Exhibit pays tribute to production of nylon at Seaford DuPont Plant
By Lynn R. Parks
John Snyder, a former DuPont Co. vice president and general manager of the company's nylon enterprises, wasn't expecting much from the Seaford Museum display honoring the 75th anniversary of the start of production of nylon in Seaford.
The Ocean City, Md., resident, who worked at the nylon plant in Seaford from 1965 until 1977, said that he thought there might be "a couple of pictures hanging up in the old post office."
But on Monday afternoon, after walking through the exhibit, he said that he was pleasantly surprised.
"This is way beyond what I expected," he said. "This is a very deep look at all aspects of nylon and how its production here affected the town."
Also impressed was Ben Waide, who worked at the Seaford plant from 1965 until 1976 and then returned to serve as plant manager from 1984 until 1988. "The quality of the display is more than small town," said Waide, who lives in Fenwick Island. "This is a big town quality display."
The exhibit, set up in the museum's Webb Room, opened on Monday with Snyder and Waide cutting a ribbon that was stretched in front of the room's door. Present was Brian Nixon, the current plant manager of the nylon plant, now part of Invista, an international company headquartered in Wichita.
"This celebration is just fantastic," Nixon said. "The production of nylon did a lot for Seaford and for Sussex County. But no one knew what impact it would have on the world."
The product is used in fabrics as well as in machinery. Most of the fiber made at the Seaford plant goes into cloth for military uniforms, Nixon said. It also goes into machines that make paper and into felt that is used in scouring pads.
The Seaford plant was the world's first nylon plant. It was constructed in just nine months in 1939 by the DuPont Co. Construction cost was $8.5 million.
For years, the plant made all of the world's nylon, a fiber that was invented in the DuPont Company's Wilmington laboratories. In its heyday, in the mid-1960s to 1970s, the plant employed more than 4,000 people. By 1990, it was making 1 million pounds of nylon every day.
Now, Nixon said, the plant turns out more than 10 kilotons of nylon per year. That's about 22 million pounds, the same amount that in 1990 the plant produced in 22 days.
The plant was part of the DuPont Co.'s sale of Invista to Koch Industries in 2004. Koch paid $4.2 billion for Invista.
Scott Davidson is a former president of the Seaford Historical Society and a Seaford nylon plant retiree. "This is a great day," he said at the ribbon cutting ceremony. "Seventy-five years is a great milestone that deserves celebrating."
Sharlana Edgell, director of the Seaford Museum, praised the late Dave Webb for having the vision to establish a town museum. "If not for him, Seaford wouldn't have a place to have this exhibit," she said. The museum exhibit will remain in place until Nov. 2, when the historical society's annual train display will go up. That display will include a tribute to the 50th-anniversary train.
Aug. 20 through 24, the museum will host a display of the Seaford plant's newsletter, "The Threadline."
On Sept. 12, a state historical marker will be dedicated at the nylon plant.
The Seaford Historical Society gala, scheduled for Sept. 27, will focus on nylon's 75th anniversary.
And in January, the museum will host a display of projects, including oral histories from people who worked at the plant, put together by area students.
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