The New American Carpet Industry

It was not until the late 1950’s that carpet began to be affordable for most people.  In 1950 most carpets were made out of wool on looming machines in carpet mills in the Northeast US. By 1960 that had changed completely and most carpets were now made out of tufted synthetics in the southeast US. This was in large part due to the development of Dupont BCF nylon – an inexpensive durable product that quickly achieved dominance in the US flooring market.

By 1970 there were over 400 carpet mills in production. The 1980’s recession changed that, and by 1992 there were only about 100 mills remaining, and about 80% of all production was consolidated into 4 companies led by Shaw Industries and Mohawk.

Today carpet remains the most popular floor covering choice in America.

American Carpet in the Early Years

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.