Plasticine

William Harbutt

Everybody loves to play with Plasticine but why was it invented.

Near Bath an art teacher William Harbutt was looking for a material which his students could use to practice sculpting, but which wouldn't dry out. By combining calcium salts, petroleum jelly and stearic acid he discovered the formula which we know today as plasticine. A patent was awarded, the Harbutt Company formed and production commenced in 1900. The original factory continued in production until 1963 when it was destroyed by fire, replaced by a new factory which continued for another 20 years. A number of innovations enabled the product to continue growing. In 1915 a new patent secured a new formulating. William Harbutt himself recognised that the sculpture market was small and started to sell it as a children's toy, and in the 60's and 70's the company associated its self with various media and entertainment characters such as Mr Men and Paddington Bear.

William Harbutt died in 1921 while on a business trip to New York to promote Plasticine as an educational toy which encourages the free expression of children.

A small idea based upon a well understood market need created a company which grew well beyond its original market vision and over 100 years later is still recognisable on super market shelves.

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