The History of Nylon

Nylon is a synthetic fibre, nicknamed the ‘miracle fibre’ which was invented in 1934 by DuPont cooperation as a replacement for silk. The fibre was an immediate hit and remained so until World War II when in 1941 both silk and nylon production was taken over by the War Production Board for the manufacture of parachutes, tents, rope and army clothing.

The nylon material was created entirely from petrochemicals which differed from the two forerunners, Rayon and Acetate which were both produced for plants cellulose.  During production nylon was given the name Fibre66 and it took a total of twelve years and twenty seven million US dollars to produce. The scientist Wallace Carothers was credited with the invention of this strong yet flexible fibre along with co-worker Julian Hill.

Nylon was first used in the bristle of toothbrushes; however the ultimate target was the development of a replacement fabric for silk which could be used in to produce nylon stockings. Nylon is stronger then steel, yet as fine as a spider’s web and more elastic then any other natural fibre. It was first demonstrated by  DuPont’s vice president, Dr. Stine at the World Trade Fair, held in New York City in on the 27th October 1939. DuPont spared no expense in promoting their new product, creating an atmosphere many dubbed as ‘nylon mania’. 

The company went into full production and by 1940 on the first day the stockings were put on sale, ladies waited in line to secure their first purchase.  72,000 pairs of nylons were reported to have been sold on the first day and 64 millions in the first year alone. The nylons were inexpensive and wrinkle free and it took a whole year for supply to eventually catch up with theoverwhelming demand.

The use and demand for nylon expanded after the end of World War II causing the DuPont’s fortunes to grow rapidly with production plants springing up in various places in the US. The 1970’s saw the production of anti-static treatment for nylon which expanded its use further into the manufacture of rugs and carpets. However, despite the growth and progress, the 1970’s was a difficult period for DuPont, due to the oil shortage in 1973 and again in 1979, which impacted greatly on the nylon production.  However, recent years have witnessed a resurgence.

Nylon was invented over seventy years ago and today clothing designers are still filling the fashion runways with clothes produced from nylon, for which punters are prepared to pay handsomely for ownership.  Needless to say nylon remains a very important material, not only for the production of fabric, but also as a material, it is valued for its anti-corrosive and anti-fungal properties.  It is highly resistive to wear, with a proven track record of its durability, especially in the manufacture of gears, bearings, bushings and other mechanical parts. 

Nylon is used world-wide with research and new technologies still discovering new ways in which it can be use to further enhance human existence.