Chapter 3

Material of a thousand uses

The Bakelite Dream 1909

Leo Baekeland patents the first synthetic plastic ‘Bakelite’ in 1909.  It is heralded as far surpassing every material found in the natural world.  Bakelite is an amazing insulator, revolutionising the electrical industry.  Nicknamed ‘the material of a thousand uses’, it represents a future of unlimited horizons and the commercial prospects of mass production. The often mythic language in the libretto is drawn from one of the earliest marketing tracts printed to educate and impress the general public.



It takes fifteen thousand lac beetles six months to make enough amber resin for only one pound of Shellac.  So let us welcome Leo Baekeland, an alchemist of industry who, in the nick of time, presents humanity with a better material than any which Nature has provided.  The Liberty Motor, the Wireless Telegraph, the Radio Phone have Bakelite in every chapter!  Bakelite… a solidity which mocks at the disintegrating forces of heat and cold, time and tide, acid and solvent. Yes, Bakelite, it will last you a life time, the very stuff of which the world is made begins to change. Bakelite till kingdom come

Bbbbbbbb Bakelite  

Prepared in the morning of the world 

Lingered till the day of crying need  

In the silent laboratory of the earth  

Bbbbbb Bakelite  

Heat, heat, and yet more heat, frozen in heat  

Polymerisation… it was the heat that did it,  

Bakelite, emerging from the mould  

Shining, Shining  

Material of a thousand uses  

Prepared in the nick of time  

Bakelite till Kingdom come