Daily Archives: February 26, 2010

So where was celluloid invented?

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First Plastic Marker DSC_6413

For years I’ve meant to get a picture of this marker, located next to a defunct Friendly’s restaurant not far from our old Albany neighborhood, where Southern Boulevard meets Delaware Avenue. The shopping plaza and the Friendly’s were brand new then, back in 1990, and I even had some vague memories of the big brick factory building that had been on the site just a couple of years before. home to the Albany Hyatt Billiard Ball Co. The marker proudly proclaims one of the least-known historic facts about Albany – that it was here that the first practical plastic, celluloid, was invented and developed into commercial products.

First Plastic
Celluloid – Invented 1868
by John Wesley Hyatt
First Use – Billiard Balls
Albany Billiard Ball Co.
The Plastics Pioneers Assoc.

While it has the appearance of an official Education Department historic marker, this was most likely a privately placed marker, perhaps installed when there was some controversy over the possible redevelopment of the site in the mid-’80s. Thanks to this marker, I’ve always been proud to know the location of the development of celluloid. Except, of course, that it’s wrong.

While the final version of the Albany Hyatt Billiard Ball Company manufactured at this distant location, in the late 1800s this was farmland, part of the town of Bethlehem and served by the Normansville post office. The closest thing to industry was a paper mill on the Normanskill. And the location of the factory isn’t the only cloudy part of this story.

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