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H5409 Collection of plastic objects (16), 'Duperite', plastic / cardboard / paper / metal / glass, made by Moulded Products (Australasia) Pty Ltd, Australia, 1930 - 1936. Click to enlarge.

Collection of 'Duperite' objects

Plastics have been described as " materials that can be moulded or shaped into different forms under pressure or heat." They were a cultural phenomenon in the twentieth century when they changed the way objects were produced, designed and used. It was also in the twentieth century that most plastic products moved away from natural raw materials to synthetically produced ones.

Before the arrival of synthetic resins natural plastics such as amber, horn, tortoiseshell, bitumen, shellac, …


Object No.


Object Statement

Collection of plastic objects (16), 'Duperite', plastic / cardboard / paper / metal / glass, made by Moulded Products (Australasia) Pty Ltd, Australia, 1930 - 1936

Physical Description

Collection of plastic objects (16), 'Duperite', plastic / cardboard / paper / metal / glass, made by Moulded Products (Australasia) Pty Ltd, Australia, 1930-1936


Marks information is recorded in individual item records.



These objects were made by Moulded Products (Australasia) Pty Ltd, Australia, 1930-1936 Dunlop Perdriau Rubber Co Ltd were the sole distributors of Moulded Products Pty Ltd during this time.

This bowl is part of the 'Harlequin' range of table ware made by the Australian Moulding Corporation in 1930. This company was established by John Derham in 1927 and was the first plastics firm in Victoria. They were importing phenolic powder to produce moulded tableware called Saxon Ware; unfortunately it had a bad smell. Derham discovered an imported range of plastic table ware in a Myer store that didn't have a bad smell. He found out the maker and discovered that 'Beetle' urea moulding powders were used to produce the product (Hewat, 1983). He then ordered 'Beetle' moulding powders from Britain and began to use them to manufacture products.

'Beetle' moulding powders were the result of experiments carried out by the British Cyanide Company's Chief Chemist, Edmund Rossiter, who condensed thiourea with formaldehyde. Samples from this experiment were shown at the Wembley Exhibition in 1925 with beetle logos on the bottles, hence the name.

This experimentation with thiourea was the consequence of changes in fashion during the 1920s when weighted silk declined in popularity. Thiourea was used in the production of weighted silk and was supplied by the British Cyanide Company to the silk industry. To make up for financial losses when thiourea was no longer in great demand the company began to experiment to discover new uses for it (Plastiquarian, 2007). The result of these experiments was a water-white synthetic resin; the colour was an advantage because there were no white plastics moulding powders at that time. Early phenolic resins (e.g. Bakelite) could only be produced in a few colours (Hayes, 2007).

In the 1930s improvements were made to the manufacture of 'Beetle' moulding powders and urea-formaldehyde resins were used to produce colourful, scratch-proof and glossy consumer goods that were commercially successful and cheap to make.


J. Hayes, "From Cyanide to 'Beetle'", in Plastiquarian no. 14 Winter 1994/5, viewed online, accessed 02/08/2007.
Plastiquarian, 'Thiourea formaldehyde', available at, accessed 03/08/2007.
T. Hewat, The Plastics Revolution: The Story of Nylex, The Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd, Victoria, 1983, pp. 26-27.



It is often perceived that plastics are a material of the twentieth century; however, its beginnings go back to eighteenth century Europe and conditions created by rapid industrialisation, scientific curiosity and opportunities to create great wealth through innovative and entrepreneurial ideas. Many of the semi-synthetic plastics of the nineteenth century and the synthetic plastics of the twentieth century were influenced by earlier manufacturing methods of making products out of natural plastics such as horn and tortoiseshell. The development of synthetic plastics, however, allowed for a product that was not subject to availability and fluctuating costs.

The Australian plastics processing industry began around 1917, growing significantly after World War Two. In 1939 production of plastics was around one thousand tonnes per year and fifty years later it had grown to around nine hundred thousand tonnes . New innovations in plastics, a rising population and increasing home ownership and household consumption were major influences on this growth. Today the plastics industry is one of Australia's largest manufacturing sectors.

Between 26 and 28 September 1934, the Sydney Technical College and the museum collaborated to develop what was advocated as the first Plastics Industry Exhibition in Australia. It is likely that this sample was displayed during this exhibition, along with the first permanent plastics display established at the museum. This exhibition was advocated as the first plastics exhibition in Australia. The museum contributed the majority of the exhibits, which included colourful moulded objects and synthetic resin powders. The highlight of the exhibition was a standard hydraulic press that produced synthetic resin objects while the audience watched. This was lent by John Heine and Son and run by staff from the College's Mechanical Engineering department. It utilised dies made by College students and synthetic moulding resin powders from local plastic companies. A Conversazione was held on the evening of 26th September, 1934 'to which prominent citizens, including representatives of the Plastics Industry were invited', and at which both Penfold and Dr N H Lang gave lectures on the plastics industry

A permanent display of plastics was established at the museum, and was described by the Sunday Telegraph as 'the best display of plastics and fibres in the world…show(ing) the complete history of plastics from first experiments to the latest developments' . Penfold was greatly concerned with the technical and commercial development of local industries, such as the plastics industry, and believed that the museum was 'destined to play a conspicuous part in bringing Science to the aid of industry' through both research and display.

In December 1944 Penfold, along with Mr C H Hunt of Newcastle Technical College, was commissioned by the NSW Government to investigate overseas technological trends in the plastic industry, including the training of technical personnel, throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. On his return Penfold continued to promote the importance of Australia's development of a vigorous research and training program in developing local technical expertise arguing that: 'The field is so vast and the potentialities of plastics is so promising, that no effort should be spared to provide adequate training for all persons wishing to acquire a knowledge of these new materials' .

Chemlink Consultants, Australia's Chemical Industry - History and development, available at, accessed 08/08/2007.
Penfold, A. R., 'Reports on Plastics Investigation, 1945, in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom', 31/10/1945
Penfold, A. R., paper, 'Recent Developments of Plastics Overseas', delivered before the Plastics Institute of Australia, NSW Section, 29/11/1945
Penfold, A. R., 'The Influence of Science Museums on Industry', read at the first Biannual Conference of International Council on Museums, 1948
Sunday Telegraph, 'For plastics he saw great things', 11/11/1945
Sydney Technological Museum, Annual Report, 1934


Credit Line

Gift of Dunlop Perdriau Rubber Co Ltd 1936

Acquisition Date

1 October 1936

Cite this Object


Collection of 'Duperite' objects 2023, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 June 2023, <>


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