Nylon’s Great Lineage
The Lion King musical on Broadway relied heavily on puppetry. To make the puppets strong enough to endure a Broadway run, director and lead designer Julie Taymor turned to carbon fiber, a strong, stiff fabric and one member of the latest generation of polymers (Lampert-Greaux, 42). Taymor wouldn’t have had this option without the invention of the first polymer, nylon.
Invented in 1934 by Wallace Carothers for DuPont and released to the public in 1938, nylon quickly gained use in everything from cleaning brushes, ropes and fishing line to toothbrushes and hosiery, where it became so popular for its ability to resist all sorts of grime that many people call all hosiery nylons regardless of the fabric. (PBS) Nylons were so popular that when the US entered WWII many parachutes were made out of recycled ones, and there were even auctions of the nylons of famous movie starlettes to raise money for the war effort (Visforvintage).
After the success of nylon, DuPont began to produce other artificial polymers, such as polyester and Spandex. Eventually, polymers became a part of everyday life and most everyone’s clothing. Specialty polymers began to be developed, with ones tough enough to build a boat, or puppets for a Broadway show, being developed today. If nylon hadn’t been a success, the world of theater would certainly be a very different place.
Lampert-Greaux, Ellen, “It’s good to be King”, TCI: Theater Crafts International; March 1998, Vol. 32. Accessed from ebscohost.com at: <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=11&sid=92c760a8-07f7-4109-913e-2623a1c5c316%40sessionmgr4&hid=11&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aft&AN=503477467