Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Roark, Patton Howell, III (2014). Encasing the American Dream: The Story of Plastic and Steel. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


This thesis considers a preservation understanding and treatment for mid twentieth-century building materials that were designed and promoted to appear “brand new” in perpetuity. Based on their significance as pervasive mid-twentieth-century building materials, as well as their broader social, cultural, and technological roles, this study focuses on porcelain enameled steel and high-pressure plastic laminate. In order to comprehend the role and cultural importance of these materials, this study investigates how innovations in the manufacture of enameled steel and plastic laminate, as well as the corporations that developed these products, helped to create an ideal American kitchen, a symbol of postwar prosperity, patriotism, and progress. In addition to explaining the history of how these materials were produced, marketed, and used, this thesis provides a practical guide for preservation professionals, curators, and historic home owners, detailing the options involved in preserving, restoring, and conserving plastic laminate and enameled steel.


recent past, mid-century, kitchens, plastic laminate, steel



Date Posted: 03 September 2014