Bakelite coffin, England, 1938

Made:
1938 in Stalybridge and England
maker:
Ultralite Casket Company Limited

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Coffin made from woodflour filled phenol formaldehyde resin, made in 1938, believed to be largest phenolic moulding,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Coffin without lid, made from woodflour filled phenol formaldehyde resin, designed by James Doleman and made by the Ultralite Casket Co Ltd, Stalybridge, England in 1938. Believed to be largest phenolic moulding, made in UK.

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.

On display

Science Museum: Challenge of Materials Gallery

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Details

Category:
Plastics and Modern Materials
Object Number:
1985-180/1
type:
coffin
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • ceremonial container
status:
Permanent collection

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