Bakelite Canisters and Bessemer Plates: Vintage Australian Plastic Makers (Aug 2019)

Bakelite Canisters and Bessemer Plates

Bakelite Canisters were in most Australian kitchens in the 1940s and 1950s, and Bessemer Plates were at most BBQs in the 1960s.  So who made these fantastic plastic items?

Vintage Australian Plastic Makers

This article on Vintage Australian Plastic Makers tries to identify all Australian makers of plastic kitchenware from the advent of Bakelite in the 1920s to the 1960s.  Where I have found information on the history of the maker and the extent of their range, I have included this.  I have also included some notes on Prices and Availability and a brief history of Plastic Development.  I would love to here your comments, corrections, or any knowledge you can add.

I have been making regular updates as I discover new makers and items so come back again.

Correcting myself: I had always thought of plastic dinnerware as primarily for use at picnics or BBQs, however I have since learned that until dishwashers and microwaves became popular in homes, quality plastic dinnerware was used on the dinner table (ref 12).  This should not surprise, given how visually appealing most of it is.

Nylex Bessemer Melmac Plate

Nylex Bessemer Melmac Plate – SOLD

Duperite Canisters

Duperite Canisters

EON Bakelite Canisters

EON Bakelite Canisters – SOLD – see details

This is my second article for the website. I became interested in early Australian plastic kitchenware about 2010 and took the opportunity to do some research.  I did not find a lot on the internet about Australian Makers and what I did find was all over the place with quite a few inconsistencies. I have tried to weave it together, but must apologise in advance for any mistakes as I am not an expert and did not purchase any expensive reference books.

The best single source I found was, the Sydney Power House Museum website (again), so if you have read that, you will recognise some of my content. There were many great photos on the internet but I decided to stick with my own.

Thank you to all the people who have sent me information and corrections. Your input has been excellent and proves that I am not alone in my plastics obsession.

See my retro plastic items for sale on eBay.

Makers: Manufacturers & Brand Names

I thought there would be only half a dozen manufacturers with the same number of brands, however it was not so simple and there is clearly more to know than what I have here.  Often the same or very similar moulds were used by different manufacturers and the patented plastics like Bakelite, Duperite and Melmac were not exclusive to one maker.

According to the Plastic Pioneers Newsletter 2013, “In the 1940’s and 1950’s there were ten companies producing Bakelite or more correctly thermoset domestic ware. They were Nally, Eon, Helix, Sellex, Nylex, Iplex, (names with an ‘ex’ at the end were seen as modern) Tilley, Bristilite and Duperite (the ending evoking ‘Bakelite’) ACI also had Garnite.” (ref 1).  There were other Australian companies producing other types of plastic as well.

According to a 1973 ANU thesis on the Australian Plastics Industry 1945-1968, “the processing industry as a whole is characterised by a large number of small firms and a small number of large firms.” “There were approximately 600 factories engaged in processing plastics in 1967/68… and 571 factories… were engaged in plastic moulding…” (ref 17). Of course these factories made more products than the kitchen wares of interest to this article.

With help I have identified 30 kitchen ware makers from 1920 to 1970 … I will call it a ‘draft’ list. I have discussed them in the order that I believe they started manufacturing. I have made a summary list at the end of this article.

Marquis Measuring Cup

Marquis Measuring Cup

Marquis Plate and S&P

Marquis Bakelite Plate and S&P

Marquis Back Stamp

Marquis Back Stamp

Commonwealth Moulding Company Pty Ltd was producing Bakelite products in Arncliffe Sydney from about 1925 to at least 1945. They produced under the name ‘Marquis’ and were pioneers in the Australian plastics industry. “At one time every school ruler and a wide range of kitchenware were produced under the ‘Marquis’ brand…” (ref: 2).  Included in the Bakelite range were canisters, spice canisters and dinnerware. Included in the plastic range were serving/fruit bowls, sweet dishes, dessert spoons, insulated water jugs, insulated serving bowls with lid, rectangular trays, a citrus juicer, mugs, rolling pins, measuring jugs, measuring cups with flip top lids, mixing bowls, children’s feeding bowls, jelly molds, flour sifter, screw top jars, egg cups, drinks trays, lidded sugar bowl, a cruet set, and salt & pepper shakers.

Marquis Measure Jug & Citrus Juicer

Marquis Measure Jug & Citrus Juicer

Marquis Lidded Sugar Bowl

Marquis Lidded Sugar Bowl

Moulded Products Australasia Pty Ltd (MPA) was established by John Derham in 1927 and was the first plastics firm in Victoria. They purchased ‘Beetle’ powder from the British Cyanide Company to make Duperite. A 1950s add suggests they made dinnerware under license from a US Company under the names ‘Duperite Superware’ and ‘Duperite Everware’. They also made products under the names ‘Harlequin Ware’ ‘Duperite Coronation Ware’. They produced a range of canisters, screw top jars, salt box, dinnerware and platters, salt & pepper shakers and useful kitchen items like measuring spoons, scoops and funnels. They also produced lamps, desk organisers and ink well stands. Later (maybe during the 1960s) they produced the ‘Vogue’ range of Melmac items that included jugs, tumblers, cups and saucers, sugar bowls, butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers, dinnerware and BBQ platters. In 1966 the company became part of Nylex Pty Ltd (ref 3) (see more below on Nylex Bessemer).

Vogue Back Stamp

Vogue Back Stamp

Duperite Back Stamp

Duperite Back Stamp

Duperite Canisters

Duperite Canisters and S&P

Duperite Scoop & Vogue Jug

Duperite Scoop & Vogue Jug

Duperite Scoop

Duperite Scoop

Duperite Backstamp

Duperite Back Stamp

EON produced a range of Bakelite canisters from the 1930s through the 1950s. They also produced screw top jars, kitchen gadgets, rolling pins, picnic ware and from the 1950s flip-top storage containers.

EON Cups & Canister

EON Cups & Canister SOLD – see details

Bakelite Canisters EON Pastel

EON Pastel Canisters SOLD – see details

EON Back Stamp

EON Back Stamp

EON Screw Top Jar

EON Screw Top Jar

Eon Canister Large

Eon Canister Large – SOLD

Eon Lid Stamp

Eon Lid Stamp

Eon Flip-Top Canister

Eon Flip-Top Canister – for sale

Eon Rolling Pin

Eon Rolling Pin

Nally Products was born in Sydney in 1923 when Nat Fienberg and Wally Wakeham imported Condensite to make more reliable timers for the T-Model Ford. By the 1930s Nally soon began moulding other items including a range of Bakelite kitchen ware (ref 4). The ‘Royal Nally Ware’ range in mottled Bakelite included a teapot, cups & saucers, coffee mugs, lidded bowls, trays and water cups. The regular range included round (Nally) and squared Bakelite canisters (Nally Ware), bread bins, screw top spice jars, egg cups, tennis plates, cups and saucers, coffee cans and saucers. During the 1960s the plastics range extended to include biscuit barrels, cup & plate sets, and ‘modern’ squared canisters.

Royal Nally Ware

Royal Nally Ware Back Stamp

Nally Bakelite Canisters

Nally Bakelite Canisters – for sale

Nally Back Stamp

Nally Back Stamp

Nally Ware Back Stamp

Nally Ware Back Stamp

Sellex made Bakelite products in Sydney from the 1930s. Their range included planters, dinnerware, children’s tea sets, lidded jugs, measuring cups, Bakelite canisters, spice canisters, sandwich boxes and shakers.

Sellex Canister

Sellex Canister

Sellex Scoop

Sellex Scoop

Sellex Back Stamp

Sellex Back Stamp

Sellex Child's Tea Set Plates

Sellex Child’s Tea Set Plates

Haxby Ware was made in Ausralia in the 1930s. The range included Bakelite canisters, salt pigs, juicers and rolling pins.
Haxby Ware Back Stamp

Haxby Ware Back Stamp

British Plastics Pty Ltd had a factory in Melbourne that opened prior to 1937 and closed in 1978.  They produced a range of Bakelite canisters, breadboards, dinnerware, butter dishes, coronation mugs, money boxes, coat hangers, toast racks, egg cups, scoops and a vegetable drainer. They produced a range of Melmac dinnerware under the name ‘Ornamin Ware’ and a range of storage containers and flip-top canisters under the name ‘Hostess Ware’.

British Plastic Lunch/Picnic Boxes

British Plastics Lunch/Picnic Boxes

British Plastics Canister

British Plastics Canister

British Plastics Plate

British Plastics Plate

British Plastics Back Stamp

British Plastics Back Stamp

British Plastics Canisters

British Plastics Canisters

British Plastics Curved Canisters

British Plastics Curved Canisters – for sale

British Plastics Vegie Drainer

British Plastics Vegie Drainer

Ornamin Ware Oval Plate

Ornamin Ware Oval Plate – SOLD

Ornamin Ware Back Stamp

Ornamin Ware Back Stamp

British Plastics Scoops

British Plastics Scoops

Hostess Ware Label

Hostess Ware Label

Hostess Ware Snack Tray

Hostess Ware Snack Tray

Ornamin Ware Melmac Jug

Ornamin Ware Melmac Jug

Ornamin Ware Plates

Ornamin Ware Plates – SOLD

Ornamin Plates & Bowls

Ornamin Plates & Bowls – SOLD

Ornamin Ware Back Stamp

Ornamin Ware Back Stamp

Iplex Industrial Plastics made Bakelite products in Adelaide from the 1930s. Their range included spice jars with rack, Bakelite canisters, cups, plates, tennis plates, picnic sets and salt boxes.

Iplex Back Stamp

Iplex Back Stamp

Ibis Ware made Bakelite products in Melbourne.  The a covered cheese dish and a salt & pepper shaker pair in a cruet stand.

Ibis S&P Set

Ibis Ware S&P Set

Ibis Ware Back Stamp

Ibis Ware Back Stamp

Helix made Bakelite products during the 1940s. Their range included measuring cups and salt & pepper shakers.

Helix Measuring Cups

Helix Measuring Cups

Helix Back Stamp

Helix Back Stamp

Precision Plastics made products in Sydney (near the State Theatre) during the 1940s. Their range included egg cups (tulip shaped), salt & pepper shakers and children’s tea sets.

Tilley Plastics made Bakelite products in Sydney during the 1940s. Their range included Napkin rings, cake lifter, egg cup sets in a stand, spoons, salad servers, compote, standing lamps, side/wine tables and drinks trays.

Tilley Drinks Tray

Tilley Drinks Tray

Tilley Back Stamp

Tilley Back Stamp

Moldex Co. made Bakelite products in Melbourne. Their range included drinks trays, salad bowls, egg cups, squeeze bottles and a toy fire truck.

Moldex Back Stamp

Moldex Back Stamp

Bartone made Bakelite products in Sydney in the 1940s. Many of their pieces have catalogue numbers and a map of Australia cast on the underside. Not all pieces have a back stamp. They specialised in dinnerware (ref 5) but also produced vegetable keepers (crispers) for the fridge, salt boxes, recipe boxes, cake keepers, biscuit barrels and Bakelite canisters.

Bartone Square Cake Box

Bartone Square Cake Box

Bartone Back Stamp

Bartone Back Stamp

Malbren made Melamine products in Melbourne that are advertised for sale in the 1950s. Their range included mixing bowls, cups, saucers, plates and snack dishes or sundae boats.

Malbren Mixing Bowl

Malbren Mixing Bowl

Malbren Back Stamp

Malbren Back Stamp

Malbren Sweet Dishes

Malbren Sundae Boats

Glensunite Melb (L&I Glenn Pty Ltd Melb) was producing plastic items in the 1950s.  The name Glensunite was trade marked on 1 Jan 1900 and may have been a material name like Bakelite or Duperite.  They produced a Cigarette case, drinking cups, a pull along toy and an Airline Food Tray for Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (NZ) (1940-1965).

Glensunite Melbourne

Glensunite Back Stamp

Glensunite Back Stamp

Glensunite Back Stamp

Glensunite Beakers

Glensunite Beakers

Dalson Products Pty Ltd was founded in 1946 and around 1950 invented the Classic Aussie Peeler.  They produced a range of plastic and metal kitchen utensils under the Dalsonware name and are still in business.  They also produced plastic jelly molds.

 

Dalsonware Kitchen Utensils

Dalsonware Kitchen Utensils

Dalsonware Back Stamp

Dalsonware Back Stamp

Ferolux Products Pty Ltd was producing Bakelite products in Melbourne by the 1950s. They produced the round cake cooler shown (ref 13), which has no back stamp, and most likely the square cake keep and rectangular vegetable coolers also. THey made some ingenious products including a ‘soap sudser’, ‘a whip set’ (for beating and decorating), a ‘gyro mixer plastic juicer’ (cup with juicer and lid) around 1952, a round apple cutter, Mix and match two-sided hinged lunch boxes, a donut maker, a speckled dinner plate and flip top canisters.

Ferolux Cake Keeper

Ferolux Cake Keeper – SOLD

Bakelite Cake & Veg Keepers

Bakelite Cake & Veg Keepers

ACI (Australian Consolidated Industries) Pty Ltd (1939-1982) made Garnite products during the 1950s under the name Garnite Superior Plastics’.  Garnite was ‘unbreakable’ polyethylene. Their range included canisters, lidded bowls, measuring jug, cake box, screw top bottles, squeeze bottles, lidded decanter with tumblers, flower pots with saucers, cigarette boxes, salt & pepper shakers, drinks trays, clothes hangers, eye baths and bowls.  They also produced salt and pepper shakers under the name ‘Winton Plastics‘.

Garnite Salt & Pepper Shakers

Garnite Salt & Pepper Shakers

Garnite Back Stamp

Garnite Back Stamp

Willow Ware P/L was established as Wilson Bros in Melbourne in 1887 as a metal working operation ‘making tinned plate tea and biscuit canisters’ (ref 13). In the late 1950s, they ventured into plastics, and with the introduction of injection moulding and blow-moulded products and in 1965 became Willow Ware Pty Ltd to be more closely associated with the Willow brand. Willow is the country’s largest maker of plastic pegs and also makes plastic storage containers. Vintage items made include plastic lids for metal canisters and measuring cups.

Willow 1 Cup Measure

Willow 1 Cup Measure

Willow Back Stamp

Willow Back Stamp

TAMCO Pty Ltd (Tool and Moulding Co.) was established in 1955 in Preston Victoria and later moved to West Heidelberg (ref 1). They produced Melmac products under the name ‘Hollywood’. Their range included trivets, dinnerware, mixing bowls, cake plates, butter dish, sugar bowls, salt & pepper shakers, cups and saucers, egg cups, mugs and snack dishes or sundae boats.

Hollywood by TAMCO Plate

Hollywood by TAMCO Plate – SOLD

Hollywood Melmac Platter

Hollywood Melmac Platter – SOLD

Hollywood Sugar Bowl

Hollywood Sugar Bowl – SOLD

Hollywood Sundae Boats

Hollywood Sundae Boats- for sale

Hollywood by TAMCO Back Stamp

Hollywood by TAMCO Back Stamp

Hollywood Tamco Melmac Plate

Hollywood Tamco Melmac Plate – for sale

Nylex Bessemer

Nylex Corporation Australia (from 1966) had its origins in the 1930s as Moulded Products Pty Ltd, are well known for Plastic Injection Molding (ref 6). The Nylex trademark was registered in 1941 (ref 14). They have been affiliated with many American and Australian plastics companies. Bessemer Australia have been producing high quality cookware since the 1960s. In the 1970s, Bessemer appears to have had Nylex (trademark registered in 1941) make a range of pieces and patterns for them from Melmac. Melmac is a brand name of melamine powder manufactured and distributed by the American Cyanamid Company, and most likely produced in Australia under American License.

The chief designer at Nylex at the time was Lionel Suttie (ref 7).   Lionel was an Industrial Designer and responsible for designing utility ware from Melmac including ‘Quartic’ salad sets and punch sets, butter dishes, milk jugs and sugar bowls. In the 1970s he also designed for B.X. Plastics.

Nylex Bessemer also produced a large range of household plain and patterned dinnerware including plates, platters, bowls and mugs and tea dispensers.

Bessemer Sectioned Platters

Bessemer Europa Sectioned Platters

Nylex Back Stamp

Nylex Back Stamp

Bessemer Plate

Bessemer Plates x 2 – SOLD – see details

Bessemer Nylex Platter

Bessemer Nylex Platter

Bessemer Wheat Plate

Bessemer Wheat Plate – for sale

Nylex Bessemer Back Stamp

Nylex Bessemer Back Stamp

Nylex Bessemer Saucer

Nylex Bessemer Saucer

Bessemer Platter Bordered

Bessemer Platter Bordered – for sale

Nylex Bessemer Bowls

Nylex Bessemer Bowls – SOLD

Nylex Bessemer Jugs

Nylex Bessemer Jugs

Bessemer Europa Tray

Bessemer Europa Snack Tray-SOLD-see details

Bessemer Serving Bowl

Bessemer Serving Bowl – SOLD

Bessemer Melmac Plate

Bessemer Melmac Plate – SOLD

Bessemer Double Egg Cups

Bessemer Double Egg Cups – SOLD

Bessemer Side Plate

Bessemer Side Plate – SOLD

Bessemer Butter Dish

Bessemer Butter Dish

B.X. Plastics Australia P/L made plastic products in East Brighton, Melbourne from the 1950s. They were part of British Xylonite 1938-1999. Their range included squared ‘Capri’ hard plastic canisters in single and harlequin colours with a variety of lids and label styles. They also made round stacking servers and other kitchen and utlity items. Museums Victoria has a great catalogue of their C1970s range.

In the 1970s Lionel Suttie designed the iconic Capri Casa Ware range of canisters for B. X Plastics.

Green Capri Canisters

Green Capri Canisters Stackable

Capri Back Stamp

Capri Back Stamp

BX Plastics Capri Sugar

BX Plastics Capri Sugar

Capri Canisters

Harlequin Capri Canisters

 

Pierwood Plastics Company, operated in Sydney and started life making toys in the 1930s and 40s. They moved into kitchen ware about 1947 under the name Fethalite.

They produced very popular kitchen ware under the name Gay Plastics and ‘Gay Ware’ from 1950-56. Their range was made from Fethalite with iconic raised lettering and included canisters, spice canisters with rack, cheese and butter dishes, jam, honey and sugar pots, salt & pepper shakers, bread and cake keepers, scone bins, measuring cups, salt cellars and tea dispensers. They also produced mixing bowls and screw top jars.

When Pierwood plastics folded, Nylex bought the patterns and the backstamp and the label changed to ‘Nylex Gayware’ (ref 11).

Gayware Canister

Gayware Canister – no back stamp

Fethalite Back Stamp

Fethalite Back Stamp

Gay Ware Back Stamp

Gay Ware Back Stamp

Prestige Plastics (Aust.) P/L Melbourne produced a citrus juicer and a range of plastic storage and fridge and freezer containers from the 1950s that included bread boxes, lunch boxes and screw top freezer jars.

Prestige Freezer Jars

Prestige Freezer Jars – for sale

Prestige Back Stamp

Prestige Back Stamp

Brian Davis and Company Melbourne became Decor Corporation in 1958. Their first product designed by Brian Davis in the late 1950s was the Habana Beaker Set (ref 15) with 6 cups in a container.  They also produced 72 pack Party/Cocktail Forks, boxed eggcups and spoons sets , and a harlequin beaker sets with plastic rack, before becoming Decor.  Other designers to work for Decor during the 1960s and 1970s include Tony Wolfenden and Richard Carlson.

Brian Davis Back Stamp

Brian Davis Back Stamp

Brian Davis Habana Beakers

Brian Davis Habana Beakers

Associated Plastics P/L Melbourne may have started production in the 1960s.  They produced a range that included dinnerware, salt and pepper duos, jugs, cups and lidded storage cups called ‘Handy Cans’. Under the name ‘Kristaware’ they produced sandwich savers, jugs, scissor style salad servers, utility jars and stemmed sweet bowls.

Associated Plastics Beaker

Associated Plastics Beaker

Associated Plastics Back Stamp

Associated Plastics Back Stamp

Associated Products Handy Cans

Associated Plastics Handy Cans

Kristaware Back Stamp

Kristaware Back Stamp

Assoc Plastics Citrus Juicer

Assoc Plastics Citrus Juicer

Assoc Plastics Dinnerware

Assoc Plastics Dinnerware

Assoc Plastics Handy Cans

Assoc Plastics Handy Cans

Sydenham Plastics Melbourne were making metal and plastic products in the 1960s.  They produced a range under the name ‘frescoware’ that included harlequin stemmed sweet bowls and egg cups, salt & pepper (in boxed sets) and utensils including strainer scoop, potato masher, egg lifter, crepe spatula, soup ladel, meat fork and shishkebab sticks. They also produced  boxed sets of EPNS serving ware and dessert spoons with plastic handles.

frescoware back stamp

frescoware back stamp

Frescoware Utensils

frescoware Utensils

Frescoware Utensils

Frescoware Utensils

Sydenham Frescoware

Sydenham Box Label

Glaser & Co. Melbourne (inc. Newlyne Mfg. Co. Pty. Ltd) made tourist ware and advertising items during the 1960s an 70s.  The range included insulated mugs and cups, round drinks coasters and fish shaped coasters, baby beakers and ashtrays. They also produced the ‘Steditemp’ insulated mug and the ‘Beatles’ (band) beaker in 1964.
Newlyne Back Stamp

Newlyne Back Stamp

J Glaser Mini Beakers

J Glaser Mini Beakers

J Glaser & Co Back Stamp

J Glaser & Co Back Stamp

Tupperware was created in the USA in the 1940s and introduced into Australia in 1961. They started manufacturing in Melbourne in the 1960s and produced a large range of products in pastels.

1960s Pastel Tupperware

1960s Pastel Tupperware  The light blue flip top container (top left) is from EON and the light blue boxes (bottom right) are from Prestige.

See my retro plastic items for sale on eBay.

Prices and Availability

Prices and availability varies widely in this very large product field, depending on condition and desirability, but I will share my observations so far.

  • You can still pick up individual pieces in various states of cleanliness and repair at markets for as little as 50 cents for a cup or $2 for a canister.
  • If you want Bakelite Canisters sets be prepared to pay up to $20 a canister depending on the number of pieces and the overall condition.
  • Some patterned BBQ platters can go for as much as $25 each on eBay.
  • Dinnerware set pieces can be found for $1 a piece at markets and op-shops but desirable colours and patterns in sets can be as much as $5 a piece at op-shops and on eBay.
  • I have been lucky and have bought plastic pieces for $2 each on eBay but generally they are priced higher and the bidding usually goes higher than this.
  • A Bessemer or Hollywood sugar bowl, jug or butter dish will cost from $10 on-line.
  • Your average market seller does not appear to have caught on to the desirability of these items yet, but some op-shops have and are pricing accordingly.

Summary of Manufacturers

  1. Commonwealth Moulding Company Pty Ltd, Sydney NSW, ‘Marquis’
  2. Moulded Products Australasia P/L (MPA), VIC, ‘Harlequin Ware’, ‘Vogue’, ‘Duperite Coronation Ware’
  3. EON
  4. Nally Products, Sydney NSW,’Royal Nally Ware’
  5. Sellex, Sydney NSW
  6. Haxby Ware
  7. British Plastics P/L, Melbourne VIC,’Ornamin Ware’, ‘Hostess Ware’
  8. Iplex Industrial Plastics, Adelaide SA
  9. Ibis Ware, Melbourne VIC
  10. Helix
  11. Precision Plastics, Sydney NSW
  12. Tilley Plastics, Sydney NSW
  13. Moldex Co., Melbourne VIC
  14. Bartone, Sydney NSW
  15. Malbren, Melbourne VIC
  16. Glensunite Melb (L&I Glenn Pty Ltd Melb), Melbourne VIC
  17. Dalson Products P/L
  18. Ferolux Products P/L, Melbourne VIC
  19. ACI P/L (Australian Consolidated Industries), ‘Garnite Superior Plastics’, ‘Winton Plastics’
  20. Willow, Melbourne VIC
  21. TAMCO P/L (Tool and Moulding Co.), Melbourne VIC, ‘Hollywood’
  22. Nylex Bessemer, VIC
  23. B.X. Plastics Australia P/L, Melbourne VIC, ‘Capri’
  24. Pierwood Plastics Company, Sydney NSW, ‘Gay Ware’
  25. Prestige Plastics (Aust.) P/L, Melbourne VIC
  26. Brian Davis Company Melbourne (Decor), Melbourne VIC
  27. Associated Plastics P/L, Melbourne VIC, ‘Kristaware’
  28. Sydenham Products, Melbourne VIC, ‘frescoware’
  29. Glaser & Co. (inc. Newlyne Mfg. Co. Pty. Ltd), Melbourne VIC
  30. Tupperware, Melbourne VIC

Plastic Development

The word plastic comes from the Greek verb plassein, which means “to mold or shape.”

“The first plastic, stuff called casein, was made from cheese. It was discovered by the German alchemist Bartholomaus Schobinger and was used to replace horn in marquetry work.” (ref 9)

In 1869 John Wesley Hyatt, a young inventor in Upstate New York invented Celluloid (based on cotton cellulose) in response to a shortage of ivory. “It could be molded into a shape or pressed paper-thin and then cut or sawed into usable forms. It could be mottled in browns and ambers to emulate tortoiseshell; traced with veining to look like marble; infused with the bright colours of coral, lapis lazuli, or carnelian to resemble those and other semiprecious stones; or blackened to look like ebony or jet. Celluloid made it possible to produce counterfeits so exact that they deceived “even the eye of the expert.” (ref 8)

“As with celluloid, Bakelite was invented to replace a scarce natural substance: shellac, a product of the sticky excretions of the female lac beetle.” In 1907 Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite “by combining formaldehyde with phenol, a waste product of coal, and subjecting the mixture to heat and pressure. Bakelite could be precisely molded and machined into nearly anything, from tubular industrial bushings the size of mustard seeds to full-size coffins.” (ref 10). Bakelite was used for everything from radios to car parts, telephones to combs.

The first wave of popularity for Bakelite came in 1927 when it became available in a wide array of colours. (ref 9) Bakelite is a thermoset plastic that does not respond to heat or cold which is why you’ll still find vintage Bakelite phones, pens, bangles, and even combs that look nearly brand-new.

“The 1920s and ’30s saw an outpouring of new materials from labs around the world” (ref 8)… including non-flammable celluloid, polystyrene, Styrofoam, nylon (artificial silk). Later derivatives include Teflon and Kevlar.

References

  1. Plastic Pioneers Newsletter Edition #129 Autumn 2013 found at http://www.plasticspioneers.com/Documents/Newsletter129.pdf
  2. “’Marquis’ Bakelite four plastic mugs, 1925 – 1935” found at http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=76918
  3. “Plastic articles made by Moulded Products (Australasia) Pty Ltd, Australia, 1930-1936” found at http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=243130
  4. “Collection of Nally Ware” found at http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=237510
  5. “Bartone Picnic Plates” April 17 2014, found at https://reretro.wordpress.com/tag/bartone-bakelite-picnic-plates/
  6. “Nylex and Mentone” found at http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/htm/article/384.htm
  7. “Nylex Bessemer Australia Kitchen Designs” found at http://retrochalet.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/nylex-bessmer-australia-kitchen-designs.html
  8. “A Brief History of Plastic’s Conquest of the World” Scientific American May 29, 2011, found at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-brief-history-of-plastic-world-conquest/
  9. “Retro – A Guide to the Mid-20th Century Design Revival” Chapter 5 – Plastic, Adrian Franklin, 2011, University of New South Wales Press Ltd, Australia.
  10. “Manufacturers’ Monthly Material of the Month part 1:Bakelite” found at http://www.manmonthly.com.au/features/manufacturers-monthly-material-of-the-month-part-1-bakelite/
  11. Thank you to John Reynolds of the Facebook group called ‘Canister Collective’ who corrected and added to  my information on Gay Ware.
  12. http://wwwantiquesattic.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/history-of-melmac-dinnerware-its-care.html
  13. Thank you to Mel Boston from the ‘Australian Canister page’ for telling me that Ferolux Melbourne made my Bakelite Cake Keeper.
  14. http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM01072b.htm for Nylex Corporation Australia
  15. http://ianwongresearch.blogspot.com/2011/06/habanna-decor-australias-first-product.html for Brian Davis
  16. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/business-spectator/why-willow-is-made-to-last/news-story/a407f57cf48a9a879d166f9cfcf3e1fa
  17. https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au › bitstream , “The Australia Plastics Industry: An Economic Analysis of Technical Change”., J.S. Marsden, Dec 1973 Dept of Economics, ANU.

Please have a look at my other articles and the retro homewares in my shop..  SHOP

See my retro plastic items for sale on eBay.

Happy bargain hunting and collecting

Comments

  1. Cheryl

    Thank you to the several people who have provided additional and corrective information for my article. I really appreciate that so many people have read the article and those who take time to send me a message. I have updated the article. cheers Cheryl

  2. Mel

    Fantastic article
    I run a Australian Canister page and we use this for reference. You ask if anyone knew about the round Bakelite canister, is by a company called Ferolux from Melbourne. It originally Had cake cooler in it, with the product name, we have photos if you need them.

    • Cheryl

      Thank you Mel, I shall add this company when I update my article (soon). Please send me the contact for your Australian Canister page so that I can have a look (and reference you too). Cheryl

  3. Graeme

    Hi Cheryl,
    British Plastics also produced plastic coat hangers. I noticed “British Plastics Melbourne” on an old coat hanger still in use and found your excellent article when I looked them up. Now I know they are from 1978 or earlier.
    Cheers,
    Graeme

  4. Phillip

    Hi Cheryl,
    I collect Australian and New Zealand made electrical accessories and am familiar with four listed manufacturers and there associated brands, “Commonwealth Moulding Company” who also made bell presses, knife switches and 2 round pin plugs and sockets. Marques references: Collected peices
    “Australian Moulded Products” who made, lamp holders, lamp holder adaptors, power point double adaptors (probably the first made in Aust/NZ, to suit Australian standard power outlets), plugs, bell presses, bell mouths and switch plates under the trade names, “Secura”, “Duperite”, (“AMC” ?Australian Moulding Corporation?-Suspected, to be confirmed) and “Roanoid”-through acquisition.
    References, Collected pieces,
    The Plastics Revolution, The story of Nylex (1983) Tim Hewat.
    The Argus (Melb) 14/11/1943* and 22/4/1941*
    Victorian Government Gazette page 4133, No 324, 26/11/1941*
    Add in “Australasian Electrical Times” 30/10/1933*
    “Malbren Plastic Company” who was in business between 1949 and 1954 (probably also earlier and later than this.), with a premises in East Malvern, Victoria made white and brown flush switch plates (brown in Bakelite).
    Malben references: Collected pieces.
    The Argus Newspaper (Melb) 5/9/1949*
    The Advertiser Newspaper (Adel) 27/2/1953* and 13/3/1954*
    “ACI Plastics Pty. Ltd” under the trade name “Garnite” also made double adaptors for power points some time around 1950, and under the trade name “Winton Plastics” (C. 1960-1971) also made lamp holder bases and galleries, salt and pepper shakers, bins and chairs.
    Another company worth looking at from Perth, Western Australia is “Lusterite Plastic Products” C. 1949 to early 1980’s this company made pan handles, cups, other domestic ware and electrical fittings (esp. Ceiling Roses), broom backs for a broom manufacturer, water meter window covers and much more.
    Lusterite references:
    The West Australian (Perth) 8/6/1949* and Sunday Times (Perth) 23/8/1953*
    Also is “Tilley” the same business as that of the same name in New Zealand “Tilley Plastics Ltd”, foundation prior to 1956, however dissolved in 1978.
    Phillip

    • Cheryl

      Hello Phillip. It is great to know I am not the only one with a minor plastics obsession. Clearly there was a significant overlap between kitchenware and electrical plastics manufacturers. I usually discover a new company after I have found a new back stamp on a plastic item. I look forward to checking out the references and extra companies you mention to see what else they made. Sorry I can’t answer your Tilley question (yet). Cheers Cheryl

  5. Harmeet

    Hurrah, that’s what I was looking for, what a information! present here at this weblog, thanks admin of this web page.
    Please keep sharing.

  6. Mel

    Hi Cheryl
    I’m sorry I didn’t write back before about the canister group, our groups are face book Based
    The Canister Collective
    Which is the original group and now a second one called the Canister Catalogue.
    The catalogue is a collection of all pictures, copy’s of packaging and artical collected by our members and posted up to share among ourselves as a reference.
    I’ve been looking through your article I love how you keep adding and more, I can identify a few other items you have shared, find me on face book and I can help you fill in your gaps.

    • Cheryl

      Hello Mel.
      I know how busy life can be and keeping up with an on-line presence even more so.
      I will definitely be checking out your groups on Facebook and will be adding a CCs Retro page to Facebook soon too.
      Cheers Cheryl

  7. Monique

    Hello. Such an informative article, that shows how diverse Australian manufacturing was in its hey day. I am trying to find out information on Tiger Ware, made in Australia. I have a number of items that are motley blue and white bakelite. The salt and pepper shakers have a deco look to them. I was wondering if you have any information on the company? Thank in advance. Monique

    • Cheryl

      Hello Monique.
      Thank you for the positive comments. No, I have not heard of Tiger Ware Australia before. I would love to see a photo of your items and a photo of a backstamp.
      It may be a brand name from a factory I do know about.
      Cheers Cheryl

  8. Anni

    Hi Cheryl, thanks for the useful info. Just one little addendum to your information on Bartone Houseware. I have a piece that looks like a small rubbish bin or large cannister and though it has a place for a catalogue number there isn’t one and it also lacks a map of australia. Is it possible this was a prototype or some other reason it lacks the usual characteristics? I have photos if that helps…
    Thanks
    Anni

    • Cheryl

      Hello Anni, and thank you for the info. As you can see from my article, I have very little info on Bartone and no photos of my own to include. Your guess is as good as mine on your item being typical or unusual. If you can send me a photos of your item and its back stamp I would love to include them in my article. Thank you Cheryl

  9. June

    June here, I wished to see if Bakelite, which was around when I was a child would have any more positive qualities than the current ‘plastic’ with its challenges to the environment. It did not give me much hope when Beetle powder was a by-product from the Cyanide company. I found I had inherited a small mug celebrating George the V1 & his wife Elizabeth, when he became King in 1937. Perfect for our grandson (2y.o.) to use. Good article thank you.

    • Cheryl

      Hello June. I think we all want a better future with safe manufacturing processes and products. I like to think that by keeping vintage items in use, we are doing our bit. Cheers Cheryl

  10. Alison

    Hi Cheryl, love the info you have collected. Thought I would add to it by letting you know that Ferolux was my grandfather’s business (in Melbourne) and they made some ingenious products including mix and match two-sided hinged lunch boxes where one could swap the sides with one’s siblings and have half red/half blue (or whatever). Also a donut maker, clear flip top canisters with coloured lids and various other gadhets. However, none of it was bakelite, but rather hard or soft platics.

    • Cheryl

      Hello Alison, fantastic to hear from you. Thank you for the information. I will include it when I next update my article. regards Cheryl

  11. Patricia

    Hi Cheryl, My dad was a fitter and turner and partner in Precision Plastics, Sydney. I have an egg cup
    with the logo on it.
    This would have been late 40’s, I remember going there some times, up an ally near the State Theatre.
    They made all types, things I remember salt and pepper shakers shaped like a tulip. Childrens tea sets .
    The egg cup has=regd.design 25384.Only piece I have.
    We moved from Sydney 1955.

    • Cheryl

      Hello Patricia, great to hear from you. I have not heard of Precision Plastics Sydney before this. I did a quick internet search and cannot find anything else about them. If you can send photos of the egg cup and the logo/backstamp I can search some more and include them in my article. regards Cheryl

  12. Audie

    I have soft plastic cups by VICTORWARE – reg Melb..c 1950’s The only item / article i have found with the words Victorware was a toy boat sold via Ebay a couple years ago. This has me baffled. Do you have any information re the company.

    • Cheryl

      Hello Audie.
      I had not heard of Victorware before. I did an internet search too but could only find the boat you mentioned. Thank you for letting me know about the company. I will add it to my article and watch out for other items from Victorware. I would appreciate a photo of your cups and of the back stamp if you have them. Thank you Cheryl

  13. Kumi

    Hi Cheryl
    I have a set of colourful Vintage Canisters – Flour, Sugar, Rice, Tea & Coffee (5 altogether), which are exactly same as the Gay Ware canisters, but mine do not have any Gay Ware stamps on the bottom. As you have a great knowledge of these vintage items, do you know why mine don’t have any. I bought them at the collectable market about 15 years ago. I would appreciate it if you could help me.

    • Cheryl

      Thank you for the question Kumi but I don’t have an answer for you. The canister in my article has no backstamp either. There is a lot I don’t know about vintage plastic, but I try to put the things I find out into my article. regards Cheryl

  14. Nigel

    Hi Cheryl, many thanks for sharing your great research – including the feedback from all your other commenters! If you’re on Instagram please check out my @plasticityalas where I’m databasing all my plastic cups and saucers. A new one everyday until I run out! Your comments and corrections would be most welcome. Also you might be interested in my exhibition of plastic cameras recently at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (google Form Beyond Function). Nigel

  15. Mel

    As I read your article again I see you have collected a lot more information since I last looked, people keep reposting this on our The Canister collective page and I always recommend this to read. It’s great to see this expanding and growing, I have some more photos and update I can send you, I have since found a cooler insert for the Ferolux cake cooler, where it is stamped with the name and in one other photo you show items you believe to be ferolux I think one might be feathalite, any way I will take the photos and send them to you, I also suggest you go to our little sister face book page called The canister catalogue as a group we have collected lots of photos and advertising of many of the products you have mentioned. And we’ve had a few nice ones appear lately. Anyway Thankyou again for your wonderful article I will hunt up those photos for you when I can.
    Cheers Mel

    • Cheryl

      Thanks Mel, your feedback is always welcome. Life has been a very different sort of busy since we have gone into isolation from Covid-19. I thought I might have had more time to update my website again, but not yet. cheers Cheryl

  16. Phillip Mawditt

    Hi Cheryl,
    I have left a comment in the past.
    At the time I was of the belief that Winton plastics was a part of ACI. I have since read a large part of a biography, by Thomas Toren, Until we meet again, ISBN 9781452526799 (chapter 26, page134 to 142 is of interest.)
    Thomas, worked for Advance Industries ltd. and states that Advance acquired a few companies (circa 1970) including Plastic prossesors Ltd. (Alexandra, NSW) and Winton Plastics (Melb), later Advance was to be split in two, one part going to Hygienic Lily (manufacturers of disposable picnic ware, etc…) and the other part, Advance Stationary to Esselte (office stationary products).
    I have also read ‘The Plastics Revolution’, The Story of Nylex, by Tim Hewat, ISBN 0333338820, (page 26) mentions Saxon Ware, a range of phenolic, plates, cups and saucers that was made by ‘Australian Moulding Corporation, (Melb) circa late 1920’s/early 30’s.
    Regards, Phillip

    • Cheryl

      Hello Phillip,
      Thank you. You are a font of information. I will look up these companies when I next update my article.
      regards Cheryl

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