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Leo H. Baekeland Papers

Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Names:
Bakelite Corporation  Search this
Nepera Chemical Co.  Search this
Extent:
15 Cubic feet (49 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Professional papers
Clippings
Laboratory notes
Personal correspondence
Photographs
Notebooks
Diaries
Date:
1976
1863 - 1968
Summary:
The papers document Leo H. Baekeland, a Belgian born chemist who invented Velox photographic paper (1893) and Bakelite (1907), an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile plastic. The papers include student notebooks; private laboratory notebooks and journals; commercial laboratory notes; diaries; patents; technical papers; biographies; newspaper clippings; maps; graphs; blueprints; account books; batch books; formula books; order books; photographs; and correspondence regarding Baekeland, 1887-1943.
Scope and Contents:
Baekeland documented his life prolifically through diaries, laboratory notebooks, photographs, and correspondence. These constitute the bulk of the collection. The Bakelite company history is also incompletely documented in this collection through Baekeland's correspondence, the commercial laboratory notebooks, and some company ledgers.
Arrangement:
Series 1: Reference Materials, 1863-1868 and undated

Subseries 1.1: Biographical, 1880-1965

Subseries 1.2:Company History, 1910-1961

Subseries 1.3: Related Interests, 1863-1968 and undated

Series 2: Published and Unpublished Writings (by Leo H. Baekeland), 1884-1945

Series 3: Correspondence, 1888-1963 Subseries 3.1: Personal Correspondence, 1916-1943

Subseries 3.2: Charitable Donations, 1916-1938

Subseries 3.3: Family Correspondence, 1888-1963

Subseries 3.4: Clubs and Associations, 1916-1943

Series 4: Diaries, 1907-1943

Series 5: Reading and Lecture Notes, 1878-1886

Series 6, Laboratory Notebooks, 1893-1915

Series 7: Commercial Laboratory Notebooks, 1910-1920

Series 8: Bakelite Company, 1887-1945

Series 9, Patents, 1894-1940

Series 10: Bakelite Corporation Ledgers, 1910-1924; 1935; 1939

Series 11: Photographs, 1889-1950 and undated

Subseries 11.1: Photographs, 1889-1950 and undated

Subseries 11.2: Film Negatives, 1900-1941 and undated

Subseries 11.3: Photoprints, 1894-1941

Subseries 11.4: Stereographs, 1888-1902 and undated

Subseries 11.5: Film and Glass Plate Negatives, 1899-1900 and undated

Series 12: Audio Materials, 1976
Biographical / Historical:
Leo Hendrik Baekeland was an industrial chemist famous for his invention of Bakelite, the first moldable synthetic polymer, and for his invention of Velox photographic paper. Baekeland's career as an inventor and innovator was punctuated by an urge to improve existing technologies and a willingness to experiment both meticulously and daringly. Born in Ghent, Belgium in 1863, Baekeland was a distinguished chemistry student and became a young professor at the University of Ghent. He had a long standing interest in photography and sought to further photographic technology with his expertise in chemistry. In 1887 he obtained his first patent for a dry plate which contained its own developer and could be developed in a tray of water. With the support of a business partner/faculty associate, Jules Guequier, he formed a company named Baekeland et Cie to produce the plate, but the venture failed due to lack of capital.

On August 8, 1889, he married Celine Swarts, daughter of his academic mentor Theodore Swarts, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Ghent. After his wedding he travelled to different countries using a traveling scholarship he had been awarded two years previously. His travels ended in the United States where he was offered a job researching chemical problems associated with manufacturing bromide papers and films with A. and H.T. Anthony and Company, a photographic supply producer. Leo and Celine Baekeland had three children: George, Nina and Jenny (1890-1895).

He left Anthony and Company in 1891 to be a consulting chemist. During that time he invented a photographic print paper using silver chloride which could be developed in artificial light instead of sunlight and thus offered more flexibility and consistency to photographers. In 1893, with financial support from Leonard Jacobi, a scrap metal dealer from San Francisco, he formed the Nepera Chemical Company in Yonkers, New York, to manufacture "gaslight" paper under the trade name Velox. The paper became quite popular and the company expanded its operations after its first three years. Finally, George Eastman bought the company for a reported $750,000 which afforded Baekeland the time to conduct his own research in a laboratory he set up on his estate, "Snug Rock," in Yonkers.

Baekeland worked on problems of electrolysis of salt and the production of synthetic resins. He was hired as a consultant to work with Clinton P. Townsend to perfect Townsend's patented electrolytic cell. Baekeland's work there contributed to the success of the Hooke Electrochemical Company which began in operations in Niagara Falls in 1905.

Simultaneously, in 1902 Baekeland began researching reactions of phenol and formaldehyde, and by 1907 was able to control the reactions and produce a moldable plastic (oxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride) which he named Bakelite. Although the process was not perfected for another couple of years, Baekeland applied for a patent for Bakelite right away. He announced his discovery to the scientific community in 1909, and in 1910 formed the General Bakelite Company. Bakelite was a thermosetting resin that, unlike Celluloid became permanently solid when heated. It was virtually impervious to heat, acids, or caustic substances. It could be molded into a wide variety of shapes and was an excellent electric insulator that came to replace hard rubber and amber for electrical and industrial applications. It was also suitable for a wide variety of consumer products such as billiard balls, jewelry, pot handles, telephones, toasters, electric plugs, and airplane instrument knobs. Two companies challenged Bakelite with significant competition, Condensite Corporation of America and Redmanol Chemical Products Company. Bakelite finally merged with these two companies in 1922 to become the Bakelite Corporation. Union Carbide finally bought the corporation in 1939.

Baekeland sustained his interest in photography by taking numerous photographs throughout his lifetime. He also devoted much of his spare time to professional societies and received various honorary degrees and awards such as the Perkin Medal. He had several hobbies such as boating, wine and beer making, and, exotic plants. He also traveled extensively throughout the world, which is documented in his diaries and photographs.

Baekeland spent his final years mostly in his Coconut Grove, Florida home where he became increasingly eccentric until his mind failed him and he was institutionalized. He died in 1943 at the age of eighty.

Scope and Content: Baekeland documented his life prolifically through diaries, laboratory notebooks, photographs, and correspondence. These constitute the bulk of the collection. The Bakelite company history is also incompletely documented in this collection through Baekeland's correspondence, the commercial laboratory notebooks, and some company ledgers.
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Albany Billiard Ball Company Records (AC0011)

Celluloid Corporation Records (AC0009)

J. Harry DuBois Collection on the History of Plastics (AC0008)

Materials at Other Organizations

The Hagley Museum and Library, Manuscripts and Archives Department in Delaware also several related collections including: the Directors of Industrial Research Records, 1929 -982; the Du Pont Viscoloid Company, Survey of the Plastics Field, 1932; The Society of the Plastics Industry, 1937-1987; the Roy J. Plunkett Collection, 1910-1994 (inventor of Teflon); and the Gordon M. Kline Collection, 1903.
Separated Materials:
The National Museum of American History, Division Medicine and Science has several artifacts associated with Baekeland including the original "Bakalizer" the apparatus in which Bakelite was first made. See accession numbers: 1977.0368; 1979.1179; 1981.0976; 1982.0034; 1983.0524; 1984.0138.
Provenance:
The bulk of the collection was donated to the National Museum of American History's Division of Physical Sciences in November, 1981, by Celine Karraker, Leo H. Baekeland's granddaughter.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Phenolic resins  Search this
Travel -- Photographs  Search this
Chemists -- 1880-1970  Search this
Inventors -- 1880-1970  Search this
Plastics -- 1880-1970  Search this
Chemistry  Search this
Genre/Form:
Professional papers -- 1880-1970
Clippings -- 1880-1970
Laboratory notes
Personal correspondence -- 1880-1970
Photographs -- Black-and-white negatives -- Glass -- 19th-20th century
Notebooks -- 1880-1970
Diaries -- 1880-1970
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 19th-20th century
Photographs -- Black-and-white negatives -- Nitrate -- 19th-20th century
Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0005
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0005
Online Media:

Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 38

Author:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (6.0" x 3.5")
Container:
Box 20, Folder 7
Type:
Archival materials
Diaries
Date:
1924 July 10-1925 February 1
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Family -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Diaries -- 20th century
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 4: Diaries
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref327
1 Page(s) matching your search term, top most relevant are shown: View entire project in transcription center
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Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 50

Author:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (6.0" x 3.5")
Container:
Box 21, Folder 6
Type:
Archival materials
Diaries
Date:
1931 December 17-1932 May 30
1931 December 12 - 1932 May 30
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Family -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Diaries -- 20th century
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 4: Diaries
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref339
2 Page(s) matching your search term, top most relevant are shown: View entire project in transcription center
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 50 digital asset number 1
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 50 digital asset number 2

Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 55

Author:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (6.0" x 3.5")
Container:
Box 21, Folder 9
Type:
Archival materials
Diaries
Date:
1935 January 1- 1935 December 31
1935 June 1- 1935 December 31
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Family -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Diaries -- 20th century
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 4: Diaries
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref344
1 Page(s) matching your search term, top most relevant are shown: View entire project in transcription center
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 55 digital asset number 1

Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 57

Author:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (6.0" x 3.5")
Container:
Box 22, Folder 1
Type:
Archival materials
Diaries
Date:
1936 May 18-1937 March 27
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Family -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Diaries -- 20th century
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 4: Diaries
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref346
1 Page(s) matching your search term, top most relevant are shown: View entire project in transcription center
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 57 digital asset number 1

Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 59

Author:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (6.0" x 3.5")
Container:
Box 22, Folder 2
Type:
Archival materials
Diaries
Date:
1938 September 12-1939 December 31
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Family -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Diaries -- 20th century
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 4: Diaries
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref348
1 Page(s) matching your search term, top most relevant are shown: View entire project in transcription center
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 59 digital asset number 1
Online Media:

Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 60

Author:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (6.0" x 3.5")
Container:
Box 22, Folder 2
Type:
Archival materials
Diaries
Date:
1940 January 1-1941 February 3
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Family -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Diaries -- 20th century
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 4: Diaries
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref349
3 Page(s) matching your search term, top most relevant are shown: View entire project in transcription center
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 60 digital asset number 1
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 60 digital asset number 2
  • View Leo Baekeland Diary Volume 60 digital asset number 3

Nepera Chemical Co., Inc.

Collection Creator::
Smithsonian Institution. International Exchange Service  Search this
Container:
Box 7 of 21
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 502, Smithsonian Institution, International Exchange Service, Records
See more items in:
Records
Records / Series 1: Director's domestic correspondence, arranged alphabetic by organization/person. / Box 7
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru0502-refidd1e22865

Stream and bridge (Laboratoryoratory, Nepera Chemical Co.)

Collection Creator:
Baekeland, L. H. (Leo Hendrik), 1863-1944  Search this
Container:
Box 42, Folder 118
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Leo Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Leo H. Baekeland Papers
Leo H. Baekeland Papers / Series 11: Photographs, Film Negatives, Photoprints, Stereographs and Glass Plate Negatives / 11.5: Film and Glass Plate Negatives
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0005-ref2140

[Trade catalogs from Locomobile Co. of America]

Variant company name:
Bridgeport, CT  Search this
Company Name:
Locomobile Co. of America  Search this
Notes content:
Photograph of "Locomobile Junior Eight Brougham" in need of stabilization ; Automobiles ; advertisement for "Rapid Transit Mobile" , which also includes advertisements for the "Burlington Route" "to California Through Colorado" , the "New York Central" [rail] lines , weight reducing drugs from the Hall Chemical Co. , Kodak cameras , "Velox" [photographic paper?] from Nepera Chemical Co , cameras from the Kozy Camera Co. and the Rochester Optical & Camera Co. , "Referee" shells from the Peters Cartridge Co. , Winchester .30 caliber rifles , Iver Johnson firearms from Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works , Brighton silk garters from the Pioneer Suspender Co. , rifles from the Savage Arms Co. , golf clubs from Hunt Factory , and Marlin "Repeaters" from the Marlin Fire Arms Co. ; "Instruction Book: Locomobile Cars: For the 48-Series Seven" ; touring car , roadster , "torpedo" , limousine , and "landaulet" models ; "Locomobile" specifications ; owner's reference manuals for "Model 8-80" and "Model 8-70" ; 1917 parts list for "Chassis Only : Type R and M" ; "The Locomobile Book : The Car of 1912" ; worm drive trucks ; motor trucks ; "Riker" trucks ; other "Locomobile" models
Includes:
Trade catalog, price lists, manual and photographs
Black and white images
Color images
Physical description:
32 pieces; 6 boxes
Language:
English
Type of material:
Trade catalogs
Trade literature
Place:
New York, New York, United States
Date:
1900s
Topic (Romaine term):
Automobiles and automotive equipment (including trucks and buses)  Search this
Photographic equipment and supplies  Search this
Sporting goods  Search this
Topic:
Automobiles  Search this
Cameras  Search this
Motor vehicles  Search this
Photographic industry  Search this
Sporting goods  Search this
Record ID:
SILNMAHTL_27367
Location:
Trade Literature at the American History Museum Library
Collection:
Smithsonian Libraries Trade Literature Collections
Data source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:SILNMAHTL_27367

[Trade catalogs from Nepera Chemical Co.]

Company Name:
Nepera Chemical Co.  Search this
Notes content:
Booklet: No. 2 of a series titled The Importance of Long-Term Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in the Adult Male ; recommends Mandelamine pharmaceutical
Includes:
Trade catalog
Black and white images
Color images
Physical description:
1 piece; 1 box
Language:
English
Type of material:
Trade catalogs
Trade literature
Place:
Yonkers, New York, United States
Date:
1900s
Topic (Romaine term):
Chemicals and chemical products  Search this
Drugs; pharmaceuticals and patent medicines  Search this
Topic:
Chemicals  Search this
Drugs  Search this
Patent medicines  Search this
Pharmacy  Search this
Record ID:
SILNMAHTL_36995
Collection:
Smithsonian Libraries Trade Literature Collections
Data source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:SILNMAHTL_36995

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