Since the days when prehistoric man used animal skins to cushion their cave floors, carpets have been a basic feature of human domestic life.
The evolution of carpeting has been affected by social, economical and fashion developments. In fact, the pursuit of better forms of carpet has led to many ingenious and important advances in manufacturing technology.
Following are some of the key milestones in the history of carpet, from caveman times to today’s billion-dollar, high-tech industries.
Goats and sheep are sheared for wool and hair, which is then spun and woven.
Marco Polo discovers rug making in Central Asia during trading mission. Traders spread the technique to Persia, India, China and North Africa.
Pierre DuPont begins weaving carpets in Paris.
Fleeing religious persecution, French weavers settle in England and set up operations in Wilton.
1770 – 1790
Hand-made carpet making flourishes in Britain, attracting top designers.
William Sprague opens first U.S. woven carpet mill in Philadelphia. Others sprout up in early 1800s.
U.S. manufacturer Erastus Bigelow invents the power loom for weaving carpets, doubling carpet production in the first year.
1800 – 1850
Industrial revolution in England sees rapid change in textile production.
Alexander Smith starts carpet manufacturing plant in West Farms, N.Y., which later became the largest producer of carpets and rugs in the world. During World War I, the carpet looms were converted to make tent duck and navy blankets.
Bigelow introduces the first broadloom carpet.
1900 – 1930
Thousands of local women around Dalton, Ga., are employed to sew hand-tufted Chenille bedspreads.
U.S. industrialist Marshall Field modifies a weaving loom to create machine-made rugs woven through the back, similar to handmade Oriental carpets featuring intricate designs and unlimited color variety.
First mechanized tufting machine developed in Dalton, revolutionizing the textile and carpet industries that flourished in the area.
1940 – 50
Tufted carpets begin to capture U.S. market, at the expense of woven carpet.
Nylon yarns introduced, providing durable, luxurious quality fibers similar to wool, but much less expensive.
1950 – 1990
Tufted carpet market grows steadily, eventually capturing 90% of the carpeting market. Dalton, Ga., emerges as carpet capital of the world.
Polyester carpeting introduced.
1970 – 1995
In Britain, woven carpet production declines by 70% as tufted production increases by 300%.