Oral history interviews with former employees of DuPont Company's Textile Fibers Department
About this collection
The Textile Fibers Department of the DuPont Company, established in 1936 as the Rayon Department, specialized in researching and developing synthetic fibers for fabrics such as Rayon, Nylon, Teflon, Corian, and Kevlar. Former DuPont Company employee Joe Plasky interviewed individuals who worked in all sectors of the business, from research and engineering to marketing, during the period from approximately 1950 to 2000. The development of new materials, products, and processes; construction of new plants; changes in marketing and personnel systems; and the introduction of computer systems are among the topics covered in the interviews.
- Forehand's interview details time spent developing wind-ups as well as the segregated atmosphere between men and women and different races in the DuPont Company in the 1950s. He also details his experiences in manufacturing and changes in the yarn industry. He discusses time abroad working in Germany and his family's adjustment to the new situation. Forehand's time in Germany was very meaningful, and DuPont invited all of the families back for a 25-year anniversary after they had worked there. He returned to manufacturing yarn at Cape Fear, ultimately moving to process engineering. He also discusses the change in the nature of supervising throughout the history of the company - from hands-on awareness of both home and work situations to a more generic hands-off approach beginning in the mid-1960s. Moreover, he discusses the impact of technology on company processes.
- Frank Reickert briefly mentions his early life in Poughkeepsie and his college education before delving into his first position with DuPont as a design engineer at Seaford, mentioning several early projects. He then discusses the various positions he held in the maintenance department. Among other projects, Reickert describes a special assignment in which he developed a plan to shift from a system of single-skill mechanics to general mechanics and the way in which he convinced the union rep of the plan's efficacy. He also mentions the safety audit procedures in place at Seaford and has commentary on the levels of management he observed, which he thought was excessive yet appropriate for the time period of booming business. He then speaks of the 8 years he spent in Jack Sigmund's Wilmington office, primarily as a facilitator and coordinator for various projects and committees. About this period, Reickert goes into detail about the wind-up committee he oversaw, which consisted of maintenance personnel from all the plants that had wind-ups and had members from other departments as well. The committee was formed to exchange information in order to improve the maintenance, operability, and performance of high-speed wind-ups. He also mentions a project on surface coatings he facilitated with the engineering department, which sought to reduce wear and improve product quality. He also details the paperwork involved in producing construction forecasts and his push to computerize them. Near the end of his interview, Reickert discusses his work in the General Services Department, highlighting a project to redesign and renovate the executive offices of Conoco after that company's purchase by DuPont. He also briefly discusses his post-retirement consulting work, remarking on the amazement of companies at how much money they could save by enforcing safety regulations in the workplace. Throughout the interview, Reickert names other individuals who worked with him.
- In his interview, J. Thomas "Tom" Mills explains to Plasky how marketing works at DuPont in order to sell fibers and how he and his team impacted the nylon industry.Mills covers some of his life before he started working for DuPont in 1960. He then talks about what it is like selling to costumers around the United States and the types of costumers he would sell cordage to. He talks about tech marketing and the organizations he worked with and how they would interact with one another. He talks about the introduction of nylon tying material over conventional twine. He then talks about his accomplishments while working in textile marketing, like putting the well-known name of Cordura on an unknown product at the time known as nylon. He then talks about working in fiberfill and going to trade shows to demonstrate and sell products. Then he discusses the bonding of batting for bedding from converter companies and how he created the "special finishes" on the fiber so it would retain its fluff when washed and dried.Mills then discusses marketing more, explaining the differences between direct marketing and in-use marketing. He goes on to talk about the nylon enterprise and what nylon was used to create: women’s hosiery, men's socks, upholstery, specialty sheets, and intimate apparel. He talks about marketing in hosiery and how that made a big profit in DuPont. He talks about the Type 90 machine and yarn and how Cordura and Tazlan were under those names. He then talks about what happened to DuPont after he retired, including the introduction to Invista, and talks about what other coworkers did after Mills left. He then discusses his retirement more and the effect of computerization in marketing, adding on what is done in production shows and the process of flocked fabric. He then talks about how the New York Sale office operated, and the evolution of DuPont including outside influences affecting production. He then closes the interview with Plasky with some of his best memories of his time with DuPont.
- Acker's interview provides a perspective on plant engineering during the 1950s through the 1980s with a focus on Nylon fiber plants in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Camden, South Carolina; Waynesboro, Virginia; and corporate Wilmington, Delaware. The interview includes details on plant construction, manufacturing processes and organizational changes, such as the move from plant based to regional and centralized engineering services over time. Also discussed are trends in unionization and cost reduction by moving from craft oriented to multiskilled labor.
- Forney's interview chronicles the development of a continuous polymerization process for polyester fibers, including the use of the two-step pre-polymerization process, for the prototype at Seaford and the implementation at Kinston, where he moved to supervise the project. Forney also discusses his experience concerning the development of EFT and his work at Old Hickory as assistant plant manager. He also discusses the modernization of Nylon spinners in Wilmington.