Chapter 5

Time of War

A new pitch of mass production 1940s

War brings an exponential increase of plastics production for use in all aspects of combat and significantly affects the outcome of the war. The atomic bomb could not have been created without the creation of Teflon. Companies that mass produce plastics become giants of industry, including Monsanto, DuPont and Union Carbide to name a few. In this chapter, the plastic bugle becomes a tongue in cheek metaphor for the power of plastics in weapons technology and the mass production about to be unleashed on the world. 



Dentures, doorknobs, gears, goggles. Juke-boxes, crystal chairs, transparent shoes and ladies rise up from the plastic sea.  Only surrealism’s derangements can capture the limitless horizons, strange juxtapositions, endless products of this new world in the process of becoming.  Tough cellulose plastic door knobs are readily translatable into gun stocks.  Nylon hosiery – a plastic too – can turn into parachutes.  The transparent lady, plexiglass, call her 'a Dream of Venus' she can also serve as the non-shatterable wind-shield on bombing planes.’


War makes a gimcrack industry into a Sober Producer of Prime Materials

invisibly running through the innards of tanks, battle ship, bombers, gas masks, gunstocks  

Du Pont Monsanto, Union Carbide  

A new pitch of mass production  

A bugle… two pounds of copper consumed for every bugle.  

Major Hobson appeals to Elmer Mills to heed the call of his country  

‘No problem’  

Two weeks later, ‘We’ve got your bugle, the only plastic bugle on earth.’  

The solo cornettist of the Army Band bends stiffly at the waist, grimacing… bantam weight, plastic toy  

Reveille. Boots and Saddles  

Heard ½ a mile away, he hurls it at a brick wall…  

4.30 pm Mills and Chicago Musical instrument company were given an order for two hundred thousand plastic bugles.  

Wars are won and lost on the smallest of things  


Airplane Hydraulic fluid fuel kept functional at minus 150 degrees  

Vinyl electric wire coding,  

Teflon separates the fissionable isotope 235 from uranium 238  

When man returns to his plough it will have plastic handles