5 February 1907

Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland announces the creation of Bakelite, the world’s first synthetic plastic.

Bakelite is a type of thermosetting plastic that was developed by Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland in 1907. It is considered one of the first synthetic plastics and played a significant role in the development of the modern plastics industry. Bakelite is known for its durability, heat resistance, and electrical insulating properties.

Composition: Bakelite is made through the polymerization of phenol and formaldehyde. This process results in a hard and rigid material that can withstand high temperatures.

Thermosetting: Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic, meaning that once it is molded and set, it cannot be remolded or reshaped by heating. This characteristic makes it stable and resistant to melting when exposed to heat.

Applications: Bakelite found widespread use in various industries, particularly in the early to mid-20th century. It was used to manufacture a wide range of products, including electrical insulators, automotive parts, kitchenware, jewelry, and even firearms.

Electrical Insulation: One of the key reasons for Bakelite’s popularity was its excellent electrical insulating properties. It was extensively used for making electrical switches, connectors, and other components.

Appearance: Bakelite is known for its distinctive appearance, often resembling wood or other materials. It can be molded into various shapes and colors, and its surface can have a shiny, polished finish.

Collectibility: Vintage Bakelite items, especially jewelry and household items, have become collectibles. The unique look and historical significance of Bakelite contribute to its popularity among collectors.

Legacy: While Bakelite was widely used in the early-to-mid 20th century, it gradually lost market share to other types of plastics with different properties. However, its legacy as one of the pioneering synthetic plastics remains important in the history of materials science and industrial development.

31 December 1907

The first ever ball drop in Times Square.

The ball drop in Times Square is a famous New Year’s Eve tradition that takes place in New York City. The event is organized by the Times Square Alliance and has been held annually since 1907, making it one of the longest-running New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world.

The iconic ball itself is a large, brightly illuminated sphere that descends down a pole on the flagpole atop One Times Square. The ball is covered in thousands of crystal panels and is illuminated by thousands of LED lights. The design and technology of the ball have evolved over the years, reflecting advancements in lighting and materials.

The ball drop begins at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, counting down the last 60 seconds of the year. As the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins, the ball completes its descent, and a spectacular fireworks display lights up the sky. The event is attended by thousands of people who gather in Times Square to witness the celebration. Millions more watch the event on television, making it a globally recognized symbol of the New Year.

The Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration is known for its festive atmosphere, live musical performances, and the gathering of people from all walks of life to celebrate the start of a new year. It has become a cultural phenomenon and is one of the most-watched New Year’s Eve events worldwide.

8 December 1907

King Gustaf V of Sweden accedes to the Swedish throne.

King Gustaf V of Sweden was born Oscar Gustaf Adolf on June 16, 1858, in Drottningholm Palace, Sweden. He reigned as the King of Sweden from 1907 until his death in 1950, making him one of the longest-reigning monarchs in Swedish history. His full name was Oscar Gustaf Adolf, and he belonged to the House of Bernadotte.

Gustaf V’s reign spanned through significant historical events, including World War I and World War II. Sweden remained neutral during both conflicts, and Gustaf V played a ceremonial role as the constitutional monarch.

During his reign, Sweden underwent political changes, with the transition to a parliamentary system of government. Gustaf V accepted the changes and adapted to the evolving role of the monarchy in a constitutional framework.

Gustaf V was known for his strong sense of duty and adherence to tradition. He was considered a conservative monarch but remained popular among the Swedish people for his stability and dedication to his role. He was also known for his interest in sports, particularly tennis, and he became an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee.

King Gustaf V married Princess Victoria of Baden in 1881, and they had three children: Gustaf VI Adolf, Wilhelm, and Erik. His son Gustaf VI Adolf succeeded him as the King of Sweden in 1950.

Gustaf V passed away on October 29, 1950, at the age of 92, after a reign of 43 years. His long and stable reign left a lasting impact on Sweden during a period of significant political and social change.

1 August 1907

The start of the first Scout camp on Brownsea Island, the origin of the worldwide Scouting movement.

The Brownsea Island Scout camp holds a significant place in the history of the Scouting movement as it was the site of the first-ever experimental camp organized by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. The camp took place on Brownsea Island, located in Poole Harbour, Dorset, England, from August 1 to August 9, 1907.

The idea for the camp emerged as a way for Baden-Powell to test his ideas on outdoor education and character development, as outlined in his book “Scouting for Boys,” published earlier that year. He invited a group of 20 boys from different social backgrounds to participate in the camp. These boys, aged 12 to 17, formed the core of the experimental camp.

The main objectives of the Brownsea Island Scout camp were to promote skills like self-reliance, teamwork, leadership, and outdoor survival, and to instill the values of responsibility, loyalty, and resourcefulness among the participants.

The camp’s activities were diverse and focused on elements such as camping, hiking, woodcraft, observation, and pioneering skills. Baden-Powell personally led and participated in many of the activities, setting an example for the young Scouts. The boys were divided into four patrols, and each patrol was given responsibilities, allowing them to learn and practice leadership and cooperation.

The experimental camp was a great success and set the foundation for what would become the worldwide Scouting movement. After the camp, Baden-Powell continued to develop and refine his Scouting principles, and the Boy Scout movement rapidly spread globally.

Today, Brownsea Island remains an important site for Scouting, and it is visited by Scouts and tourists from all over the world who come to see where the historic first camp took place. The island also features a small Scouting museum and offers camping opportunities for Scouts, continuing the legacy of the movement’s origins.

14 June 1907

Norway gives women the right to vote.

On 14 June 1907, Norway’s Storting demonstrated the difficulty faced by women’s suffrage advocates around the world. On the one hand, the national legislature approved a bill that would allow some of Norway’s women to vote for lawmakers and even to win seats in the Storting. On the other hand, the male lawmakers limited national voting rights to women who had the right to vote in municipal elections.

First woman to cast her vote in the municipal election, Akershus slott, Norway, 1910. Oslo Museum collection via DigitaltMuseum under Creative Commons License.
Those limits meant that only women who were at least 25 years old and met certain tax-paying thresholds had the right to vote. The Storting voted by a 3-to-2 margin not to enact universal female suffrage.

From the 1300s to the 1800s, Norway was joined with its neighbors Denmark or Sweden. While reforms in the late 1800s created a powerful Norwegian legislature and considerable autonomy over domestic conditions, Norway did not gain full independence until 1905. Even then, the legislature accepted a king and put a constitutional monarchy into place.

Democratic reformers were among of the forces pushing for these changes in the late 1800s. Norwegian men gained the right to vote in 1898. A women’s suffrage movement had been active since 1885 but was unable to convince the Storting to extend the right to women. Norway’s women did enjoy some advances. In 1854, they gained the right to inherit property, and in the 1890s, they won the right to control their own property.

Nevertheless, it was another six years after the 1907 vote for the Storting to agree to full women’s suffrage. While the delay may have frustrated Norway’s women, they were still better off than the women in all but three other countries. Only New Zealand, Australia, and Finland allowed women to vote at that time.

27 May 1907

The Bubonic plague breaks out in San Francisco.

In the summer of 1899, a ship sailing from Hong Kong to San Francisco had had two cases of plague on board. Because of this, although no passengers were ill when the ship reached San Franscisco, it was to be quarantined on Angel Island. When the boat was searched, 11 stowaways were found the next day two were missing. Their bodies were later found in the Bay, and autopsy showed they contained plague bacilli. Despite this scare, there was no immediate outbreak of disease. But rats from the ship probably had something to do with the epidemic that hit San Francisco nine months later.

On March 6, 1900, a city health officer autopsied a deceased Chinese man and found organisms in the body that looked like plague. In 1894, two research physicians had simultaneously and independently identified the bacillus that causes bubonic plague. Shibasaburo Kitasato published his findings in Japanese and English; Alexandre Yersin published in French. People in different parts of the world credited one or the other with the discovery, depending which journals they had read. That the plague had an identifiable “germ” was known. But other recent findings had not been disseminated — or believed. Most people felt that the germ infected humans through food or open wounds. Disinfection campaigns were the order of the day. In some places they ran carbolic acid through sewers, actually spreading the disease faster because it flushed out rats that had lived there.

22 October 1907


The stock market panic of 1907 occurs.

The Panic of 1907 also known as the 1907 Bankers’ Panic or Knickerbocker Crisis was a United States financial crisis that took place over a three-week period starting in mid-October, when the New York Stock Exchange fell almost 50% from its peak the previous year. Panic occurred, as this was during a time of economic recession, and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies. The 1907 panic eventually spread throughout the nation when many state and local banks and businesses entered bankruptcy. Primary causes of the run included a retraction of market liquidity by a number of New York City banks and a loss of confidence among depositors, exacerbated by unregulated side bets at bucket shops. The panic was triggered by the failed attempt in October 1907 to corner the market on stock of the United Copper Company. When this bid failed, banks that had lent money to the cornering scheme suffered runs that later spread to affiliated banks and trusts, leading a week later to the downfall of the Knickerbocker Trust Company—New York City’s third-largest trust. The collapse of the Knickerbocker spread fear throughout the city’s trusts as regional banks withdrew reserves from New York City banks. Panic extended across the nation as vast numbers of people withdrew deposits from their regional banks.