The American Chemical Society designated the evolution of durable press and flame retardant cotton
a National Historic Chemical Landmark on May 14, 2004. The plaque commemorating the event reads:
By the 1950s, synthetic fabrics - often wrinkle resistant and flame retardant - began to overtake cotton
as the dominant U.S. textile fiber. To reverse this trend chemists and chemical engineers at the Southern
Regional Research Center initiated research to modify cotton chemically. Their efforts in developing agents
that crosslinked the cellulose fibers and in establishing crosslinking mechanisms led to improved durable
press fabrics. SRRC studies also developed new agents that improved the durability of flame retardant
cotton to laundering. These significant advances in the properties of cotton enabled this natural fiber
to remain a highly competitive textile.
Photo Credits: The Southern Regional Research Center.
Written by Judah Ginsberg
The author wishes to thank Bethlehem A. Kottes Andrews, Ruth R. Benerito, Ralph J. Berni, Eugene J.
Blanchard, Timothy A. Calamari, Jr., John G. Frick, Wilson A. Reeves, Robert M. Reinhardt, and Clark M.
Welch for sharing their memories of working on durable press and flame retardant cotton at the Southern
Regional Research Center. Special thanks to Noelie R. Bertoniere, Research Leader of this group from 1984
to 2001, for organizing the interviews, translating the complicated chemistry into understandable language,
and editing (with Robert M. Reinhardt) this brochure.
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