Three billiard balls made of urea formaldehyde, c 1930s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The billiard ball is responsible for one of the earliest milestones in the development of the modern plastics industry. In 1868 John Hyatt made the first synthetic billiard balls out of celluloid, after a New York manufacturer of billiards equipment offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who could come up with a viable alternative to ivory for manufacturing balls. These balls are made from urea formaldehyde, one of a series of resins which were developed in the 1920s and 1930s after the succes of the phenolic resin Bakelite. They were made by Editions Fornells of Paris, in the workshops of Eduard Fornells Marco, a former apprentice of Rene Lalique.