded booklets, gift of Mary Holtz, 2022.

Table of Contents


Printed material

Technical reports