Pulpware

It turns out that my dream of molded pulp consumer products has already been done.

The “golden age” of molded pulp was apparently between 1880 and 1950 in the town of Thetford in Norfolk, England. The Patent Pulpware Manufacturing Company made a variety of everyday household items.

During its heyday in the 1930s, The Patent Pulpware Manufacturing Company’s four acre site on Mill Lane, Thetford, was producing more than 150 different items, ranging from kitchen basins, flower troughs, miner’s helmets, aircraft fuel tanks, powder puff bowls and pin boxes.

So what happened? One word: plastics.The company switched to manufacturing plastics in the 1960s, changing its name to Thetford Moulded Plastics. It makes sense as a business decision at the time. The molding and finishing process was extremely labor intensive. Also, it turns out that the process wasn’t completely non-toxic. After molding, the products were finished by hand with paint and varnish, which created health issues for the workers.

But the process was nonetheless groundbreaking. Raw materials such as rags, paper and wood pulp from around England were brought to Thetford to be transformed into molded products. The final items were “Cheap, waterproof, durable, and light,” and so a perfect answer to many consumer needs.

It seems to me that now is time for this kind of product to make a comeback. Time for the second golden age of molded pulp.

Photo courtesy of www.norfolkmills.co.uk

Thetford pulpware bowl. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Neville and his site http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk

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