Around 1930, the western plastics processing center emerged around Kierspe, Lüdenscheid and Schalksmühle. The largest company based in Kierspe, Dr. Deisting GmbH, became famous for its pachyderm rotary switches and sockets, which still work in many cellars today. Since 2003, several thousand exhibits have been presented in a changing exhibition in the Bakelite Museum - unique in Germany. On display are products from the early days up to about 1965. From the kitchen appliance to the bicycle handle, from the light switch to the Laterna Magica, from the Volksempfänger to the ashtray and from the hair dryer to the typewriter, one can always discover interesting things from the early days of Duroplast.
Conversely, there is also amazement, e.g. at a telephone with a rotary dial, and that in the age of cell phones! Here, industrial history is conveyed in its purest form and the development of Kierspe into a location for the modern plastics, metal and electrical industries is explained.
A visit is worthwhile!
The Bakelitmuseum in Kierspe is dedicated to the world's first industrially produced plastic. Its inventor was Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, who was born in Ghent, Belgium. After a study trip to the USA in 1889, he settled in Yonkers. First he invented the velox paper, which was needed for photography. He was unexpectedly able to sell this invention to Eastman Kodak for $1 million. With this money, Naekeland, a chemist by training, was able to develop Bakelite, a material consisting of phenol and formaldehyde, between 1905 and 1907, and applied for a patent for it in the same year. The Bakelite brand is still one of the strongest in plastics today and enjoys iconic status worldwide. The thermoset material features good dimensional stability, heat resistance and excellent insulating properties, and has been called the stuff of a thousand things. It replaced shellac and porcelain, revolutionizing everyday culture.
In Germany, Rüttgerswerke acquired a license and, together with Baekeland, founded Bakelite GmbH in 1910 with the industrial production of phenolic resins in Erkner near Berlin. The toxic waste phenol produced at Rüttgerswerke could thus be directly recycled. When the site fell into the Soviet occupation zone after World War II, a new start was made in 1948, initially in Munich, before Bakelite Gesellschaft mbH moved to Letmathe two years later. In the Sauerland, and especially in the region of Kierspe, Lüdenscheid and Schalksmühle, a competence center for the metal and electrical industry had already been established in the 1930s. In Kierspe alone, there were 36 factories with more than 450 plastic presses. The Kierspe manufacturer Carl-Heinz Vollmann collected many interesting Bakelite products and donated them to the Heimatverein Kierspe e.V. This laid the foundation for the Bakelitmuseum, which opened in Kierspe in 2003 - the only one of its kind in Germany.
Whether it's a kitchen appliance, a bicycle handle, an ashtray or a hair dryer: there are always interesting things to discover in the Kierspe Bakelitmuseum.
The Bakelite Museum is one of the attractions at WasserEisenLand - Industrial Heritage Südwestfalen
Special tours on request
Tip: At a Kierspe listening point, not far from the Bakelite Museum, you can learn exciting information about this historic building via QR code. More can be found under the entry "Kiersper Lauschpunkte".
Text source © WasserEisenLand
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