Carpet Manufacture

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CARPET MANUFACTURE is one of the few businesses that continue to maintain manufacturing plants in United States. The carpet manufacture industry produces carpets that cover 70 percent of floors in businesses and homes. Today, the carpet industry maintains its roots in Dalton, Georgia, known as "The Carpet Capital of the World." Eighty percent of U.S. carpet is manufactured within a sixty-five-mile radius of Dalton.

Until the early nineteenth century most carpets were manufactured on hand-operated machines. Erastus B. Bigelow, "father of the modern carpet industry," invented the power-driven ingrain loom in May 1842. The power loom increased productivity substantially into the early 1930s. By 1939 an oligopoly of carpet-manufacturing companies emerged, including Bigelow-Sanford, James Lees, Firth, Mohawk, and Alexander Smith.

Wool was the basic fiber used for carpet manufacture until World War II, when the government declared it a commodity and placed it on allocation. This caused a decline in carpet manufacturing, and most of the plants were converted to produce essentials for the war such as blankets. The allocation also prompted the manufacturers to conduct research for a New fiber. Firth and Bigelow-Sanford introduced a wool-rayon blend in 1940.

After World War II the consumer market for home products began expanding. Wool and other fibers were readily available and were usually imported. At the end of 1950, the finished price of carpet increased due to the Trading with the Enemy Act. This created an increase in synthetic fibers. Lees introduced carpets made from cellulose acetate rayon and blends with wools. DuPont introduced "Type 501" nylon yarn for carpets. Man-made fibers were well on their way by 1960, and the carpet industry was able to produce without relying heavily on wool.

The tufting process, developed in Dalton, changed the carpet industry dramatically in the 1950s. Tufting is similar to the sewing process, inserting thousands of pieces of yarn into woven backing and securing them with latex. New firms entering the carpet industry were the ones who adopted the tufting process. Most of them located near Dalton, where they had access to labor and inexpensive production, as opposed to settling in the North, where unions influenced production costs. By 1963, nearly 63 percent of the carpet mills were located within fifty miles of Dalton.

New markets emerged during the 1960s. Carpet was no longer used just in formal rooms or as a luxury but,

because of the improved durability, elsewhere in the home and even outdoors. Today carpet is a key decorative and functional element with a myriad of varieties. Brands of carpeting range from mainstays such as Mohawk to designer lines such as Ralph Lauren Home.


Carpet and Rug Institute. Home page at

Kirk, Robert W. Carpet Industry Present Status and Future Prospects. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970.

Patton, Randall L. Carpet Capital: The Rise of a New South Industry. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999.

Donna W.Reamy

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Carpet Manufacture

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