Carpet Innovation in the USA
Woven carpet manufacturing began in the United States during the late 1700’s, early 1800’s in Philadelphia and New England. With the invention of the power loom Erastus Bigelow forever changed how carpets were made, tripling production by 1850. Bigelow received 35 patents for power loom innovations, introducing the first broadloom carpet in 1877. Progressive improvements continued to promote carpet products to the consumer through the end of the 1800’s into the early 1900’s. The Jacquard mechanism on the power loom along with other mechanical modifications allowed manufacturers the ability to create higher end visuals that peaked carpet sales into the 1920’s. Marshall Field an industrialist/retailer had a traditional Axminister weaving loom modified to create a machine-made rug that mimicked handmade Orientals with intricate designs and colors. Karastan’s rug mill was established in 1926 and introduced the first Karastan rugs to the public in 1928. Present manufacturers are producing both simulations of antique designs and updated “oriental” type rugs by both weaving and tufting processes in today’s market place.
Through the late 1800s, Northwest Georgia was one of the last areas of the state to industrialize. Northern Georgia has a rich heritage of Cherokee Indians and the location of many Civil War battles. A rugged people, the residents was independent and self-sufficient. A community who brought forth and nurtured the tufted textile industry. The industry began in Dalton and has gone through immense growth, it has now matured in and around Dalton Georgia. The carpet industry’s impact is great to this region, to this state, and to the nation. The evolution story , the development process is unique.
A young, Dalton woman, Catherine Evans Whitener, recreated a bedspread in a hand-crafted pattern she had seen, for a wedding gift. Duplicating a quilt pattern, she sewed thick cotton yarns with a running stitch into unbleached muslin, clipped the ends of the yarn so they would fluff out, and finally, washed the spread in hot water to lock the yarns in place by shrinking the fabric. Interest soon grew in Catherine’s bedspreads. The local term for the sewing process was called “turfin”, for many area residents bedspread income was instrumental in helping their families survive the depression. Chenille bedspreads became amazingly popular all over the country and provided a new name for Dalton and surrounding area: The “Bedspread Capital of the World.”
During the 1930’s bed spread manufacturing began to shift from handmade to mechanized production due to the demand for the product. The first tufting machines were attributed to Glen Looper foundry of Dalton. Looper developed a multi-needle machine that would sew thick yarns into the muslin without tearing and a knife would cut the loop. Machines quickly developed into more needles to make the parallel rows of tufting known as “chenille.”
The technology continued to evolve into making mats and rugs with the same process, using cotton yarns and fabric. Until the 1950’s, cotton was virtually the only fiber used in tufted products. Wool and manmade fibers were gradually introduced by textile companies in Dalton. Nylon was first introduced to carpet in the 1950’s and grew steadily to dominate the market. Polyester was introduced in the mid. 1960’s, followed soon by polypropylene (olefin). Most manufacturers will agree that the single most important development in the industry was the introduction of bulk continuous filament (BCF) nylon yarns. These yarns were high quality that produced a very durable carpet, which was more economical to manufacture. Therefore, a durable, luxury product was offered to the consumer for less money.
In the early 1950’s, ninety percent of all carpet and rug products were woven, ten percent tufted. However, as the decade progressed along came man-made fibers, new spinning/yarn techniques, tufting equipment, new dye equipment, printing processes, and second backings for different end uses. Today, tufted products are more than ninety percent of the total, with the remaining ten percent produced by weaving, needle punch or other methods.
Carpets in the USA have gone through many transitions, mechanically evolving from the early years of the power loom, to the modern-day tufting machine. Flooring products made with natural and synthetic fibers have a demand in the market place.
Through the years, the center of the tufted carpet industry has remained in Dalton and surrounding areas. The area flooring companies produce more than 70 percent of the total output of the world-wide industry. Northwest Georgia is now known as the “Carpet Capital of the World.” As the local companies continue to evolve into hard surface flooring, Northwest Georgia soon will be known as the “Flooring Capital of the World.” If you’re interested in learning more about First Source Worldwide’s role in the Dalton, GA carpet industry, click the picture below!