Press Release

Classic Plastics 1870s–1970s

CONTACT:  Charles Schuler   
Associate Deputy Airport Director
Communications & Marketing
San Francisco International Airport  
650-821- 5031       

Classic Plastics 1870s–1970s
New exhibition explores a century of plastics and their impact on everyday life

SAN FRANCISCO -- Imagine the excitement generated by the first man-made plastics. These moldable materials served as substitutes for dwindling supplies of natural plastics and precious materials such as tortoiseshell, horn, shellac, ivory, and even silk. Early plastics enabled manufacturers to introduce a host of affordable new products and allowed for tremendous technological advances. American John Wesley Hyatt patented celluloid, a semi-synthetic plastic, in 1870 after trying to find a replacement for ivory billiard balls.
Nearly forty years later, in an attempt to make an alternative electrical insulator to shellac, which derives from lac bug secretions, Belgian-born Leo Baekeland created the first entirely synthetic plastic, Bakelite, in 1907. Scientists continued to invent new types of plastics during World War II, while manufacturers and designers constantly found new uses for it. Early celluloid vanity sets, eyeglasses, jewelry, radios, vinyl records, cameras, handbags, and mid-century furnishings are some of the many important everyday items molded in plastic, which are displayed in the exhibition.
Selected images from the exhibition are available for download at:
Classic Plastics 1870s–1970s is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, San Francisco International Airport. The exhibition is on view to all Airport visitors from June 29, 2013 to January 5, 2014. There is no charge to view the exhibition..

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