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Wallace Hume Carothers letters to Frances Gelvin Spencer

1929-1933
 Collection
Identifier: 2435

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. This collection consists of photocopies of fourteen letters written by Carothers to his former college girlfriend from Missouri, Frances Gelvin Spencer, between 1929 and 1933. The nature of the letters is almost entirely personal.

Dates

  • 1929-1933

Creator

Extent

14 item(s)

Physical Description

1 folder in carton.

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 consists of photocopies of fourteen letters written by Carothers to his former college girlfriend from Missouri, Frances Gelvin Spencer. The letters were copied from the originals in the possession of Spencer before her death. They are almost entirely personal in nature, but one describes his work in the following terms, "We have been enormously lucky in our research so far. We have not only a synthetic rubber, but something theoretically more original -- a synthetic silk. If these two things can be nailed down, that will be enough for one lifetime."

Existence and Location of Originals

Originals privately held or no longer extant.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to 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 correspondence (Accession 2255), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Wallace Hume Carothers photographs (Accession 2001.224), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives 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

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Wallace Hume Carothers letters to Frances Gelvin Spencer
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