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This is the steam pressure vessel used by Leo H. Baekeland, the chemist and inventor, to produce commercial quantities of the first totally synthetic plastic, Bakelite. It was produced by reacting phenol and formaldehyde under pressure at high temperatures. The product was a thermosetting resin which proved to be an extremely versatile substance, readily moldable and quite strong when combined with fillers such as cellulose.
The Bakelizer was used around 1909, and dubbed "Old Faithful" by its early operators. Made of iron alloys and still in usable condition, it's about 35 inches wide, 40 inches deep, and nearly 72 inches tall.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Reaction Vessel
date made
about 1909
Baekeland, L. H.
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
cast (overall production method/technique)
each detached leg: 45 3/4 in; 116.205 cm
overall: 71 1/2 in x 35 in x 40 in; 181.61 cm x 88.9 cm x 101.6 cm
vessel: 45 in; x 114.3 cm
base: 47 1/2 in; x 120.65 cm
crate: 84 in x 58 in x 59 in; 213.36 cm x 147.32 cm x 149.86 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Union Carbide Corporation, Specialty Chemicals Division
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Industry & Manufacturing
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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How much pressure was used during the heating and extruding process? What kind of speed was it mixed? The extruded mixture had to cool pressurized as well. Im guessing the mixed chemicals were either kept in a compartment within the machine or added at a higher pressure during the process?

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