The History Of Carpet In America
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Through its history in America, carpet has been affected by fashion, economics, and social change. Carpet has been around throughout most of human history and wool has been the preferred material for carpets from early times and until today. The developments in weaving and spinning techniques, as well as the introduction of manmade fibers have made carpets available to everyone.
The first American carpet industry emerged at the end of the eighteenth century. Skilled weavers with handloom technology made the first carpets. The carpets were a necessity for American homes in the nineteenth century as they were used to cover poor quality, soft wood floors. The early American carpet industry has been borrowed from the United Kingdom. The beginnings of the carpet industry in the United States have struggled in improving its technology and skills in order to be able to become competitive against imports.
In America the carpet industry began in the year 1791, with the first woven carpet mill started by William Sprague in Philadelphia. Others carpet mills opened during the early 1800s through the region of New England. At that time, one of the big carpet mills in that area was Beattie Manufacturing Company operating in Little Falls, New Jersey. The company stayed on the market until the year 1979.
In the year 1839, the invention by Erastus Bigelow of the power loom for weaving carpets permanently reshaped the industry. After its creation, the power loom device doubled carpet production in the first year and tripled it by the year 1850. Bigelow's power loom is now part of the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. Erastus Bigelow continued to devote his life to innovation and between 1839 and 1879 designed 35 other inventions that received patents. In the year 1877, he introduced the first broadloom carpet.
The Jacquard mechanism has been added to the power loom in 1849, to develop the Brussels loom. The first company to manufacture a Brussels carpet was the Clinton Company of Massachusetts. The Brussels loom has been improved further, making possible the manufacture of Wilton carpet. The Clinton Company joined the Hartford Carpet Company to become Bigelow Carpet Company.
Four Shuttleworth brothers established their manufacturing plant in Amsterdam, New York, and brought 14 looms from England in the year 1878. In the year 1905, their company introduced the Karnak Wilton new carpet, which had and instant success. The company was flooded with orders and had to raise a new building to handle exclusively Karnak production. Their weavers worked five years without changing either the pattern or the color on their looms.
In the year 1845, Alexander Smith started his carpet manufacturing plant in West Farms, New York. Another American, Halcyon Skinner, had perfected the power loom in 1876, for making Royal Axminster. Alexander Smith associated with Skinner, creating a very successful carpet company. Alexander Smith & Sons continued its activity during the World War I and by the year 1929, the company was the largest manufacturer of carpets in the world.
Simulating the "Oriental" rug
The industrialist Marshall Field established the Karastan rug mill in 1926. He used a traditional Axminster weaving loom that was modified to create a carpet machine made, woven through the back the same way as a handmade Oriental rug. The machine made Oriental rug imitations have been received very favorable on the market and they were in great demand. Today Karastan, Bigelow, and Alexander Smith, are divisions of Mohawk Industries, with headquarters in Georgia.
Mechanization in the 1930s
The handcrafted carpets became too expensive because of buyer competition, the development of machine-produced carpets and, the change of minimum wage. The carpet industry began to evolve toward the mechanized production. Glen Looper Foundry of Dalton developed the first mechanized tufting machine in the 1930s. The carpets were made of fabric and cotton yarns by tufting machines called "chenilles." The trend toward an increased mechanization of the production continued through the �30s and �40s.
The introduction of the synthetic fibers
The tufted carpet machine made was using cotton until 1954 as virtually the only fiber in the manufacturing process. Synthetic fibers such as acrylics, rayon, nylon, and polyester have been gradually introduced in the �50s. New dye equipment, new spinning techniques, new tufting equipment, and new printing processes started to spread in the carpet industry. After the year 1960 most carpets in America were made from synthetic fibers in factories located in the Southeastern United States.
In the �50s, the trend for carpeting was smooth “Saxony”, carpets made of two or more fibers twisted in a yarn. The trendy colors in the �50s and through to the 60s were bold. Several European firms introduced in the 1960s continuous dyeing equipment to the American carpet market. Continuous dyeing equipment was more effective in using mass production techniques. It worked by moving an endless stream of white carpet through a dye range that was capable of shifting colors rapidly. The continuous dyeing equipment was, however, more expensive than the dye becks.
Through the �70s the carpet boom slowed, same as the rest of the American economy. A slower growth environment focused attention on costs. The carpet industry began to adapt by vertical integration. The most successful manufacturers integrated through investing in their own dyeing facilities. Others bought their competitors and moved towards a greater consolidation in the American carpet industry.
The American carpet industry today