Interview with J. Thomas "Tom" Mills, 2008 June 10

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  • Biographical History
    Partial Transcript: "[The Wharton school] had a reputation and for whatever reason my parents knew of the school and always had a high regard for it..."
    Synopsis: J. Thomas "Tom" Mills talks about growing up in Toledo, Ohio. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University and graduated in 1955 with a B.A. in "General Business". He spent three years in the Air Force then attended Wharton Working School in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1960. From there he was recruited for DuPont from school and talks about his various positions working in business from Special Industrial Marketing to helping the invention of imitation Persian wool fabric. He also touches upon some of the Iran "debacle" with DuPont's plant there.
    Keywords: DuPont in Iran; Iran; Ohio Wesleyan University; United States. Air Force; University of Pennsylvania. Wharton School
  • Types of Companies Mills Worked With and Interfacing with Different Parts of the Plants
    Partial Transcript: "Center Road was a nice happy family. Everybody knew everybody so if you needed something you didn't have to wait for Products to tell you who to go to-- you knew who to go to."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about the kind of customers that needed cordage and fishnets/fishing lines that were popular in the West Coast (in California). He worked with the following companies: Line and Twine Company, Tubs Cordage, Samson Cordage, and Koring Bros Inc. He also describes what the process was communicating with other branches of DuPont's company. He also talks about his small acetate flake business in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.
    Keywords: acrylic fiber; Bellingham Washington; Center Road (Pa.); Koring Bros Inc; Line & Twine Co.; Line and Twine Company; orlon fiber; orlon fibre; Petaluma California; Samson Cordage; Tubs Cordage; Wynnewood (Pa.)
  • Working in Non-Wovens/Special Industrial Market 1963 -1968
    Partial Transcript: "At the time [non wovens] was a light bulb [idea] for some people..."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about his time in developing the non-woven market. He discusses carpet backing and the trials and errors of the Tyvek machine used to create different backings, and him not knowing the importance of the backing for carpets. He talks about his accomplishment in putting Codura's name on DuPont's newest product: nylon cordage for tying packages. He also talks about the various sizes by knot strength per pound with the nylon cord. He also mentions the new invention of using nylon as fabric. He then talks about their development partner Dick Bunn in nylon cordage.
    Keywords: carpet backing; Cordura; Nylon; Nylon cord
  • Working in Fiberfill, Changes in Production, and Bonded Batting
    Partial Transcript: "...It was a matter of servicing the customers and so forth."
    Synopsis: Mills describes Gerry Montaigne starting the fiber fill business and the F.M.I. process that was suitable for the business that created hollow fibers. He talks about the Red Label Program that made it all possible to create the business and the invention of dual density fibers as air filter mediums. He talks about the development of his branch changing out of manufacturing fiber fill to having their converters producing it. He then talks about bonded batting and the affiliation he had with E.R Carpenter Company (now known as Carpenter Co.), what it was used for in bedding products, the advantage over bonded batting versus non-bonded batting. Mills was responsible for the "lubricant" added to bonded batting to be resilient when placed in the dryer after washing. He lists off coworkers in fiber fill and trade marketing in fiber fill. He then talks about his big distributor, American Excelsior Corporation in selling fiber fill to smaller customers.
    Keywords: American Excelsior Corp.; American Excelsior Corporation; Carpenter Co.; Carpenter Company; E.R. Carpenter Co.; E.R. Carpenter Company; Fiber Fill
  • In Use Marketing
    Partial Transcript: "[At first] we were not selling the fiber to anybody [but] as time and a half went by...our marketing group [became an] experiment we were given sales responsibilities for selling fiber to certain customers as well as going out and promoting the products that they made."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about his working in "in use" marketing in home furnishings where he worked on the cover fabrics for bedding and other household materials. He distinguishes between Direct Marketing and In Use Marketing in how each branch operates. He talks about how "diverse businesses" were handled from a marketing point of view. He then talks about how Direct Marketing and In Use Marketing intertwined and describes the difficulty in selling specialty sheets with texture fills and warps to diverse businesses and what was better to sell instead.
    Keywords: Joann Fabrics; Quaker Fabrics; selling fabric; selling fiber; spun warp; textile marketing; texture fill; texture warp
  • Nylon Textile Business Center 1988 - , The Birth of The Nylon Enterprise, Separation of DuPont Textiles, Relationship with Jim Heslep
    Partial Transcript: "[Invista] set up the nylon business and they started to back away from keeping it as a DuPont business... the way they operated was quite different than what DuPont did when DuPont ran it. It's no where near as paternal as it used to be..."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about the nylon business and how most of their earnings for the company came from women's hosiery. He talks about marketing with type 90 yarn and how nylon became extremely profitable into its own enterprise, becoming involved in polymers and raw materials. He talks about the separation of the nylon business as a business of its own. He then dabbles into the separation after he retired and how Jim Heslep went to work for a competitor company.
    Keywords: Camden (N.J.); Chattangooga (Tenn.); Martinsville (Va.); Nylon; Nylon Enterprise; Nylon fabric; Nylon fiber; reconstruction of DuPont textile mills; Seaford (Del.); separation of DuPont textiles
  • Mill's Retirement, Computerization in Marketing, Globalizing Textiles, and Production Shows Before Retirement
    Partial Transcript: "The world was globalizing very rapidly as far as 'technicals' were concerned..."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about going into consulting for two years after retirement. He talks about the efforts one had to do in order to to be productive in consulting to generate business in other areas of the world. He talks about the effect of computers in marketing through email and fax and how that helped globalize business. He then talks about the expansion in Europe, Iran, Mexico and Australia and how computers made communication easier, including expansion of their Type 90 machine in Taiwan. He talks about the importance of the production shows he was involved in, the different types of shows, and his experiences in them.
    Keywords: advancements in technology; Chicago (Ill.); Europe; globalizing companies; globalizing market; globalizing textiles; globalizing trade; High Point (N.C.); Iran; nylon; Taiwan; Type 90 Machine; Type 90 Machine in textiles
  • Significant Nylon Products in Enterprise, Production of Flocked Fabrics, More Information About Production Shows ("Papers"), Working in New York Sales Office, the Evolution of Marketing from 1960 - 1980s
    Partial Transcript: "[We were] big in the intimate apparel business-- a very important business..."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about the significant products in nylon: hosiery, upholstery yarns, nylon staple and tow, intimate apparel and women's sleepwear. He talks about the process of making/using flocked fabric for nylon products. Plasky and Mills remember the old Kennett Square Mills called Textured Text. Mills talks more about production shows and what he would do there (what Plasky calls "papers" in reference). Mills talks about the various functions that would take place at the New York Sales Office. He talks about the evolution of marketing during his time at DuPont and what changed due to company progress or due to the state of America.
    Keywords: 1972 Energy Crisis; 1973 Recession; broadwoven fabric; flocked fabrics; Hosiery; Kennett Square (Pa.); Kennett Square Textured Text; Nylon; Nylon Staple; Nylon Tow; Taslan; Taslan Textured Yarn; Taslan Trade Mark; Textured Text; United Yarn; United Yarn Kennett Square; upholstery yarns; Wilmington (Del.)
  • Significant Coworkers of Mills and Best Memories
    Partial Transcript: Plasky: "I'll tell you it's remarkable-- your memory. You just remembered a lot of things [that helped me]..."
    Synopsis: Mills talks about the various high ranking roles his coworkers received over the years and is asked about what some of his best memories were while working for DuPont.
    Keywords: best memories; coworkers