Last Christmas, as 80s pop group Wham once sang, my nephew Dominick gave me three books about plastics.
Our family gift exchange mercifully had switched from making things for the person whose name you randomly picked to buying something connected to that person. As a result, family members no longer live in fear of me trying to draw them an eagle against an American flag background.
It was epic, take my word for it.
Anyway, I finally got around to looking through the books that Dominick found. They show an interesting picture of the plastics world as seen by the public at large.
The first book is "World About Us: Plastics." It's part of an educational series written by Kate Bedford in 2006 and published in the U.S. by Stargazer Books of Mankato, Minn. The book is aimed at young readers and does a good job of covering what plastic is, how it's made and what it's used for.
The book's resin page has good info on acrylic, polycarbonate, polystyrene and PVC. And just like every plastics history book, it includes information on Bakelite, an early plastic first made from coal tar in 1907.
The other two books are craft project books from the 1970s. The first was "Creating with Sheet Plastic" by Gregg LeFevre, part of the Little Craft Book Series published in 1974 by Sterling Publishing of New York.
The book provides step by step instructions on how to make bookends, shelves, serving trays, candle holders and a variety of other items from sheets or blocks of various plastics. It even provides a handy list of suppliers of these pieces, including longtime shapes distributor Cadillac Plastics.
(My favorite title in the Little Craft Book Series is "Off-Loom Weaving." Who needs looms?)
The prize among the three books is "Cope's Plastics Book," written and compiled by Dwight Cope in 1973. The other plastic crafts book mentioned above looks like a mini-version of "Cope's Plastics Book." The Cope book covers more than 250 pages and includes instructions on more than 90 craft projects, most of which were submitted by crafters, students or instructors.
"Cope's Plastics Book" was published by Goodheart-Willcox Co. of South Holland, Ill., and edited by Floyd Dickey, head of industrial education at John Adams High School in South Bend, Ind. Drawings in the book were done by Dickey's students at John Adams.
Dwight Cope was president of Cope Plastics Inc., a parts fabricator and distributor that he and his wife, Mozelle, founded in the basement of their home in St. Louis in 1946. Being a very smart man, Dwight thanked Mozelle in the book's introduction for her help with the book.
Also in the introduction, Dwight Cope described the book and then wrote: "It is hoped that the book will serve another purpose — to help those who use it develop an appreciation of the importance of plastics in our daily living, as well as the great possibilities the plastics industry offers for the future."
Cope Plastics is still around today and ranks as one of the largest plastics fabricators in the U.S., with 17 locations. The Alton, Ill.-based firm's customers include Caterpillar and John Deere.
Jane Saale, granddaughter of Dwight and Mozelle Cope, serves as Cope Plastics' president and CEO.
"If it's possible to do with plastic, we can do it," she says in a video on the firm's website.
In 1973, Saale's grandfather put together one heck of a plastics book that made a lot of plastics fun for many people. The previous owner of the copy I now have clearly used it, based on the paint smeared on its cover, a personal touch likely made while making one of Dwight Cope's craft projects.