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Alexander Parkes and His Plastic Bags

plastic bagsAlexander Parkes grew up under brass. His father made brass locks and he was an apprentice to a brass founder. After he learned about electroplating he took out his first patent when he was twenty-eight, and didn’t stop there.

He patented a process of silver plating, so that when Prince Albert visited his plant, he received a silver plated spiderweb.

He added phosphorus to other metals. He patented the cold cure for vulcanizing rubber.

But it wasn’t until he patented Parkesine, a celluloid that anticipated polyethylene bags and plastic envelopes, that he really made it. Ten years later he set up a company, but it failed in two years. His plastic bags custom made them flammable and weak.

After that his associate Daniel Spill improved his Parkesine into Xylonite. When Spill brought to court an infringement lawsuit against John Wesley Hyatt for developing his own version of celluloid plastic bags, he lost. But the judge declared Parkes the original inventor.

And Parkes died without knowing how important his invention would become to humanity over the 20th and 21st centuries. He died before plastic mailers became the norm. He never saw how plastic could be stronger than brass.


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Posted on: Monday, July 25th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Posted in: poly bags

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