Can you believe that at one time plastic was too fantastic for its own good? It seems that so much effort went into promoting plastic as the “material of a thousand uses” that expectations were running high that it would soon become a plastic world. Numerous articles in the popular press trumpeted plastics as the answer to everything. The efforts to promote this new material in the 1930s had created a monster by the end of the war. The New York Times even ran a long feature in 1943 that portrayed “life in a plastic world,” as recounted in American Plastic: A Cultural History by Jeffrey Meikle (Rutgers University Press, 1995).
William T. Cruse, who took over the editorship of Modern Plastics in 1940, was also a “courtesy” member of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). When “SPI’s executive secretary became ill in October 1941, the board asked Breskin [the owner of Modern Plastics] to release Cruse” from the publication so he could fill the SPI vacancy. The hype of plastic as the material that can be and do anything concerned Cruse, who “within a week” of the Times article began an effort to “neutralize plastic utopianism,” writes Meikle. Cruse complained of “too many Sunday supplement features portraying plastic as a ‘miracle whip’ material with which anything can be done.” That’s when a “deglamorization” program began to reduce the expectations of plastic.