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Home Front Friday: Bakelite for the Fight

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Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during WWII and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

Due to rationing and conservation orders, life on the Home Front during WWII was much different than the world we have come to know today. Not everything was easily accessible. But some things were not affected by rationing. For example, Bakelite was readily available. Bakelite was an early plastic that was utilized for a variety of reasons during WWII, but perhaps for no reason as lovely as jewelry.

During the 1940s, a wide array of Bakelite jewelry was created to document the efforts of patriots in the USA. They were made into pins, necklaces, and bracelets so the Home Front could express solidarity with the men fighting overseas. Pins were made to honor sweethearts, and others trumped slogans like MacArthur’s, “I shall return,” and “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Bakelite jewelry became a way of expressing patriotism, and makers got creative – with moveable parts and many colors, shapes, and sizes. Not just a fashion statement, this jewelry carried much more weight.

Tri-color Bakelite 'V' for Victory pin with 'Mother' in wire at the top. Gift of Rhoda and Roger Berkowitz, 2011.009

Tri-color Bakelite ‘V’ for Victory pin with ‘Mother’ in wire at the top. Gift of Rhoda and Roger Berkowitz, 2011.009

The Museum’s Collection contains several pieces of jewelry, including the Bakelite pin featured above.

Today, collectors still admire the jewelry (and it is still wearable!). Louisiana’s own Bambi Deville Engeran compiled a collection of over 200 images of these fascinating pieces, and we offer it here at the National World War II Museum. Check out her book, WWII Bakelite Jewelry: Love and Victory, sure to excite jewelry and WWII buffs around the globe! What’s truly amazing is that something so small – like a plastic pin – could carry so much weight and meaning. These pieces may not be made of the most valuable material, but they were a way for the Home Front to champion our country. Enjoy the creativity and significance of these priceless pieces.

Posted by Laurel Taylor, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at the World War II Museum

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