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Wallace Hume Carothers correspondence

1915-1947 Majority of material found within 1917-1922
 Collection
Identifier: 2255

Abstract

Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) was a chemist and inventor of Neoprene artificial rubber and Nylon synthetic fiber. He worked as a chemist in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's Fundamental Research Program from 1928 until his death in 1937. From 1915 to 1920, he attended Tarkio College in Missouri as a science major. This collection of Carothers' letters was written to and preserved by a close friend, Wilko Gustav Machentanz (1895-1973), with whom Carothers roomed for two of his years at Tarkio. The bulk of the letters were written between 1917 and 1922, before Carothers became absorbed in his doctoral studies, although the two corresponded as late as 1936.

Dates

  • 1915-1947
  • Majority of material found within 1917-1922

Creator

Extent

0.8 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) was a chemist and inventor of Neoprene artificial rubber and Nylon synthetic fiber. He worked as a chemist in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's Fundamental Research Program from 1928 until his death in 1937. Carothers was educated in the public schools of Des Moines, Iowa; he received his bachelor's degree at Tarkio College in Missouri and a doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois. In 1926, he was appointed instructor of organic chemistry at Harvard University. Two years later, Carothers was selected to head the research unit in organic chemistry at the DuPont Company.

At DuPont, Carothers' work focused on polymerization and the ways in which polymers structurally analogous to cellulose and silk could be prepared. In early 1930, the chemists in Carothers' laboratory produced neoprene (synthetic rubber) and the first laboratory-synthesized fiber. In 1934, still working on polymerization theory, Carothers produced the first polyamide fiber which was later to become known as Nylon. During the next two years, Carothers suffered frequent bouts of depression. On April 29, 1937, three weeks after the basic Nylon patent application was filed, he committed suicide.

Scope and Contents

This collection of Carothers' letters was written to and preserved by a close friend, Wilko Gustav Machentanz (1895-1973), with whom Carothers roomed for two of his years at Tarkio College. The bulk of the letters were written between 1917 and 1922, before Carothers became absorbed in his doctoral studies, although the two corresponded as late as 1936.

The letters are especially valuable for the light they shed on Carothers' youth. Carothers wrote candidly to Machentanz regarding his interests, emotions, social life, and study. The letters note Carothers' interest in music and Romantic authors, and describe early episodes of depression. There are also copies of Carothers' wedding invitation and the program for a Tarkio College production of Booth Tarkington's "The Man from Home," directed by Miss Bertha Machentanz, in which both Carothers and Machetanz played minor roles.

The collection concludes with a 1947 exchange of letters between Machentanz, now a lawyer in California, and Betty Jo Travis of Chicago, who had requested information for a paper on Carothers. Machentanz provides a brief but incisive character sketch and a short history of their relationship.

The letters and envelopes bear pencil notations by Robert Secor, who had used them in preparing his own biography of Carothers, which was left incomplete at his death in 2001.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Related Materials

John R. Johnson and Wallace Hume Carothers correspondence (Accession 1842), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Wallace Hume Carothers papers (Accession 1896), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Oral history project notes on Wallace Hume Carothers (Accession 1985), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Oral history interviews on Wallace Carothers (Accession 1994.311), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Wallace Hume Carothers letters to Frances Gelvin Spencer (Accession 2435), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Wallace Hume Carothers material on Nylon (Accession 2726), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Separated Materials

Wallace Hume Carothers photographs (Accession 2001.224), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Wallace Hume Carothers correspondence
Status:
Online
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Laurie Sather

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400