All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic

Sun Nov 3
  • Sun Nov 3

Run Time: 59 min.

This joyous and provocative film tells the story of Belgian-born American chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland, the “father of modern plastics.” In 1907, he made one of the most transformative discoveries of the 20th century: Bakelite, the world’s first wholly synthetic plastic. His discovery ushered in an explosion of new man-made materials that marked the beginnings of our modern industrial age. Hugh Karraker, Baekeland’s great-grandson, reflecting on the chemist’s discovery, remarked that “his invention had a huge impact on our lives, and his peers were the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.”

Drawing from original sources, the film’s script was fashioned from Baekeland’s personal handwritten diaries. His story comes alive through historical re-enactments, rare archival footage, interviews with scientists, historians, and artists, and a highly entertaining original score. Its lively pace and quirky style appeals to anyone interested in the human drama that underlines history, science, business, and design.

While 2019 marks the 110th anniversary year of the Bakelite patent, the influence of Baekeland’s discovery can still be observed in our daily lives. The film captures both the wonder and the curse of Baekeland’s biggest invention and its impact on our lives today.

A Q&A with the filmmakers follows the screening.  A Baekeland/Bakelite display of vintage items and family heirlooms will be available for viewing.

This program is produced in partnership with the Bedford Historical Society and the New Castle Historical Society.