The History of Celluloid
The Big Four and Ill-fated Fifth - 3/8
The Celanese Corporation of America was formed in 1918 by two Swiss brothers, Henri and Cecile Dreyfuss, who had been working for the British government during WWI manufacturing cellulose acetate dope to coat the wings of airplanes. After Hyatt's death in 1920, Celanese gained controlling stock in the Celluloid Corporation, finally acquiring it completely in 1927. The Celluloid Division of Celanese was active in the manufacture of vanity and dresser set articles throughout the latter half of the 1920s and into the 1930s, giving the tradename "Arch Amerith" to the line of pyroxylin plastic articles.
The merger of Celluloid Corporation and Celanese was completed in 1941 and the new title Plastics Division, Celanese Corp. of America was adopted in 1947. After having made celluloid in the Newark plant for over 77 years, the Celanese Corporation ceased production of pyroxylin plastic in 1949 and in 1950 they dropped the celluloid tradename.
Arlington Company, 1895 - 1915
The string of events leading to DuPont's entry into plastics begins with the introduction of the Merchant's Manufacturing Company and a pyroxylin plastic material they called Pasbosene. The company was founded by a group of Newark businessmen in 1881, who sought to break into the infant plastics industry. They had little knowledge of how to make cellulose nitrate however, and their product was commercially unsuccessful.
In 1883 the Merchant's Manufacturing Company merged with the Joseph R. France Co. of Plainfield, New Jersey, and reorganized under the name Cellonite Company. France had been nitrating cellulose since 1878, and although he had little knowledge of the manufacture of plastics, he did know how to make nitrocellulose. In 1886, with an experienced chemist on board, the Cellonite Company relocated to a small factory in Arlington, New Jersey, and proceeded to manufacture a better quality of pyroxylin plastic, which they called Cellonite.
In 1887, the Cellonite facility was destroyed by a devastating explosion and fire, a serious hazard associated with the manufacture of highly flammable cellulose nitrate plastics. The following year however, a new plant was built and the company reorganized for the production of pyroxylin plastic renamed Pyralin. The name of their firm was the Arlington Manufacturing Company.
Business was slow and competition from the Celluloid Company stiff, but an odd twist of events in 1891 served to establish the Arlington company as Celluloid's main competitor. After the Celluloid Company ruthlessly put American Zylonite out of business, the Arlington Manufacturing Company hired a large number of displaced Zylonite employees. Many of these workers had a great deal of experience in the pyroxylin plastics industry that had once flourished at the Adams plant, and as a result the new workers and supervisors were a great asset to the Arlington Manufacturing Company.
In 1893 a separate company was formed for the manufacture of Pyralin collars and cuffs and a factory built adjacent to the plastics plant. As the reputation of Pyralin grew, production increased and in 1895 the two companies merged to become the Arlington Company. By the turn of the twentieth century, Pyralin had become established as Celluloid's chief rival.
Merchant's Manufacturing Company and Pasbosene 1881 - 1883;
Cellonite Company 1883 - 1887; Arlington Manufacturing Company 1888 - 1895; Arlington Company 1895 - 1915; E.I. DuPont de Nemoures 1915 - 1917
Spread The Word
Article SeriesThis article is part 1 of a 2 part series. Other articles in this series are shown below:
The History of Celluloid