This Month in Delaware…

Commemorative nylon sample produced at Seaford, Delaware (DHS collection, gift of Ralph Hoffecker)

The DuPont Company opens the world’s first nylon plant in Seaford, Delaware on December 15, 1939. Originally developed in Wilmington, Delaware in 1935 by Dr. Wallace Carothers and a team of DuPont chemists, nylon was the world’s first completely synthetic fiber and one of the DuPont Company’s most versatile and successful products. Valued for its strength and high resistance to abrasion, nylon paved the way for a whole host of synthetic materials, and was used in everything from ladies’ stockings to carpets and parachutes.

Not only was nylon invented in Delaware, DuPont also decided to keep production here when it chose the small town of Seaford in Sussex County as the site of its first factory. Seaford had ready access to both the river and rail networks needed for the plant’s operations and DuPont’s investment really transformed the local community, bringing thousands of new jobs and a good standard of living.  Seaford became a real company town and was even dubbed “The Nylon Capital of the World.” This golden period lasted until the 1980s. After years of downsizing, DuPont finally sold the plant to Invista (a division of Koch Industries) in 2004.

Fortunately, an interesting early relic of the golden age of nylon in Delaware is still preserved in our collections. This postcard-sized souvenir sample was produced to celebrate both the new material and the new Seaford plant.  The text reads: “Sample of the first DuPont nylon yarn produced at Seaford, Delaware December 1939.”


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