WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2011—It’s fitting to note during this International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC)—and especially during this particular week—that Delaware holds an important piece of chemical history: On October 26, 1995, the American Chemical Society designated the DuPont nylon plant at Seaford, Del., as a National Historic Chemical Landmark.
The United Nations declared this the year of chemistry to celebrate the many ways chemists and chemistry have improved our lives. What better example of this than nylon, the first totally synthetic fiber to be fashioned into consumer products? As the commemorative Landmark plaque says, nylon revolutionized the textile industry and led the way for a variety of synthetic materials that have had enormous social and economic impact on the fabric of everyday life worldwide.
Nylon, a replacement for silk, was a best seller from the outset. Prior to the start-up of the Seaford plant, DuPont had put 4,000 pairs of stockings on sale in Wilmington. They sold out in three hours. Seven months later, the company put 4,000,000 pairs on sale nationally. These sold out in four days. The name "nylon," intended to be a generic designation of a class of polymers, became another word for stockings.
Since then the strong, elastic, resilient fibers have found use in hoses and hosiery, tire cord and lingerie, carpets, curtains, seat belts, fishing line and dental floss, and a wide variety of apparel and other products. So give a nod of thanks to chemist Wallace Carothers and the other men and women of the time and of Delaware who brought us this versatile fiber nylon that we have come to depend upon for so many everyday uses. Where would we be without it? Where would we be without chemistry?
Through the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program, ACS commemorates the history of chemists and chemistry that have transformed our lives. Additional information is available online at www.acs.org/landmarks.