Experimental stockings

In 1928, the E. I. DuPont de Nemours Co. hired Wallace Carothers Ph. to conduct pure research in any area of chemistry he chose. His interest was in the construction of long chain polymers, similar to those found in nature. There was no product in mind when he and his team began their work, they simply wanted to learn as much about large molecules as possible. The work done by Carothers and his team lead to the discovery of polyesters and polyamides. DuPont went with the polyamides, and nylon was born. It was the first fiber produced entirely in the laboratory, and was introduced to the public in the form of women's stockings at the 1939 World's Fair. Nylon stockings went on sale May 15, 1940, and were a smashing success. Prior to the production of nylon stockings, American women wore stockings made of silk or rayon. By 1942, nylon stockings were taking twenty percent of the stocking market. With U.S. entry into World War Two, nylon was declared a defense material and withdrawn from the civilian market. Nylon's most famous use during the war was as a replacement for silk in parachutes. However, it was also used in ropes, netting, tire cord, and dozens of other items. So many uses were found for nylon that some referred to it as the "fiber that won the war." When the war ended, nylon stockings were brought back and quickly replaced silk and rayon in the stocking market.
This is the first pair of experimental nylon stockings made by Union Hosiery Company for Du Pont in 1937. The leg of the stocking is nylon, the upper welt, toe, and heel are silk, and cotton is found in the seam. The nylon section of the stocking would not take the silk dye, and dyed to black instead of brown.
Object Name
stockings, pair of
Object Type
Date made
ca 1937
Union Hosiery Co.
Physical Description
nylon (overall material)
silk (welt, heel, toe material)
cotton (seam material)
overall: 33 in; 83.82 cm
Place Made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Clothing & Accessories
Industry & Manufacturing
Science & Mathematics
National Treasures exhibit
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
National Treasures exhibit
Treasures of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of E. I DuPont deNemours & Co.
Related Publication
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
Publication title
Treasures of American History online exhibition
Publication author
National Museum of American History
Publication URL

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

Submit a comment or ask a question about this object using the form below. Submissions are moderated and may receive a curator response. Please note that we cannot evaluate or appraise your personal artifacts. For other questions or general inquiries please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.