The earliest modern plastics were commercially developed in the late Nineteenth Century. Celluloid—originally called "Parkesine" in the 1850's—was invented in England and played an important role in the growing world of photography and (later) motion pictures. Until the 1950's, celluloid was the base material of most film stock. But inventors admired its light weight and stiff nature and soon began using it as a replacement for ivory and tortoiseshell. Celluloid could be colored and finished to resemble both materials. Decorative household objects were soon made and the "faux ivory" version was used to make component parts for musical instruments (like tuning knobs, finials or picks).
The "faux tortoiseshell" celluloid letterknife, shown above, was made in England around 1920. It would have graced a well-appointed (though perhaps middle class) writing desk in the first third of the Twentieth Century. It feels and looks remarkably like the shell of the endangered Hawksbill Turtle, however, without the guilt. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248