News and thoughts from
The L.H. Baekeland Project

  • April 22nd is Earth Day
  • Baekeland Award Symposium & 2021 Award
  • CSPAN 2 Airs Program on Bakelite
  • ATB Launches on Amazon
  • The Story of Bakelite Audio Version on YouTube
  • Ratings Game
  • Bakelite Quiz 
  • Correspondence and New Friends
  • On Our Radar
Recognizing Earth Day has become even more urgent in 2022 given the worldwide upheavals of climate change and the pandemic, including widespread reverberations from the invasion of Ukraine. In most of our Northern Hemisphere, springtime inspires a fresh start and new growth out of the inertia of winter.

In the spring of 1922, even Leo H. Baekeland was looking forward to brighter days. His wearying patent infringement cases with rivals Condensite and Redmanol were concluding, and he needed to recharge. 
In his diary entries of March 3-4, Leo writes that he is “packing valises with idea getting away to Florida. Need very much change of surroundings and occupations.” Indeed, he set out on the three-day train journey to Miami from his home in Yonkers, N.Y., and upon arrival he went shopping for a boat and had lunch with his good friend, world famous botanist David Fairchild.  
Leo's Ion
Leo with David Fairchild
We all need the change that spring promises, but we need to take action to make it happen. We at The L. H. Baekeland Project hope you and yours are safe and sound. The challenges of climate change, the pandemic and the Ukraine invasion inspire us to make the best of 2022.

The American Chemical Society North Jersey Section will be holding its Baekeland Award Symposium at Fairleigh Dickenson University on Thursday, May 12, 2022.
The event will feature the presentation of the 2021 Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award to Professor Prashant K. Jain of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Professor Jain is being recognized for his contributions to advancing the understanding of light-matter interactions, chemical transformation in nature and technology, and the inner workings of metal catalysts and photo catalysts. The prestigious Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award is presented biennially to an exceptional US-based younger chemist in recognition of accomplishments in pure or applied chemistry as characterized by the initiative, creativeness, leadership, and perseverance of the individual and indicated by published or unpublished evidence.
All are welcome to attend this prestigious event, but due to limited seating - register online by May 1st.

Go to for registration or click flyer for further information.
In January, C-SPAN2 broadcast the Beyond Bakelite: History of Bakelite and the Legacy of Plastic, a one-hour roundtable discussion that was originally hosted and webcast by the Mark Twain House & Museum in November. In addition, we are delighted to announce that because the program is about Leo H. Baekeland’s 1907 creation of Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic and its impact on the world, C-SPAN permanently added it to its informative series, American History TV. The program is available on C-SPAN's website.
Featured in the program is Belgian historian, Joris Mercelis to discuss his book. Joris is John’s Hopkins University assistant professor of the history of technology. Also appearing is Hugh Karraker, great grandson of Leo H. Baekeland and executive producer of the film, All Things Bakelite, along with Bud Mikhitarian, filmmaker, author, and part of the ATB Team who helped with content development of the film. The discussion was moderated by Texas University Professor of American Studies, Jeffrey Meikle, author of American Plastics: A Cultural History. Jeffrey plays a major role in our film.
Amazon reopened its doors to acquire works of nonfiction for select territories. Marc Huberman, our media manager, worked with our aggregator Bitmax to facilitate the launch of All Things Bakelite on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., UK and Germany.
We will keep you posted as other countries/territories are added. We're also exploring options to sell our two-disc DVD box set on Amazon Prime. We’re honored to add this powerful platform to the outreach of our film, to tell the story of Baekeland and inspire continuing awareness of plastics in today’s world. Download and watch ATB today on AMAZON.
The Story of Bakelite Audio Version
Now Available on The L. H. Baekeland
YouTube Channel
By the 1920’s, inventor Leo Baekeland’s Bakelite was being used around the world in all manner of industrial and consumer products. As part of Baekeland’s General Bakelite Company publicity campaign, author John Kimberly Mumford (1863—1926) was commissioned to write, “The Story of Bakelite” published by Robert L. Stillson Co. Color Printers, New York City in 1924. It remains today a fascinating look into the creative marketing of Bakelite and a window into early 20th century industrial America. 

ATB director, John Maher, selected segments of the book to make this 27 minute audio version read by actor John Edward McDonough. 

John Maher also made a six minute video of
"The Story of Bakelite" that can be seen on the channel.

The latest report from The L.H. Baekeland Project YouTube channel shows continued engagement. In the recent month we gained 10 new subscribers and had 753 total views with 1,718 minutes watched! This puts us on pace to top last year’s total minutes watched of 20,000. We are grateful for our followers and want to remind everyone that we post additional content related to Bakelite and about people who contributed to our film. Take a look, enjoy and hit the “like” button. Please subscribe (no cost)—it serves to educate, inform and hopefully inspire!
Last summer, we launched All Things Bakelite on streaming platforms in over 100 countries and territories, making it available on iTunes, AppleTV+, Google Play, YouTube, and VUDU Domestic. In certain countries it cannot be marketed without an official rating, and so throughout this past winter we submitted the film to government review boards for screenings and evaluation. 

We are officially certified in Australia and New Zealand where both of those countries gave us a “G” for “General Audiences” rating. It's another important step in reaching more viewers. We also received our ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number) allowing ATB to soon populate in Switzerland. We’re awaiting the final document clearance with assigned rating. The official rating for the UK is moving forward with the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). We’re now available in the UK as an unrated film. We believe a formal rating better suits our vision. Special thanks to Bud Mikhitarian, for navigating through all this.

Joerg Josef Zimmerman of Breitenbach, Switzerland is the latest winner of The L.H. Baekeland Project’s “Bakelite Quiz”, a (new) regular feature of the newsletter. The quiz asks readers to identify a picture of an obscure object made of Bakelite and the winner, selected at random from all correct entries, receives a vintage Bakelite item and a DVD box set containing the film and bonus content. Zimmerman's winning guess of an electrical junction box came well-informed. He owns a Bakelite Museum near Basel, Switzerland displaying 10,000 Bakelite items. In his thorough search, he went to the website of photographer and collector Karel Julien Cole of Ghent, Belgium, who had given Hugh Karraker the object. There, Zimmerman found a description with photos to substantiate his claim

Good sleuthing and congratulations, Mr. Zimmerman! Take a virtual through his Bakelite Museum Arles.

Can you guess what it is?

HINT: It is a kitchen utensil that is not for sharpening knives!
We are thankful to Sherry Karraker for providing this item from her collection.

EMAIL your answer to: The winner, chosen at random, from all correct answers will receive a vintage Bakelite item and a DVD box set of the film which includes bonus content. We will notify the winner by email and reveal the name of the mystery object and its use in our next newsletter.

Please follow, like and share our website link on your socials, adding #bakelitequiz. Bonus prizes will be offered to three additional winners chosen at random who email us a screen shot of their social media post. 
Thank you for playing and good luck!

We’re always happy to hear from friends and meet new ones through our social media platforms, emails and the occasional old-fashioned letter. A few that came to us over the cold winter warmed us with good cheer and fascinating information.
Bill Schmeelk, owner of Wellington Enterprises in Hillsdale, NJ, and a model railroad enthusiast, writes:
"...My interest in Bakelite stems from being a Lionel Train collector. Lionel began using Bakelite in the mid to late 30s. For switch track covers it replaced die-cast metal which had a tendency to warp. ...The Bakelite was of course far superior. They also used Bakelite for several accessories - station platform, coal loader, log loader. Interestingly the coal loader also used ground up Bakelite for the simulated coal. They continued to use Bakelite for control boxes, switch tracks and for most of their transformer cases. When Lionel was sold to General Mills in 1970, all of the Bakelite molding ended..." He adds: "I was surprised to see that Baekeland invented the photographic paper and sold it to Kodak".
The train cars shown here are on loan from Hugh's cousin, Laurie Sigfridson's husband, Ken.
Connecting with us on LinkedIn, Jill Mesonas, Chemical Engineer, from Edison, New Jersey, wrote:
"I’m a Chemical Engineer and think it’s absolutely incredible that your great grandfather invented plastic! The world has been changed in so many ways by his invention! You must be so proud to be related to someone who truly changed the world!!! I look forward to seeing the film! Thank you for creating it!... I’m sure there are so many who don’t know the story. Thank you for sharing it with all of us!"
In February, Hugh attended a Zoom meeting of the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the Climate Reality Project. The Project, founded by Al Gore (“An Inconvenient Truth”), seeks to empower people all over the world to fight for climate solutions and build a safe, sustainable future. Among other initiatives, the local Connecticut chapter is engaged with the Project’s 100% Committed Campaign to work with universities, cities, mountain communities, and businesses worldwide to support their transition to 100-percent renewable electricity by 2030 or sooner. For more information, visit The Climate Reality Project and find a chapter near you.

Dr. John Warner, a founder of "green chemistry"
Our film has opened us up to all sorts of dialogue on the responsible use of the earth's resources. On LinkedIn, we came across Dr. John Warner, Senior VP, Zymergen and Distinguished Research Fellow. John is best known as one of the founders of the field of "green chemistry" and a Perkin Medal Award winner (as was Leo Baekeland!). Green chemistry aims to design and produce cost-competitive chemical products and processes that are less hazardous to human health and the environment. 
Warner states:
"Imagine if all consumers, all retailers and all manufacturers insisted on buying and selling only non-toxic truly sustainable materials! ...It is a global imperative for the chemical industry to create materials that are higher-performing, economical and healthier for humans and the planet. It has been demonstrated that materials and products CAN be designed with negligible impact on human health and the environment while still being economically competitive and successful in the marketplace. ...Since helping to introduce the concept of Green Chemistry over 20 years ago, some of the biggest companies on the planet are now using the principles to make safer, lower toxicity products." 
Dr. Warner's Green Chemistry Commitment
Dr. Warner and co-founder, Dr. Amy Cannon, started a non-profit,, dedicated to providing educators with the tools, training and support to make green chemistry an integral part of chemistry education and asks university chemistry departments to commit to adding Green Chemistry to the required curricula.
Here is an interview (watch it on YouTube) with a former president of Brazil’s Plastic Association, in which Dr. Warner describes the history and background of green chemistry and discusses the real opportunities for the next generation of materials designers.
Given Leo H. Baekeland’s passion for research chemistry and his belief in its practical benefits to society, there is every reason to believe he might well have become one of the innovative leaders of green chemistry. Later in life, his writings revealed his hopes for biochemistry. Knowing Leo’s dreams and discovering John’s advocacy, we are inspired to continue to disseminate the story of Bakelite.
For more updates on the activities and interests of The L.H. Baekeland Project, including the film All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic, please connect with us: