DuPont Company's 75th anniversary comes to an end with completion of time capsule

By Lynn R. Parks

As the culmination of a year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the DuPont Co. nylon plant in Seaford, the Seaford Historical Society has completed a time capsule. The box of memorabilia was presented to the society last week by Scott Davidson, former society president and chairman of the 75th anniversary celebration.

The time capsule will be stored in the basement of the Seaford Museum. A plaque that will be placed in the museum's display on nylon production in Seaford will keep historical society members of the future from forgetting the time capsule in the basement.

"This is a way for us to remember what DuPont nylon did for Seaford," said Davidson, who also worked at the Seaford plant as an engineer.

The 72 items that were donated for the time capsule are in a plastic storage bin that has been tightly wrapped in plastic. Two documents lie on top of the items: a declaration, signed by nine former DuPont employees who worked on the time capsule, and a list of the items that are in it.

The declaration directs future members of the historical society to open the capsule in 2039, "to enhance the exhibition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of nylon production in Seaford, Delaware." The list advises those future members that the items "tell the nylon story beginning October 1938 through Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2014."

"The first commercial pound of nylon was manufactured in Seaford, Del., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1939, at approximately 1 p.m., making Seaford the Nylon Capital of the World," it adds. "Now, you get to unravel the big story."

Items in the capsule include a story in the Wilmington Star newspaper, dated Dec. 10, 1939, about the plant, nylon in various stages (including raw and finished, in melted chips, as staple and as textile), safety glasses, copies of the plant newsletter, The Threadline, and items from the 20th, 40th, 50th, 60th and 75th anniversary celebration. There are a pocket protector, a copy of the 1946 poem "Nylons," by Edgar A. Guest, a program commemorating the kickoff of Stainmaster Carpet, a commemorative pen and a commemorative thermometer.

Jackie Davis, who worked at the plant for 39 and a half years, donated a pair of scissors, a sheath and lock-out tag, used to make certain that machines were properly shut off. She also gave one of the 50th-anniversary jackets which were handed out to employees and which, of course, were made of nylon.

"I thought that the items that we got together are very interesting," Davis, of Laurel, said. "The people of 2039 will enjoy going through them when they open the time capsule."

Rudy Wilson, Seaford, who also donated items to the time capsule, worked for DuPont for 37 and a half years and for Invista for another year. "There are three things that have powered the economy of Seaford," he said. "The Nanticoke River, the railroad and DuPont. It's important that we remember all three."

Jack Knowles, who started working at the plant in 1961, donated items from his Days Gone By museum in Woodland. "I think that people in 2039 will appreciate what we've done," he said.

Irv King worked at the plant for 39 years, in research and development as well as in operations. He said that the time capsule will help explain how important nylon and the DuPont Co. were to Seaford. In particular, he said, the items will be interesting to people who grew up during the plant's heyday. "Hopefully, there will still be people around who recognize the value of the nylon plant to Seaford, as well as the way DuPont treated its employees at that time," he added.

Raymond Whaley, who started work at the plant in 1961, just two weeks after graduating from Seaford High School, attended the Wednesday Seaford Historical Society meeting at which the time capsule was presented to former president Jim Larson. He also helped to get the items in the time capsule together.

"I wanted to be a part of this because I liked DuPont and I'm sorry to see it gone," he said. "Hopefully, this will remind us of what we had and of how our area relied on DuPont."

Paula Barto, who retired from the DuPont Co. in 1992 after 22 years and then returned as a contract worker for DuPont and for Invista, agrees.

"We don't have DuPont here any longer," she said. "In 25 years, most of us who worked there will be gone too. We don't want people to forget that this was the Nylon Capital of the World. This was the beginning of nylon, right here, and that's a good memory to keep alive."

For your information The Days Gone By museum in Woodland has memorabilia and photos from the DuPont Co.'s days in Seaford. The museum is open whenever anyone wants to visit, said owner (and DuPont retiree) Jack Knowles. For information, call him at 629-9889.

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