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Bakelite coffin, England, 1938

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This unusual coffin is believed to be the largest phenolic moulding made in the UK. It was designed by James Doleman and made by Ultralite Casket Co Limited. The coffin was manufactured from imitation walnut phenolic resin with a wood flour filler devised by the Bakelite Company Ltd of London. The coffin did not go into large scale production, partly because of the inventor’s death in 1944 during the Second World War. This example was recovered from the Tyseley factory of Bakelite UK, near Birmingham, in 1985. The first synthetic thermosetting plastic was phenol formaldehyde. It was patented in 1909 by Belgian-born chemist Leo Baekeland (1863-1944) who had emigrated to the US in 1889. The substance forms a useful mouldable plastic when combined with a wood flour filler. It is known by its trade name ’Bakelite’, after its inventor.

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Glossary: coffin

Box or chest for a corpse to be buried in.

Glossary: plastics

No description.