The U.S. carpet industry began in 1791 with William Sprague’s woven carpet mill in Philadelphia. It was followed a few years later by other mills in New England, including the Beattie Manufacturing Company that opened in 1979 in New Jersey. In 1839, Erastus Bigelow invented the power loom for weaving carpets. Bigelow’s brainchild reshaped the industry as it tripled carpet production within just three years of the looms’ unveiling. The first broadloom carpet was introduced in 1877. Carpet became so popular that manufacturing companies sprang up all across the Northeast to keep up with demand.
The American love for carpets was a carryover of the popularity of Oriental rugs. The rugs were used not only as floor covers but also as unique home decorations. The American industrialist Marshall Field modified the traditional weaving loom to create a design similar to Oriental rugs, with intricate patterns and colors woven across the back. He established the Karastan rug mill in 1926 and began marketing his products to the public.
Until the early 1950s, cotton was the fiber of choice in the manufacture of carpet. Later, factories experimented with wool and synthetic fibers, including rayon, nylon, and polyester. The new materials revolutionized the way carpets were produced in the country. The accidental discovery of tufting further changed the landscape of the carpet industry. Carpet manufacturing shifted from weaving to the more efficient tufting, a process which accounts for about 90 percent of all carpets manufactured in the U.S. today.
The introduction of tufted carpet ushered in a meteoric rise of the carpet industry in the 1950s. It was bolstered by DuPont Corporation’s experimentation with different types of fabric. DuPont used rayon and nylon with varying degrees of success until it developed bulked continuous filament nylon in the mid-1950s. BCF nylon catapulted the tufted carpet industry to where it is now. It dominated the carpet industry in the country and extended to many parts of the world.
Today, the U.S. carpet industry is largely headquartered in Dalton, Georgia. The city produces 85 percent of the carpet sold in the U.S. The United States today accounts for 45 percent of the world’s carpet production.