Plastics are everywhere today, and without them most of our modern technology would not exist. Yet the development of the first plastics was driven by very specific, even mundane needs of the time. As a new middle class emerged with disposable income for leisurely pursuits and luxury items, demand for ivory increased. This fueled the search for an artificial substitute - celluloid.
Casein (Galalith) was developed during the search for a better blackboard material. Leo Baekeland's interest in photographic materials led to the development of Bakelite. The enormous potential of these early compounds was obvious, and after only a few years they were found everywhere. Buttons, vanity items, knitting needles, utensil handles, telephones, radios, and automobile parts all were made from plastic. And now the middle class could enjoy what only the wealthy could before.