New PoP Series: Listed District Phenomenal Finds Vol. 1 – Bakelite

Ellen Richardson, a graphic designer and Pleasant Plains resident, recently took her Craigslist hunting skills to the next level with the launch of her blog, Listed District. Listed District offers daily DC Craigslist findings of everything from Mid-Century and Industrial furniture, to bikes and the utterly strange. Growing up in north Alabama, Ellen got plenty of flea market and antique mall scouring practice – she’s drawn to the interesting histories of the unique (and strange) so, don’t expect her to post too many IKEA leftovers. Every week Ellen is going to share a roundup of some Phenomenal Finds with PoPville.

Listed District Roundup – Bakelite

This week, Craigslsit has a plethora of interesting vintage items made of Bakelite, in case you’ve not heard of it, was developed in 1907 by Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland. It was one of the first synthetic plastics and, once it caught on, was used to make tons of industrial, household, and recreational items – everything from cameras, jewelry, and telephones, to coffins and even machine guns. Bakelite was groundbreaking from an industrial application standpoint, and is actually still used today in several specialized industries. But the best stuff, the stuff collectors drool over, are the everyday Bakelite items that are today made from materials that are less labor intensive to produce.

And like any good success story, Bakelite has plenty of scandal and intrigue associated with it. Leo Baekeland eventually descended into epic eccentricity and his heirs didn’t fair too much better. The movie Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore (based upon the book of the same name by Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson), dramatizes the dysfunctional life and brutal murder of socialite and Bakelite heiress Barbara Daly Baekeland by her son Antony. Antony was institutionalized and went on to also attempt to murder his Grandmother before dying mysteriously at Rikers Island…yep.

All of these items are super cool on their own – the Bakelite factor is just the icing on the cake. **Some of the radios I found are fetching huge prices on eBay!

All the listings after the jump.

$15 – “Dresser trays Bakelite and Stuff”

$49 – “Vintage Zenith Bakelite Clock Radio”

$50 – “Antique Telephone”

$30 – “Baby Brownie Camera, circa 1930s, with original box and instructions”

$115 – “Vintage Fada Deco Style Radio”

$35 – “Vintage 1950s Photo Printing Kit”

$150 – “1920 Hammond ‘Gregory’ art deco clock”

$120 – “Emerson Vintage ‘woodie’ Radio”

8 Comment

  • Emmaleigh504

    I want to be buried in a Bakelite coffin!

  • This is like American Pickers or Storage Wars PoP style.

  • If my house actually had landline telephone service I would so buy that rotary phone. Sweet.

    • I just found a totally cool retro-style Bluetooth phone handset online (Google it) that should work with my mobile phone.

  • Beware, beware the collector’s urge!

  • Those bakelite radios, like most old radios, are very cool– but also potentially dangerous. They are not generally plug and play. An old radio should be plugged into a variac and slowly brought up to full power under careful supervision. If anything starts smoking, shut it down.

    Many of these need new capacitors, and recapping can be fun if you can do some simple soldering. They also, however, tend to hold a lot of toxic waste. Selenium rectifiers, asbestos pads over vacuum tubes, and lead solder are the most common dangers. Not to be a wet blanket here, I’m just saying, they look cool but require a bit of research and care if you expect to use them.

    • On that note, does anyone know of a reputable electronics repair shop around town that has experience working on old radios? I Have a couple that I’d like to have restored and/or updated with higher-quality speakers (with maybe an aux-in jack added for the iPod).

    • Bakelite sounds even better when dangerous! What a cool murder technique would this be? Give someone an old bakelite radio. . .

Comments are closed.