This piece originally appeared on Needsupply.com.
Polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride — better known as bakelite, was among the first synthetic plastics. Heavy, hardy, lustrous and rather versatile, it had become omnipresent within a few decades of its 1907 patent. Telecom utilities issued standard bakelite phones by the hundreds of thousands, it was liberally used in electronics and machinery components and allowed for unprecedented new shapes for everything from radios to toys to gambling dice. Your gran even likely decked herself out in fashionable bakelite accessories from Marshall Fields or Gimbels.