Formica was invented in 1912 by Daniel J. O'Conor and Herbert A. Faber, then working at Westinghouse. They originally conceived it as an electrical insulator as a substitute for micarta, hence the name they chose when they left Westinghouse to set up their own company in 1913. 1913 – and was rewarded with one dollar, the amount Westinghouse paid for rights to employee inventions. Within weeks, O’Conor and Faber quit Westinghouse to start their own business, enlisting lawyer and banker John G. Tomlin as an investor. Tomlin put up $7,500 and became a silent partner in the fledgling business.
The mineral mica was commonly used at that time for electrical insulation. Because the new product acted as a substitute “for mica,” Faber designated the name “Formica.” The company began operations on May 2, 1913, and by September, Formica Products Company, as it was then known, had 18 employees trying to keep up with the demand for electric motor parts by Bell Electric Motor, Ideal Electric and Northwest Electric.
In its early years, Formica manufactured insulation along with other products such as phenolic composite gears, developing its classic range of surfacing laminates from the late 1920s. During World War II it manufactured plastic-impregnated wooden airplane propellers. Post-war, engineering uses declined, ceasing in 1970 in favor of decorative laminates. It is composed of many layers of resin-impregnated kraft paper and topped with a decorative layer protected by melamine, then compressed and cured with heat to make a hard, durable surface.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, after a management buyout from its then owners American Cyanamid, it diversified with products such as solid surfacing, metal laminates and flooring materials.
Since 2007, it has been a subsidiary of the Fletcher Building group.