You can actually pinpoint the exact day nylon stockings became available to the public: May 15th, 1940. Du Pont had announced back on October 27th, 1938 that they had developed a new material called nylon. In 1939 the miracle yarn was displayed at the World's Fair. Du Pont completely controlled the production of the first pantyhose, and then made sure that the selected stores that were given merchandise didn't sell any until "Nylon Day".

Needless to say, pandemonium ensued. Hosiery departments were bombarded and near riots broke out. (Women are scary when they want stuff.) Three million dozen pairs were sold by the end of the year - all that was available. Compared to the delicacy of silk, the stockings were considered a threat to the industry for being so industructible - many manufacturers feared bankruptcy.

Pantyhose industructible. Hah. Give me 15 seconds and one good toenail...

The History of Nylon Stockings

In 1930, Wallace Carothers, Julian Hill, and other researchers for the DuPont Company studied chains of molecules called polymers, in an attempt to find a substitute for silk. Pulling a heated rod from a beaker containing carbon-and alcohol-based molecules, they found the mixture stretched and, at room temperature, had a silky texture. This work culminated in the production of nylon marking the beginning of a new era in synthetic fibers.

Nylon Stockings - 1939 New York World's Fair

Nylon was first used for fishing line, surgical sutures, and toothbrush bristles. DuPont touted its new fiber as being "as strong as steel, as fine as a spider's web," and first announced and demonstrated nylon and nylon stockings to the American public at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

According to The Nylon Drama authors David Hounshell and John Kenly Smith, Charles Stine, vice president DuPont unveiled the world's first synthetic fiber not to a scientific society but to three thousand women's club members gathered at the site of the 1939 New York World's Fair for the New York Herald Tribune's Eighth Annual Forum on Current Problems. He spoke in a session entitled 'We Enter the World of Tomorrow' which was keyed to the theme of the forthcoming fair, the World of Tomorrow."

Full Scale Production of Nylon Stockings
First Nylon PlantDuPont built the first full-scale nylon plant in Seaford, Delaware, and began commercial production in late 1939.

The company decided not to register nylon as a trademark, according to Dupont they, "choose to allow the word to enter the American vocabulary as a synonym for stockings, and from the time it went on sale to the general public in May 1940, nylon hosiery was a huge success: women lined up at stores across the country to obtain the precious goods."

The first year on the market, DuPont sold 64 million pairs of stockings. That same year, nylon appeared in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, where it was used to create the tornado that carried Dorothy to the Emerald City.

Nylon Stocking and the War Effort

In 1942, nylon went to war in the form of parachutes and tents. Nylon stockings were the favorite gift of American soldiers to impress British women. Nylon stockings were scarce in America until the end of World War II, but then returned with a vengeance. Shoppers crowded stores, and one San Francisco store was forced to halt stocking sales when it was mobbed by 10,000 anxious shoppers.

Today, nylon is still used in all types of apparel and is the second most used synthetic fiber in the United States.

Who Invented Pantyhose?

In 1959, Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina introduced pantyhose invented by Allen Gant. Pantyhose are a combination of underpants and stockings all in one garment.

With the addition of an opaque nylon top, panthose eliminated the need for multiple "foundation" garments. In 1965, Glen Raven Mills developed a seamless pantyhose version that coincided with the introduction of the miniskirt. Allen Grant is the descendant of John Gant, who founded the textile mill in 1902.

Julie Newmar - Improvements to Pantyhose

Julie Newmar, a living Hollywood film and television legend is an inventor in her own right. The former Cat Woman patented ultra-sheer, ultra-snug pantyhose.

Known for her work in films such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Slaves of Babylon, Newmar has also appeared recently in Fox Television's Melrose Place and the hit feature-film "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Love Julie Newmar."

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