Leo in 1923... Remembering Hugh Karraker... Marc takes the Helm... Social Media Grows...

TV Projects... Hall of Fame Nomination for Hugh

New Fairfield, CT (October 25, 2023)—Autumn. It's a time of change, reflection, and beautiful new things to contemplate, in addition to the colorful leaves here in the Northeast U.S. In this edition of the LHB Bulletin, we have exciting updates and important remembrances to share.

Leo H. Baekeland Diary 100 Years Ago

Looking back into Leo’s remarkable diaries, we find an intriguing, even relevant entry he made on October 3, 1923.

Oct 3 At lunch met Townsend and Dr. Hull and managing advertising manager of Union Carbide to consult about educational campaign about bakelite for use in Radio. Hull makes very good impression. Took them all for lunch at University Club

This little detail is a glimpse into the business mind of Leo H. Baekeland, the visionary chemist behind Bakelite. Even though Baekeland’s first love was for the chemical laboratory where his scientific creativity thrived, it was his business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit that was a big part of what shaped the many uses of Bakelite, and the history of plastics.

The first commercial radio station started broadcasting just three years earlier, and here is Baekeland considering ways to exploit this new mass medium to promote Bakelite. And why not? Home units of battery-powered crystal sets were fast becoming the must-have appliance in households across America. And, in significant measure, those radios were made of Bakelite.

Leo’s diaries are full of examples that show us the complex, innovative and time-consuming ways he conducted business to become successful. Today at The L.H. Baekeland Project, we face similar challenges promoting knowledge about Bakelite. Like Leo, we are looking at modern channels of communication to deliver our messages and mission. And yes, sometimes that means taking professionals to lunch who can help us! More on that later. But it is important to note that, while we find wonder and insight in Baekeland’s diaries, the man who truly inspires us is a man of this century—Baekeland’s great grandson…

Remembering Hugh Karraker

This summer marked a year since the loss of our dear friend, Hugh Karraker, leaving a void in our hearts and some uncertainty about how to carry on his mission.

Even as we pause to cherish the blessing of Hugh’s friendship, passion, and inspiration, we recognize that Hugh’s commitment to education, debate and advocacy around both the promise and perils of plastic left an indelible mark on many. 

That’s why we are compelled to continue Hugh’s work and find ways to reach out to global audiences of students, professionals, and the public to nurture the values Hugh held dear and to inspire the next generation of socially responsible innovators.

Marc Huberman Takes the Helm

In pursuit of Hugh's vision, Marc Huberman assumed leadership of The L.H. Baekeland Project, LLC in February of this year thanks to a transfer of ownership authorized by Hugh’s beloved wife Sherry Arell Karraker.  

Marc's history with the Project, including his role as director of media, positions him well to guide us forward. Marc now oversees the management and preservation of Hugh's extensive archives, the maintenance of our website and social media, the promotion and distribution of the acclaimed documentary "All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic," as well as the development of future projects that honor Hugh's legacy.

Social Media Growth

The LHB Project's social media presence continues to flourish. Our Facebook followers have surpassed the 1800 mark, and the trailer for "All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic," has garnered over 21,000 views on our YouTube channel.

We thank our dedicated community for their support and engagement. We have reason to believe in our future and significant growth.

TV Projects

Our influence and interest in mass media is expanding, too. Earlier this year, BBC Television (UK and Worldwide) contacted Marc about a prime-time series they are producing called, “The Secret Genius of Modern Life”. It is a contemporary history/science series looking at the incredible stories behind some of the most successful inventions of the modern world.

One episode is all about vacuum cleaners and how Bakelite was the first plastic to be used in their housings.  The producers of the program asked Marc to fact check their script, which described Leo Baekeland's discovery of Bakelite and the unique characteristics of his "material of a thousand uses" that made its use in vacuum cleaners and other electrical appliances so advantageous for mass production. Marc, in turn, consulted with author Dr. Jeffrey L. Meikle (featured in our film), the Stiles Professor in American Studies Emeritus, Department of American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, to provide the accurate historical details the BBC needed for their script. We’re grateful to Dr. Meikle for his expertise. The BBC producers were grateful, too, and will let us know when the program airs.   

Closer to home, we're excited to announce that we are producing our very own television show. It's an outgrowth of an idea conceived by Hugh, Marc and director John Maher that would expand on the success of "All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic" and the dialogue it sparked from screenings around the globe. It was one of Hugh’s passions to both educate and entertain audiences about the history, the promise, and the perils of plastic. We are working to advance Hugh’s vision by developing a truly unique television series that presents these subjects through a variety of entertaining elements, including comedy, music, social interaction and provocative talk. We're partnering with well-connected entertainment industry producers and distributors to bring the series to audiences everywhere. Taking a cue from Leo’s diary entry of 100 years ago, we have taken a few lunches and have a “very good impression” of our partners in this enterprise. Stay tuned!

Hall of Fame Nomination for Hugh

Finally, we are thrilled to announce that Hugh Karraker has been nominated for entry into the Plastics Hall of Fame. This prestigious organization honors outstanding craftspeople, scholars, manufacturers, chemists, and innovators in the comprehensive worldwide industry of plastics. Among the enshrined luminaries is Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland himself, who was inducted posthumously in 1974.

The prolific writer, industry leader and founding editor of Plastics News Robert C. Grace nominated Hugh for his tireless efforts to illuminate the seminal work of Leo Baekeland, to preserve important historical records, and to widely promote knowledge about plastics. Endorsed by major organizations, such as The American Plastics Council, the Plastics Industry Association, the Society of Plastics Engineers, and the National Plastics Center and Museum, entry into the Plastics Hall of Fame would be a fitting recognition for Hugh and his accomplishments. The memorial honor would continue to shine a light on the Baekeland legacy and inspire future innovators to improve the world through scientific research into plastics and their application. The Class of 2024 inductees will be announced February 1, 2024. The induction ceremony will be held Sunday, May 5, 2024 at the NPE-The Plastics Show trade fair in Orlando, Florida.

Thank you for your continued interest and support as we work to honor and keep the legacy of Leo H. Baekeland and Hugh Karraker alive, while shaping the future of plastics responsibly.


The L.H. Baekeland Project Team

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