The American carpet industry started in 1791 with William Sprague’s carpet mill in Philadelphia and for most of the next century skilled workers produced carpets with hand looms. Congress first began protecting the industry in 1816. By 1834 there were about 20 carpet mills producing about 1 million square yards of carpet. By 1850 that amount had risen to 116 mills producing 8 millions square yards. Carpet became greatly popular in the early years due to the poor quality of home floors at the time. The first power loom was created in 1839 by Erastus Bigelow, but it wasn’t until after 1870 that power looms began to replace hand looms and began to make carpets more affordable. Even then you needed to be fairly well off – at least part of the upper middle class – to be able to afford carpet.
Stay tuned for our next post to learn more about the history of carpet in the US.