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87/645 Mugs (4), bakelite, 'Marquis' brand, made by Commonwealth Moulding Co Ltd, made in Australia, 1925 - 1935. Click to enlarge.

Collection of 'Marquis' mugs

Development of the museum's plastics collection began in the 1930s with the acquisition of specimens of plastic raw materials and finished products. This 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 the years 1927 until 1955. 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 …


Object No.


Object Statement

Mugs (4), bakelite, 'Marquis' brand, made by Commonwealth Moulding Co Ltd, made in Australia, 1925 - 1935

Physical Description

A set of four Bakelite plastic drinking mugs. They are mottled blue and white with rectangular handles at the side. There is moulded lettering to the bases and emblems.


All four mugs have raised lettering on the base with an image of the crown representing the 'Marquis' logo.



These 4 'Marquis' Bakelite plastic Mugs were made by Commonwealth Moulding Company Pty Ltd, in Australia from the period of 1925 to 1935.

The 1943 Australasian Manufacturers Directory lists Commonwealth Moulding Pty Ltd as operating from 242 Princes Highway, Arncliffe, New South Wales, Australia. The company is listed as producing such wares as aircraft parts, electrical appliances and parts, jewellery, furniture and interior decorations, household and kitchen appliances, industrial equipment, and optical equipment (Plastics Institute of Australia 1947).

Phenolic plastics, also known by popular names such as 'Bakelite' and 'Nestorite', are valued for their excellent heat resistance and low electrical conductivity. The scientific achievement underpinning the product is predominantly associated with the work of Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863-1944), a Belgian-American industrial chemist, who reacted (condensed) phenol and formaldehyde to form a resin that hardened upon cooling and which, when moulded, had excellent mechanical and electrical properties (Cook 1992). Phenol-formaldehydes were the principle plastics manufactured in Australia at this time, using locally manufactured raw materials (Penfold 1946). The development of urea-formaldehyde allowed for the production of brightly coloured plastics, also displaying excellent heat resistance.

Phenol and urea-formaldehydes are known as 'thermosetting plastics', being distinct from 'thermoplastics' which soften on heating and harden on cooling, with this process able to be repeated as often as may be required. Penfold wrote that: 'Thermosetting plastics...can be prepared in a form in which they are initially thermoplastics, in which condition they can be moulded under appropriate conditions of temperature and pressure; further heating at quite moderate temperatures (260-350F.) causes them to set permanently. They cannot again be softened by heating, but, being organic materials, they char at a temperature of about 650?F. (Penfold 1956)'

Penfold, A. R., 'The Story of Plastics', in Sydney Technological Museum News Bulletin, Sydney, No 8, 1943, p11
Penfold, A. R., 'Reports on Plastics Investigation, 1945 in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom', Thomas Henry Tennant, Government Printer, Sydney, 1946, p3
Penfold, A. R., 'Plastics and Synthetic Fibres', A.H. Pettifer, Government Printer, Sydney, 1956, p9
Plastics Institute of Australia, 'Australian Plastics Trade Directory', Sydney, 1947



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.

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

Purchased 1987

Acquisition Date

31 May 1987

Cite this Object


Collection of 'Marquis' mugs 2023, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 June 2023, <>


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