Plastics - A Revolution in Housewares at Mamaís Treasures There is no part of the history of housewares that ever got off to such a bad start as plastics. It tripped over itself numerous times in itís rush to the marketplace.
News-Antique.com - Jan 01,2008 - Plastics is defined as any material that by itís nature or in its manufacturing process is at some stage pliable and flowable. In other words, a material that can be given its final shape by molding or pressing. The earliest plastics used in this country appear to have been albuminoid or keratin. Human hair, fingernails, horse and cow hoofs, animal horn and tortoiseshell were the principal raw materials for the first plastics. Horn buttons and womenís combs were the most important of the early plastic products.
The first known plastic molder in the United States was Samuel Peck. He started working with shellac plastics in 1852 and got his first patent in 1854. The history of American plastics began in 1868 when a shortage of ivory prompted a manufacturer of billiard balls
to offer a $10,000 prize for a substitute. A young printer , John Wesley Hyatt, in Albany, New York, developed a formula of cellulose nitrate softened with camphor. He named it ďcelluloidĒ which he registered as a trademark in 1872. The plastics industry was off and
running, although it would be quite a few years until it became the star of the housewares industry that it always knew it deserved to be.
There is no part of the history of housewares that ever got off to such a bad start as plastics. It tripped over itself numerous times in itís rush to the marketplace. In fact, itís surprising the plastics industry flourished considering it was oversold from itís inception. In the 1920s and 1930s plastics were being heralded as the wonder material of the century. The glowing publicity of the day led consumers to assume that plastics could be
used for anything.
During this time, the raw material producers really didnít know what their materials could or couldnít do; or what products for which they would be best suited. Most of the molders knew even less. Itís not surprising the marketplace was flooded with inferior products like sink strainers that curled in hot water and refrigerator storage boxes that cracked in the cold. Plastics had a lot of critics but it was a stubborn little material that refused to die.
There are probably many reasons why the plastics industry continued to grow. One was the confidence of the molders who believed in the product and the promotional support of the raw materials producers. These were young men in new companies and they were
willing to take risks. They believed in the product and they kept working at it until they got it right. These young men had the foresight to see the impact plastics would have on the marketplace. The chief one being less cost to the consumer. If youíd like to know more about the history of plastics, I recommend ďThe Housewares Story,Ē Earl Lifshey, 1973, National Housewares Manufacturers Association.
At Mamaís Treasures we specialize in plastics of the 1940s through the 1980s. Although you might find a piece of celluloid or two. Need a Rogers Teapot