Moulding Bakelite radio cabinets was the beginning of EKCO Plastics Ltd.
The wide range of items EKCO Plastics produced included car interior panelling, fridge linings, dust bins the award winning baby bath and the fabulous Nova range of Melamine 'stacking' tableware .
^ Baby bath and stand designed by Martyn Rowlands
INNOVATION and DESIGN
Born in Southend-on-Sea Essex, young Eric Cole (1901-1966) was an enthusiastic young inventor.
On 14th February 1922 the Marconi company based just 20 miles away in Chelmsford began the first licensed, scheduled, entertainment radio broadcasts. The stations name was 2MT which transmitted a half hour programme every Tuesday evening presented by Captain Peter Eckersley
Radios then were powered by accumulators, ie 6 volt rechargeable batteries (which you could not charge yourself). Nationwide mains electricity supply was then being installed which at first was 230 volts DC. A friend, William 'Billy' Verrells asked Eric if he could build a device that would enable him to run his radio from the mains. After some cumbersome prototypes Eric developed and began manufacturing and marketing the battery eliminator which was the beginnings of E. K. Cole Ltd. better known simply as EKCO, with Eric and Billy Verrells as partners.
Following the success of this device, mains powered radios was the next step in development, but these sets were expensive and the challenge was to find more efficient methods of assembly and reduce their cost. The manufacture and supply of wooden cabinets was the biggest expense but then the age of plastic began.
Eric developed strong links with German counterparts in particular the AEG company who were manufacturing household items made from a synthetic material that became known as Bakelite. Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic, Unlike most plastic polymers today that are heated up into a liquid and injection moulded and remain pliable once cured, Bakelite, once moulded, remains hard and brittle. EKCO invested heavily into purchasing three massive presses that were used to mould Bakelite into radio cabinets. The most famous of these were those designed by Wells Coates (picture top left). New variations of the round art deco styling would be introduced each year of the early 1930s at the the annual trade show.