E. S. Lowe Bakelite Staunton Chessmen, Library Size.
Offered here is an excellent set of E. S. Lowe Bakelite Staunton Chessmen, Butterscotch and Red. This set of chessmen is the Library size, with a 3-” tall King. by 1-1/4″ diameter base. These E. S. Lowe Bakelite chessmen were always unweighted, and are an assemblage of two pieces that screw together. These particular E.S. Lowe Bakelite Staunton chessmen were produced around 1925-1930. The chessmen are in excellent condition and are housed in a brown leatherette compartmented briefcase, lined in burgundy felt. Some of the leatherette covering is starting to separate at one corner. The chess pieces play and display best on a chessboard with 1-7/8″ squares. No Chessboard is included with these chess pieces, but a suitable chessboard can be found here.
E. S. Lowe produced miniature chess and checker game sets that circulated widely among U.S. service personnel in World War II. The company continued to produce games and plastic toys after the war. In 1956, he bought rights from a Canadian couple who approached him with a concept of a game that they played on their yacht. Lowe highlighted its origins in naming the game Yahtzee. In 1959, Lowe produced the Renaissance Chess Set which featured highly detailed chess pieces based on the Renaissance period. The impressive design of these chessmen is still highly regarded today and the chess set is a popular collectors item. Milton Bradley purchased E. S. Lowe Company in 1973 for $26 million. An excellent history of the E. S. Lowe Company can be found in Duncan Polh’s excellent article.
Bakelite, or polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, is an early plastic. It is a thermo-setting phenol formaldehyde resin, developed by Belgian-born chemist Leo Baekeland in New York in 1907. Baekeland was already as successful inventor due to his invention of Velox photographic paper, when he began to investigate the reactions of phenol and formaldehyde. Chemists had begun to recognize that many natural resins and fibers were polymers. Baekeland’s initial intent was to find a replacement for shellac, a material that was in limited supply because it was made naturally from the excretion of lac bugs. Baekeland produced a soluble phenol-formaldehyde shellac called “Novolak”, but it was not a market success. One of the first plastics made from synthetic components, Bakelite was used for its electrical non-conductivity and heat-resistant properties in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings, and such diverse products as kitchenware and children’s toys. The “retro” appeal of old Bakelite products has made them collectible.