Hyatt Celluloid Billiard Ball

This billiard ball, a gift of the Celanese Corporation, is made of cellulose nitrate, a substance eventually known as "celluloid." John Wesley Hyatt, a printer, was encouraged to develop the new substance when he saw an ad offering $10,000 to the person who invented a usable substitute for ivory in billiard balls. Though he eventually achieved success with his new material, forming the Celluloid Manufacturing Co. in 1871, it seems he never received the $10,000 award.
The ball is mounted on a walnut stand and has a silver label stating, "Made in 1868 of Cellulose Nitrate, Celluloid. The Year John Wesley Hyatt Discovered This First Plastics Resin."
Object Name
billiard ball
Date made
Hyatt, John Wesley
Hyatt, John Wesley
Physical Description
plastic, resin, celluloid (overall material)
wood, walnut (overall material)
overall: 13 cm x 14 cm x 9 cm; 5 1/8 in x 5 1/2 in x 3 9/16 in
base: 75 mm x 34 mm; x 2 15/16 in x 1 5/16 in
billiard ball: 57 mm; x 2 1/4 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Industry & Manufacturing
Sports & Leisure
Inventive Minds
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Celanese Plastic Company
Additional Media

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