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Albany Billiard Ball Co.

1866  - 

<p>Founded as the Hyatt Billiard Ball Company, the Albany Billiard Ball Company was one of the first productive plastics companies in the world. The small company was first housed in the home of Peter Kinnear in Albany, New York, a friend of celluloid inventor John Wesley Hyatt, for whom the company was originally named. Hyatt had begun to experiment with combinations of material for a new type of billiard ball when in 1863 Phelan and Collender,&nbsp; the leading billiards manufacturer, offered a $10,000 reward for a replacement material for ivory in billiard balls.&nbsp; Hyatt succeeded in creating the new mateiral he would dub "celluloid," and also to created billiard balls using a mix of materials.&nbsp; There is no eveidence, hwoever, that he ever claimed the prize.&nbsp; In 1875, the Albany Billiard Ball Company was organized, succeeding Hyatt's original manufacturing company.</p> <p>According to local Albany historian Carl Johnson,&nbsp; by 1871, Hyatt had moved his billiard ball works to 19 Beaver Street, just west of Broadway.</p> <p>In 1871 an article in the New York Times (quoted by Carl Johnson) enthused about Hyatt and the company:</p> <blockquote> <p>who make billiard balls of a composition which, when colored, can hardly be distinguished from ivory balls, and which, in addition to many other advantages, are claimed to be much more durable. They certainly have this one superiority over ivory balls, that whereas ivory is always apt to be unequal in density, giving a tendency to irregular direction and to 'wabbling,' the composition balls have an unerring center of gravity from the mere fact of their being composition -- every component part being thoroughly mixed and disseminated throughout the ball.</p> </blockquote> <p>The firm concentrated on manufacturing composition billiard balls and, later, costume jewelry.</p> <p>In 1886 Howell's <em>Bi-Centennial History of Albany</em> (1886) reported:</p> <blockquote> <p>The Albany Billiard Ball Company was organized in 1875, succeeding the Hyatt Manufacturing Co., organized in 1868, which , which was the pioneer manufacturing company in the world to make composition billiard balls. The factory, corner Grand and Plain streets, is a three-story brick building, 68 by 50 feet in dimensions. The billiard balls are now made from bonsilate, a product of another Albany industry, which is mentioned elsewhere. The colors of bonsilate balls are permanent, and they will not burn. Pool and bagatelle balls are also made. <br /><br />The officers are: Peter Kinnear, President and Treasurer; J.W. Hyatt, Vice-President; Louis Dietz, Secretary; and B.P. Wayne, Superintendent. <br /><br />The bonsilate billiard balls are taking the place [of] all others for perfection of finish, durability and of cheapness.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bonsilate, made of&nbsp;a mixture of finely ground bone and sodium silicate, was another material patented by John Wesley Hyatt.&nbsp; By 1912 the company had adopted Bakelite, the synthetic plastic that was quickly displacing cellulose nitrate (celluloid) products, as a better material for billiard balls.</p> <p>At an unknown date in the early 20th century, the Albany Billiard Ball Company moved to a large factory outside of downtown Albany, on 483 Delaware Avenue at Southern Boulevard.&nbsp; The factory&nbsp; closed and <a href="http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=cwshAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=j3IFAAAAIBAJ&amp;dq=Hyatt%20Billiard%20Balls&amp;pg=3355%2C1212966">then demolished in 1985</a>, after which the Plastics Pioneers Association erected an historic marker declaring the location that of the&nbsp; "First Plastic / Celluloid - Invented 1868 / by John Wesley Hyatt / First Use - Billiard Balls / Albany Billiard Ball Co."In fact, the first billiard balls, and earlier plastics history had been made at Hyatt and the company's previous locations.</p> <p>Records of the company from 1894 to 1944 can be found in Manuscripts and Special Collections at the New York State Library/. See <a href="http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/msscfa/pr/sc22082.pdf">http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/msscfa/pr/sc22082.pdf</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See:</p> <p class="boldBlackFont2"><a class="boldBlackFont2" href="http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!140071!0#focus">"Albany Billiard Ball Company Records, 1869-1973,"</a>&nbsp; Archives Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (accessed 7/12/12)</p> <p>Friedel, Robert <em>Pioneer Plastic: The Making and Selling of Celluloid</em> (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 107.</p> <p>Howell, George Rogers and Tenney, Jonathan.&nbsp; <span dir="ltr"><a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=nWkJAQAAIAAJ&amp;pg=PA600&amp;lpg=PA600&amp;dq=Billiard+Bi-Centennial+History+of+Albany&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=m1dXPxfIlQ&amp;sig=WUJ1v3nG7Jz9FG9VbWWec1cS2yo&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=jBr_T6_AEMy50QHc7YjGBg&amp;ved=0CFQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&amp;q=Billiard%20Bi-Centennial%20History%20of%20Albany&amp;f=false"><em>Bi-centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N.Y., from 1609 to 1886</em></a>, Volume 2</span> (<span dir="ltr">New York: W. W. Munsell &amp; Company, 1886</span>), 597-599.</p> <p>Johnson, Carl.&nbsp; "<a href="http://www.mynonurbanlife.com/2010/02/so-where-was-celluloid-invented.html">So where was celluloid invented?,</a>" posted online Feb 26, 2010 at <em>My Non-Urban Life</em> (accessed 7/12/12)</p> <p>Johnson, Carl. "A future in plastics and billiard balls," posted online May 9, 2011 at <em>All Over Albany</em> (accessed 7/12/12)</p>
 
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