December 06, 2001
Maria V. Hernandez
Press Release, 01-58
Patent for First Synthetic Plastic Issued December 7, 1909
Baekeland's Invention was Popular Bakelite
Leo Hendrick Baekeland was living in Yonkers, N.Y., when he received patent #942,699 for the first synthetic plastic, known as Bakelite, an invention that revolutionized the manufacture of everything from buttons to car parts.
Baekeland, a successful innovator, used money from the sale of his first invention to Eastman Kodak, photographic paper, to develop phenolic resin or Bakelite, a non-flammable plastic that was less expensive and more versatile than other plastics of the day. It was first used to make electrical and automobile insulators, but is now best known for beautifully colored novelty and jewelry items, first popular during the Depression era and highly collectible today.
Baekeland was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1978.
This patent, as well as the more than 6 million patents issued since the first in 1790 and the 2.3 million trademarks registered since 1870, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office website at www.uspto.gov.
Last year USPTO issued 182,223 patents and registered 127,794 trademarks.