The Plastic That Saved Elephants

Photo Source Nation of Change
IF PHOTOS OF AFRICAN ELEPHANTS CAN STILL BE TAKEN TODAY, BOTH PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ELEPHANTS OWE THIS LARGELY TO THE INVENTION OF CELLULOID.

One of the significant steps in the history of plastics was taken in the United States of America at the end of the 19th century. It was a time when billiards was gaining a lot of popularity. With new billiard halls opening one after the other, thousands of elephants had to be slaughtered to satisfy the growing demand for ivory billiard balls. Animal rights activists were vehemently opposing this cruel practice. Besides, ivory was not the most practical material for producers and it was rather expensive.

John Wesley Hyatt invented a new, strong kind of plastic in his workshop. He, then, tried to make billiard balls with his new invention. However, in his initial experiments, Hyatt realized that the balls he made were not hard enough. With further experiments, he made his invention more durable. On June 15, 1869, Hyatt patented his invention in New York as Celluloid. Celluloid was not only used for manufacturing billiard balls, but also for producing flexible photographic films, guitar picks, and many different products.

This also went down in history as the first-ever use of plastic as an industrial material.

PREVIOUS ISSUES

SHARE