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John Morgan Collection of Casein Artifacts

An inventory of his collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: RMH
Date: 02 Dec 2021

Biographical History

Casein plastics, also known as milk plastics, are plastics prepared from casein, a natural phosphorus-containing protein found in milk. Adolph Spitteler and associate W. Krische of Germany invented casein plastics in 1897 when they treated casein with formaldehyde. Casein plastics held onto dyes easily and thus were colorful. They were commonly utilized in making buttons, necklaces, buckles, fountain pens, and knitting needles. Casein plastic items were popular in the early twentieth century, and were sought after based on their fashionable appearance. The process of making casein plastics is slow, and with the introduction of newer plastics post-World War II, the production of the material slowed considerably after 1945. Today, limited quantities of casein plastics are produced in countries with heavy dairy interests. John Morgan, a plastics historian and researcher, collected casein plastics that were popular in the early 20th century.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John Morgan Collection of Casein Artifacts contain a variety of casein objects, including knitting needles, buttons, a fountain pen, a comb, and toys like dominos and a whistle. While exact dates are unknown, objects were most likely made in the early-to-mid 20th century; the manufacturing of casein plastics slowed considerably post-World War II.

Arrangement of the Collection

Items are arranged alphabetically by object.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advance 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.

Subject Headings


Morgan, John.


Plastic jewelry.
Plastics industry and trade.

Genres and Forms

Artifacts (object genre)
Casein plastic.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John Morgan Collection of Casein Plastics,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Helen Morgan, 2021.

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