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H4737 Mess tray, 'Marquis', melamine-formaldehyde resin, made by Commonwealth Moulding Company, Australia, 1941-1946. Click to enlarge.

'Marquis' melamine-formaldehyde mess tray

Made
The museum's plastics collection began in the 1930s with the acquisition of specimens of plastic raw materials and finished products. The collection was driven largely by Arthur de Ramon Penfold (1890-1980), a former industrial chemist, who worked as curator and later director of the museum from 1927 until 1955.

Between 26 and 28 of September 1934, Sydney Technical College's Chemical Society and the Sydney Technological Museum collaborated to develop what was advocated as the first Plastics …

Summary

Object No.

H4737

Object Statement

Mess tray, 'Marquis', melamine-formaldehyde resin, made by Commonwealth Moulding Company, Australia, 1941-1946

Physical Description

Mess tray, 'Marquis', melamine-formaldehyde resin, made by Commonwealth Moulding Company, made in Australia, 1941-1946

A rectangular dark brown mottled melamine mess tray. The tray has recessed central area.

Marks

Marked on reverse, 'Marquis / Aust. / M.T. 18/14.

Dimensions

Height

370 mm

Width

465 mm

Depth

20 mm

Production

Notes

This 'Marquis' tray was made in Australia by the Commonwealth Moulding Company. It was made between 1941 and 1946.

The tray is compression-moulded of phenol modfied melamine-formaldehyde resin and impregnated with cotton cuttings as filler. Arthur Penfold wrote in 1956 that, 'Melamine is a product of the electric furnace. It is made from a substance called dicyansiamide, prepared by heating carbide (formed by fusing limestone and coke together) in the presence of nitrogen. Melamine is a white powder which is used alone or in association with other plastics; it reacts with formaldehyde to form resins.'

Melamine was comparatively expensive to produce, though it's excellent properties compensated for this.

REFERENCE:

A. Penfold, Plastics and Synthetic Fibres, A. H. Pettifer, Government Printer, Sydney, 1956.

History

Notes

This tray was obtained by Arthur Penfold when he visited the United States of America in 1945. Museum records suggest that it was used by United States Services during World War Two.

This tray was displayed in one if the Museum's early plastics exhibitions. Its old label reads:

'MELAMINE TRAY

Particularly suitable for use as mess trays in the navy where crockery losses from concussion through gunfire on board warships are considerable. Melamine trays are shock-proof.

Hospitals find this light-weight tray easy to clean because there are no corners in which food particles might lodge. The trays are compression-moulded of phenolmodified melamine-formaldehyde resin, impregnated with cotton cuttings as a filler.'

Baron Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, discovered melamine resin in 1834. It took another one hundred years before melamine-formaldehyde was patented in Germany in 1935. The American Cyanamid Company first produced it commercially in 1939.

Penfold wrote that melamine became prominent during World War Two, 'Its production was concentrated in the United States of America, and the total output used for military purposes. It was largely used during the war for the production of service mess trays, and for distributor heads of the 18-cylinder Cyclone engines on account of its outstanding electrical properties, such as arc and shock resistance.' It was also used to strengthen fabric and paper and used in adhesives and in laminate sheets such as Formica. Because it was colourful and durable it was also popular in the post war years for table and kitchen ware.

REFERENCE:

A. Penfold, Plastics and Synthetic Fibres, A. H. Pettifer, Government Printer, Sydney, 1956.

S. Mossman, Early Plastics: perspectives, 1850-1950, Leicester University Press in association with the Science Museum, London, 1997.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Arthur Penfold, 1946

Acquisition Date

10 April 1946

Cite this Object

Harvard

'Marquis' melamine-formaldehyde mess tray 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 1 August 2021, <https://ma.as/240743>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/240743 |title='Marquis' melamine-formaldehyde mess tray |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=1 August 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}