Shellac moulding compound
Alfred P. Critchlow was born in 1813 in Nottingham, England and manufactured horn buttons in Birmingham. He emigrated to the US and continued his trade in Haydenville, Mass., before moving to Florence, Mass. where he began experimenting in the early 1850s with shellac and gutta percha moulding compounds.
He claimed to have invented a shellac-based moulding material (he called it Florence Compound) which he, and others, used to manufacture Union Cases. These highly decorated cases, used to protect daguerreotype photographic images, were among the first mass-produced plastics mouldings.
In an 1856 patent relating to the manufacture of Union Cases, Critchlow merely referred to the compound as being composed of various materials, well known to those whose business it is to manufacture such cases.
Critchlow entered into partnership with Samuel Hill and Isaac Parsons in 1853 but in 1857, when the popularity of Union Cases was approaching its peak, he sold his interest in the business and its name was changed to Littlefield, Parsons & Company. However, by the mid 1860s, ambrotypes had taken over from daguerreotypes and the need for the Union Case was gone.
In 1866, Littlefield, Parsons & Co. changed their name to the Florence Manufacturing Co. and produced a number of beautiful shellac hand mirror and brush sets.