(September 19, 2011) — Three individuals have been inducted into the American Textile Hall of Fame, recognizing their significant contributions to and support of the textile industry. Honorees in the Class of 2011 are Stephanie Kwolek, a DuPont chemist who invented DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber; Elliott White Springs, a distinguished aviator, author, textile executive, and advertising genius who led Springs Cotton Mills to become one of the textile industry’s great success stories; and Robert Ten Broeck Stevens, who transformed J.P. Stevens & Co. from a regional textile organization to a leader in U.S. textiles.
The American Textile Hall of Fame was initiated in 2001 by the American Textile History Museum in Lowell to honor individuals, corporations and institutions that have made significant contributions to the textile industry in America, as well as those who have advanced the place, role, and appreciation of textiles in American life. This year’s recipients were honored September 19 at a luncheon at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Inn and Conference Center.
“Each of these honorees has had a profound impact on the textile industry in unique ways,” said ATHM President and CEO Jim Coleman. “They are worthy of great recognition for contributions they made to shape the history and future of textiles, and we are honored to pay tribute to their achievements.”
The 2011 American Textile Hall of Fame was made possible through the generous sponsorship of B.J. Park. Additional funding was provided by Georgia Contos, Frederick B. Dent, Nancy L. Donahue, James M. Fitzgibbons Ruth B. Ward, and Katherine M. Wisser.
The American Textile History Museum (ATHM) in Lowell recently inducted three individuals – Stephanie Kwolek, Elliott White Springs, and Robert Ten Broeck Stevens – into the American Textile Hall of Fame, which honors individuals, corporations and institutions that have made significant contributions to the textile industry in America. From left are Derick Close, Elliott White Springs’ grandson and CEO of Springs Creative Products Group, LLC.; Jim Coleman, ATHM President and CEO; Roger K. Siemionko, Vice President of Technology for DuPont Protection Technologies; George Shuster, Chairman of the American Textile Hall of Fame Committee; Karl Spilhaus, Chairman of the ATHM Board of Trustees; and Richard Parker, retired advertising executive with J.P. Stevens & Co.
The following are the inductees into the American Textile Hall of Fame Class of 2011:
Stephanie Kwolek is a now retired chemist who invented the substance commonly known as Kevlar®. In 1946, she began her career in a textile fibers research laboratory at DuPont. Working to produce a specialty fiber that is lightweight yet strong enough to be used to reinforce automobile tires, Kwolek’s invention took the form of an exceptionally strong synthetic fiber superior to nylon, which provided the basis for the invention of Kevlar® in 1971. Today, Kevlar® is synonymous with protecting military and law enforcement personnel around the globe.
Awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1996 and the Perkin Medal in 1997, Kwolek became the fourth female member inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994. Today, Kwolek remains on the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences along with consulting for DuPont.
“There are literally hundreds of innovative, life-protecting uses for Kevlar® today that have grown out of broad collaboration with customers, governments, and institutions worldwide,” said Roger K. Siemionko, Vice President of Technology for DuPont Protection Technologies, who accepted the award on behalf of Kwolek. “But most of all, it grew from the curious mind of one person who knew that she had found something very special. She continues to be an ongoing inspiration to young scientists around the world today.”
Elliott White Springs
Elliott White Springs was a man of many talents: aviator, author, textile executive, and advertising genius. He was the fifth-ranked Flying Ace of WWI, receiving both the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the American Distinguished Service Cross. He returned to military service during World War II and left with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He went on to author nine books, three screenplays, and scores of short stories. His book, Warbirds: Diary of An Unknown Aviator, is considered the most important writing about World War I aviation ever published.
At 35 years old, he inherited from his father the task of running Springs Cotton Mills, which consisted of five run-down mills. In the face of the Great Depression, he consolidated the five mills into one company, built a finishing plant, established a sales organization, and modernized the business. At his death in 1959, Springs Cotton Mills was the seventh-largest textile company in the United States, and the leader in textile industry profitability. In the twenty-eight years of his leadership, the company assets went from $13 million to $138.5 million and from $8 million to $184 million in sales.
His unique Springmaid advertising campaign holds a firm place as one of the most notable and important in the history of advertising in America. His use of sly puns and double-entendres created the rules of advertising innuendo that remain relevant today.
“On behalf of my seven siblings and my mother, we accept this recognition in honor of an entrepreneur who, in every sense of the word, did quite innovative work for his country, his home state, and for our industry,” said Derick Close, Elliott White Springs’ grandson and CEO of Springs Creative Products Group, LLC, in accepting the award. “I think the Colonel would be proud of the things we are doing today to help continue a legacy he and so many others helped to create.”
Robert Ten Broeck Stevens
Robert Ten Broeck Stevens, born in 1899, was both an industrial leader and prominent public servant. He attended Andover and Yale and served in the Army during World War I. He joined J.P. Stevens & Co. in 1921, several generations after the original Stevens textile business was founded by Nathaniel Stevens in North Andover in 1813.
He became President of the Company at his father’s death in 1929. Under his leadership, there followed a period of vigorous growth and national expansion. His wide outside activities included a term as Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. With World War II, he rejoined the Army as a Colonel in the Quartermaster Corps concentrating on military textile requirements. After the war he went back to the Company and in 1953 became Secretary of the Army in the Eisenhower administration. He was a principal in the Army-McCarthy hearings, acting always in support of military personnel.
He returned to the Company in 1955 as Chairman until his retirement in 1965. The Company had grown from a regional textile organization to a leader in U.S. textiles. Robert Stevens died in 1983 after living a life of service to his family, his company and his country.
Whitney Stevens, Robert Stevens’ son and retired Chairman of J.P. Stevens & Co., was unable to attend to accept the award, but said in a statement, “Father would be deeply moved receiving this wonderful award and joining the list of very distinguished recipients, many of whom were close friends of his.”