Hair comb, cellulose acetate, made by Auguste Bonaz, made in France, 1950
The museum's plastics collection began in the 1930s with the acquisition of specimens of plastic raw materials and finished products. The 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 1927 until 1955.
Throughout the early 1900s the Sydney Technical College and the Sydney Technological Museum held similar aims and objectives regarding the promotion, use and development of local manufacture, materials, commerce and industry. Between 26 and 28 September 1934, the Technical College's Chemical Society and the museum collaborated to develop what was advocated as the first Plastics Industry Exhibition in Australia.
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 world ... show(ing) the complete history of plastics from first experiments to the latest developments' (Sunday Telegraph, 1945).
This comb is a fine example of the creative possibilities of hand made plastics in the 1950s. Penfold requested the purchase of this replica Spanish mantilla comb from Auguste Bonaz after seeing the original in a magazine. The original was made by Bonaz for the Algiers Exposition in commemoration of the centenary of Algeria in 1930. When the replica comb was displayed in the Museum Penfold wrote to the Daily Telegraph calling the comb, 'One of the finest pieces of handwork in plastics ever to come to this country ...' (Penfold, 1950).
This comb is part of a large collection of plastics and plastic moulding powders acquired by the museum during Arthur Penfold's career. The collection gives insight into a period of great social, material, technological and scientific development, along with some of the aims and collecting practices of the museum at the time. Plastics continues to be an area that is developed and represented in the museum's collection, however today the collection explores some of the more ambivalent attitudes towards plastics and their use, including issues such as sustainability and the impact of plastics production on the environment.
Arthur Penfold correspondence to The Editor of the Daily Telegraph, 27 June 1950.
Sunday Telegraph, 'For plastics he saw great things', 11 November 1945
This comb was made by Auguste Bonaz in Oyonnax, Ain, France in 1950. It is hand made using cellulose acetate. Cellulose acetate was first produced by Paul Schutzenberger, a French chemist, in 1865. In 1894 Charles Cross and Edward Bevan took out a patent to manufacture it.
Auguste Bonaz was a well known French designer who made combs, jewellery and a range of other decorative items in the Art Deco style. His father set up Maison Bonaz in Oyonnax, France in the middle of the nineteenth century. Auguste, continued the family business and set up a shop in Paris. This comb was made in Oyonnax an area famous for producing combs. It became a major centre for the production of plastics after World War Two.
In 1930 Auguste Bonaz made a Spanish mantilla comb for the Algiers Exposition that commemorated the centenary of Algiers. Penfold saw an illustration of this comb in a plastics magazine and wrote to the editor requesting the name of the manufacturer. Penfold then commissioned a replica of the comb from Bonaz. He wrote the following to the Agent General for New South Wales in London, 'According to the description furnished by the firm on the 18th January, it is a true Museum piece. Although the price is high, we feel that the acquisition of the replica is fully justified.' (Penfold, 1950)
During the 1920s combs that resembled Mantilla combs were very fashionable. Mantilla combs (peineta) were traditionally worn by Spanish women to hold up their mantilla which is a piece of lace or silk that is worn over the head or shoulders.
This comb was displayed in the Powerhouse Museum's 'Recollections' exhibition.
Arthur Penfold correspondence with Mr Tully Agent General for New South Wales in London, 15 March 1950.