Pioneer Plastics Firm Was At The Base Of Cameron Hill

  • Friday, August 19, 2022
  • Harmon Jolley
Baxter Plastics at the foot of Cameron Hill
Baxter Plastics at the foot of Cameron Hill
photo by From the Pat St. Charles, Jr., Collection scanned by Sam Hall, Chattanoogahistory.com

Antique malls contain many items that were changed to being made from plastic during the 20th century. One might see some aluminum ice trays, glass juice glasses, metal riding toys, or vintage clothing with buttons made of shells. Radio cabinets and knobs were originally made of wood but converted to Bakelite, a 1907 synthetic plastic invention of Leo Baekeland.

Research into creation and uses of new forms of plastic accelerated during World War II and continued during the second half of the century.

Locally, the Sept. 23, 1945 Chattanooga Times reported that the Standish Company was being organized by two textile executives, Henry H. Frede and W.W. Hairston, as well as newspaper executive Ben Seessel. The Standish Company was believed to be the first in the South to produce items made from plastic. The company was located at 100 Market Street near the river.

Two years later, Edward L. Baxter, Sr., who had experience as product engineer at Standish and at Standard Molding of Dayton, Ohio during WWII, bought the Standish company and relocated it to 20 Market Street. The April 3, 1947 Chattanooga Times described the new Baxter Plastics Company as doing custom molding. Mrs. Edward L. Baxter, Sr. was office manager and Edward L. Baxter, Jr. worked at the plant while attending the University of Chattanooga.

Within a few months, the Times reported on July 13 that Baxter was adding items to its product line – atomizers, brushes, and eyebrow tweezers. Newspaper advertisements throughout 1947 noted that the company’s clear sheet plastic should be of interest to home craftsmen and to owners of boats, cars, and trucks.

During the 1950s Baxter Plastics relocated to a small nearby building at 220 West 1st St. at the base of Cameron Hill. Its next-door neighbor was Happy’s Place, a restaurant serving chili, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Happy’s either sold or at least advertised Champagne Velvet (CV) beer.

The example of Baxter and Happy’s fits the general pattern that existed at the time of properties extending north of 4th Street to Ross’s Landing. There were several light manufacturers as well as beer joints within those boundaries.

Edward Baxter, Sr. owned the plastics business for 12 years before passing in 1958.

Fred Hamby, who lived on Cameron Hill and still lives in Chattanooga, recalls, "Around 1956 I was a high school kid getting interested in building very simple radios. I would stop at the Baxter shop during a bus transfer before continuing to South Brainerd.

"The shop was dusty from years of his construction projects. He had a collection of (flower) horn speakers for record or drum players. Maybe there were at least 10 in his small front shop area.

"I would describe what i was building and obtain some sheet plastic that had a protective paper cover on front and back. The first visit included how to cut the plastic, finish its edges and welding of two pieces using acetone. I must have gotten the acetone from him - one could put a drop or two in a fresh plastic joint and it would travel along the entire length and set up quickly. One could build radio chassis and dial displays from plastic that was easier and cheaper to work with than metal.

He was always friendly to me and was interested about my current projects." 

This section around Baxter Plastics was taken down during Urban Renewal that was getting into gear at the time Mr. Baxter died.

If you have additional information on Baxter Plastics, please send me an email at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.













 

Happy's Place was next to Baxter Plastics. The CV beer sign appeared on several of the Westside buildings.
Happy's Place was next to Baxter Plastics. The CV beer sign appeared on several of the Westside buildings.
photo by From the Pat St. Charles, Jr., Collection scanned by Sam Hall, Chattanoogahistory.com
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