Carpeting and Dalton, Georgia
The carpet industry in the United States began in 1791 when William Sprague started the first woven carpet mill in Philadelphia. Others opened during the early 1800′s in New England. Included in that area was Beattie Manufacturing Company in Little Falls, NJ -a company that operated until 1979.
In 1839, Erastus Bigelow permanently reshaped the industry with the invention of the power loom for weaving carpets. Bigelow’s looms, which doubled carpet production for the first year after its creation and tripled it by 1850, is now part of the Smithsonian Institutions collections. He continued to devote his life to innovation–35 separate patents were issued between 1839 and 1876. Bigelow introduced the first broadloom carpet in 1877.
Many other people and companies helped form the beginnings of the carpet industry- Clinton Company of Massachusetts, Wilton Carpet, Hartford Carpet Company, Shuttleworth brothers , Alexander Smith, and Marshall Field. Alexandeer Smith, Bigelow, and Karastan are companies continuing today as divisions of Mohawk Industries, headquartered in Georgia.
Through the late 1800s, Dalton, Georgia , struggled with cotton mills and steel manufacturing works to forge a small town in the north Georgia hills. Northwest Georgia, with its hard packed clay, poor farmland, and rolling hills was among the last areas of Georgia settled. Rich in a heritage of Cherokee Indians and Civil War battles, that northern corner of the state was rugged and spawned people who were independent and self-sufficient. Those were the people who brought forth and nurtured the tufted textile industry.
The industry’s infancy was in Dalton; it has gone through intense growth in Dalton; and it has now matured in and around Dalton. The carpet industry’s impact is great on this region, this state, and the nation; and the story of its growth is unique. There are many manufacturers today producing both simulations of antique designs and updated “oriental” type rugs by both weaving and tufting processes.
The carpet industry began from the bedspread industry, which started around the turn of the century. A Dalton, Georgia woman, Catherine Evans Whitener, recreated a bedspread in a hand-crafted pattern she had seen, for a wedding gift. She used an American tufting technique known as “candlewick embroidery”, copying 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 washed the spread in hot water to hold the yarn in by shrinking the fabric. Interest grew in her bedspreads and in 1900 she made the first sale of a spread for $2.50 Demand became so great for the spreads that by the 1930′s, local women (who were entrepreneurs) had haulers, who would take the stamped sheeting and yarns to front porch workers. Entire families worked to hand tuft the spreads for 10 to 25 cents per spread. The local term for the sewing process was “turfin” for the nearly 10,000 area cottage tufters–men, women, and children. Bedspread income was instrumental in helping many area families survive the depression.
As an example of the spirit of the early entrepreneurials, Mrs. J.T. Bates stated that she shipped 15 spreads to John Wannamaker’s Dept Store in New York. On a piece of plain table paper she made out a bill for $98.15 and put it in with the spreads. Even though she never had previous contact with Wannamakers, they sent her a check for $98.15. Chenille bedspreads became amazingly poular all over the country and provided a new name for Dalton: The Bedspread Capital of the World.
In the 1930′s, buyer competition (which lowers price), the change in the minimum wage laws, and development of machine-produced spreads soon made the hand-crafted spreads too expensive. The industry gradually began to pull the worker from surrounding hillsides and small towns into mills in Dalton, beginning the rapid growth of the mechanized tufting industry. As a result of the demand for more bedspreads, the first mechanized tufting machine (attributed to Glen Looper Foundry of Dalton), was developed. Looper modified the single needle commercial Singer so that it would tuft the thick yarn into unbleached muslin without tearing the fabric and an attached knife would cut the loop. Machines quickly developed into four, then eight, twenty-four and more needles to make the parallel rows of tufting known as “chenille”. By 1941, all but about one percent of tufted bedspreads were machine made. Mats and rugs were consumed in 1946 by the industry. By 1950, approximately 500,000 bales were used, and the industry was the third largest consumer of cotton grown in Georgia in 1952. Sales were created by correspondence or by taking spreads to department stores, but by far, the most famous and enjoyable way to buy a spread was on “Bedspread Alley”- U.S. Highway 41 between Dalton and Cartersville. The stretch of the major north-south highway got its nickname because of the bedspread the tufters hung on clothesline to dry in the breeze and sun.
The salesmen and tourists enjoyed seeing the colorful spreads and enjoyed the novelty of buying them “off the line.” The most popular pattern to the travelers, outselling all others 12 to 1 was the Peacock-feathered birds facing each other and spreading tails over the breadth of the spread. This Bedspread Alley phenomenon lasted into the ’70′s, and even now a few spreads can be seen on lines just south of Dalton.
As the number of tufted products produced annually went into the millions, the job of supplying the industry became equally important. Yarn, sheeting, duck mills and agents were established in the area, with their entire output going to the industry; and larger mills elsewhere vied for the growing business. Machine shops were established to manufacture the thousands of single and multi-needle machines needed, as well as to design improvements aimed at making even more beautiful and better spreads, bathroom sets, robes, beach wear, and rugs. Dye plants for yarn were built. Laundries were erected for finishing the spread. Printing shops were established to supply the millions of tags and labels needed. Box factories turned out cartons for shipping. Moving these spreads to market was big volume for rail and motor freight lines.
Machinery was developed for making chenille rugs and was widened, creating larger rugs and broadloom carpet. At the same time, machinery was changing: developments of new fibers accelerated the growth of broadloom carpet.
Until about 1954, cotton was virtually the only fiber used in tufted products. Wool and manmade fibers–polyester, nylon, rayon, and acrylics–were gradually introduced by textile men in Dalton. Nylon was first introduced in 1947 and grew steadily to dominate the market. Polyester was first used in 1965 and was 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 nylon yarns. These yarns provided a luxurious quality, durable carpet, similar to wool, which was more economical to produce. Therefore, a durable, luxury product was offered to the consumer for less money.
In 1950, only 10 percent of all carpet and rug products were tufted, and ninety percent were woven. However, about 1950, it was as if someone had opened a magic trunk. Out of that trunk came manmade fibers, new spinning techniques, new dye equipment, printing processes, tufting equipment, and backing for different end uses. Today, tufted products are more than 90 percent of the total, followed by less than 2 percent that are woven and 6.7 percent for all other methods, such as knitted, braided, hooked, or needlepunched. By 1951, the tufting industry was a $133 million per year business made up primarily of bedspread, carpet, and rugs, with carpet accounting for $19 million. The industry broke the billion dollar mark in 1963.
Through the years,
Dalton, Georgia is now Known as the
“Carpet Capital of the World”.
8/11/11 Check out Outside the Box!
Toll-free 800- 633-5238
Learn more about carpet by visiting the:
Carpets at Dalton
Dalton Flooring Wholesaler
NOTE: When viewing any of our flooring products, colors may vary from screen monitor.
If you purchase a product from our website without seeing an actual sample we
will not accept returns. Samples are available on request.