Thanks to Jacques Dujardin for help with this information. BAKELITE [polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride - poly oxy benzyl methyl englycol anhydride] the world's first commercial thermoset plastic, was invented by Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian citizen, who had already been living and working in New York, in the United States, for several years.
Baekeland's image [below, right] is the property of the Union Carbide Company.
Without wishing to denigrate his achievement in any way, there was certainly more than a small degree of luck associated with Baekeland's patent application in that he beat his rival by just 24 hours!!! Now you know why patent applications are date and time stamped on receipt!
Doctor Leo Hendrik Baekeland, inventor of BAKELITE
In one of those interesting twists of fate, the man he beat, Sir James Swinburne, ultimately became chairman of BAKELITE Limited, the British company which supplied so much of the U.K.'s early plastics market.
Dr Leo Hendrik Baekeland was born in Ghent, Belgium on November 14th, 1863, the son of a cobbler and a housemaid, and died in Beacon, New York in 1944.
His BAKELITE patent application was registered in 1907 and finally granted in 1909.
Baekeland was already a rich man, long before inventing BAKELITE, having previously invented Velox, an improved photographic paper, and sold the rights to Eastman Kodak.
BAKELITE is often used as a generic name for Phenol Formaldehyde…
…however, it was the later development, Urea Formaldehyde, which was mainly used in the manufacture of the BAYKO sets, facilitating the move to 'bright' colours c.1937.
BAKELITE is a thermoset plastic which means that it is manufactured, directly in the mould, by applying substantial pressure to a measured quantity of ingredients. The parts are very hot when ejected from the mould, unlike their Thermoplastic counterparts [like the POLYSTYRENE used later on for BAYKO] where premixed plastic is injected into the mould which then has to be cooled before ejection.
Diagram of a Bakelite molecule
The diagram [above] is a representation of a BAKELITE molecule. To my ignorant little brain, perhaps the key detail to observe is the half dozen dotted lines which provide [represent] links to adjacent molecules, creating the extremely intricate network of such molecular links from which BAKELITE gains both its chemical stability and its physical strength.
BAKELITE wouldn't burn or melt and was unaffected by any of the usual acids or solvents used by the industries of the day…
Front cover of the original 20s series manual
…and, when moulded, BAKELITE maintained its shape!
However, in these environmentally conscious days, this chemical stability actually poses a significant problem, as thermoset plastics are definitely not the recyclers' friend!
The early version of the instruction manual printed for the 20s series BAYKO sets [left] proudly proclaims that BAYKO is “moulded in BAKELITE” though later versions, probably produced circa 1940, have lost this…
…does this mean that Plimpton had, either for reasons of availability or simply price, severed their link with the BAKELITE Company?
Before that, the links were clearly healthy and the BAKELITE Company actually used BAYKO models in their advertising to the U.K. toy trade in both the 'British Plastics and Moulded Product Trader' and 'Toy Trader'
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Latest update - August 11, 2022
The BAYKO name and Logo are the Registered Trade Mark of Transport of Delight.