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Weird plastic thingys from a 70's pit?!


Well-Known Member
Jan 12, 2009
Dug two of these yesterday near the bottom from a predominately 1870's pit where numerous combs of tortoise shell were found, along with an injection brou bottle for std's. Seemed like a possible brothel at the time, but who knows. Don't know if these would have any connection to that business. My first thought was a type of hair brace but too small to slip over the head, though I have a big head, not to be confused with a FAT head! Ha! Anyhoo, the two are 1" wide and about 6 & 7" long. I first assumed they were tortoise shell material like the combs but in fact appear more like plastic, resembling 35mm movie film but thicker and having some natural curling property that prevents completely straightening out. It acts like spring steel and takes some effort to uncurl to the degree my picture shows. Last pic shows it is not translucent or transparent and in fact allows no passage of light. Quite flexable, not brittle. Perhaps used by young girls for their hair as a smaller head would work. I looked up history of plastic and was surprised to discover there were many products being made after Goodyear's process of vulcanization was discovered in 1839, so this might be some weird off-shoot product? Any thoughts or ideas appreciated. Thanks in advance. Jack



Well-Known Member
Aug 24, 2007
Bakelite which is the earlist plastic was not developed until 1907 so I doubt that they are plastic, do you think they might be made of baleen.


Well-Known Member
Jan 12, 2009
Bakelite was the first synthetic polymer based plastic, but other organic based plastics were being used back to the 1840's, so it is still a mystery as it has most of the characteristics of a semi-flexible plastic......but like you I also thought plastic, as a general rule was a 20th century invention. That was what my initial surprise was about, and is now just growing......


Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2007
Peoria Co.
I'd wager that it is celluloid, which was around then, and guess it could have been a shirt collar form/stiffener or a rib from a corset. If you aren't too attached to them you could try lighting one on fire. Celluloid burns rather fast and violently, in a manner quite pleasing to us pyros.


Well-Known Member
May 2, 2010
New York State
I think if a hair tie would it would have chamfered corners on both ends and be somewhat more ornate. I'd go more with the liner/stiffener for a clothing article.


Well-Known Member
Dec 13, 2004
Frederick Maryland
Hard to say what they are, They did use stuff like that in hats and linens. I remember reading that synthetic stuff like this was important in replacing whale bone in womens' corsets. Could be retainers for window blinds or anything really. If its 1870s its probably some type of hard rubber or gutta percha. Could be celluloid but that doesn't typically hold up well in the ground (or in movie vaults even)

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