The earliest dominoes wee made from bone with painted pips. Shortly after dominoes were brought to Europe by traders small depressions were drilled into the face of the dominoes for the pips to prevent the paint from easily rubbing off.
As the domino fad grew and spread early craftsmen developed the domino with a thinner bone face attached to a wood back. The wood most often used was ebony. The contrast of the black wood and white bone was most pleasing and rapidly became the standard method of making dominoes for many years. Different makers attached the bone to the wood in different ways. Some used one brass pin, some with two brass pins, while others used three pins with a slightly larger one in the center. By having the center pin protrude a little above the surface the domino would spin better when mixing the tiles, and it helped to protect the face of the domino from scratching and rubbing. Bone and wood was continued to be used for making dominoes until the late 1920s. Special sets of dominoes were made for wealthy clients of ivory with gold pins in the center.
In the mid 1800s composite materials were being discovered and their use was soon adapted by commercial manufactures. In 1861 the Waterbury Fastener Company produced a traveling set of dominoes made from a mix of shellac and carbon in 1860. (Daguerreotype cases & pistol grips were also made of the this.) This made production much faster as each tile could be press molded. The sets were packaged in a leather case that snapped shut, perfect for the Civil War soldier. Many Civil War soldiers could not afford such fancy game pieces and carried the more common bone and wood dominoes. Another early press mold material was Bois Durci - A mixture of sawdust & Blood or Egg dyed black.
During the later half of the 1800s plastics were developed. Dr. Leo Baekeland, looking for a replacement for ivory billiard balls, developed celluloid. Other early plastics were discovered and used. Bakelite, the first plastics from synthetic components, was invented in 1909 and was soon widely use for all sorts of products from machine parts to jewelry to dominoes.
The Embossing Company was founded 1870 in Albany, NY, was the major manufacture of dominoes out of wood. Designs were embossed in the wooden blanks which were dyed black (sometimes other colors) and the pips painted on.