The earliest plastic was celluloid. First developed in England around 1850, it was brought to the United States in 1868 and eventually was used in a wide variety of articles, including billiard balls, collars, cuffs, combs, film, shirt fronts, and jewelry.
Although nobody knows when it first appeared in Hawai‘i, celluloid certainly was present by May 1889, when Hollister’s drug store began to advertise Eastman Kodak cameras. These cameras used the new Kodak rollfilm, which was manufactured on a celluloid base.
Later that year, Thrum’s Up-Town Book and Stationery Store advertised “Celluloid Goods,” and Popular Millinery House listed such wares as “Toilet cases in Celluloid, at $1.75 per box and upward.” Such ads became quite common in the 1890s.
By Robert C. Schmitt