April 27/May 4, 2015; Volume 29/Number 2
The history of Made in the USA flooring dates to the 19th century, with deep roots in U.S. soil:
- By 1850, a government survey found there were 116 mills producing 8 million square yards of carpets and rugs (employing more than 6,000 workers) in the U.S. Twenty years later, U.S. carpet mills numbered 215, wove more than 20 million square yards and employed 12,000 people.
- Armstrong founder Tom Armstrong began his career—and his company— in a two-man cork-cutting shop in 1860 in Pittsburgh. His first deliveries of hand-carved corks were made via wheelbarrow.
- There was a time when New England—not Dalton—was the carpet capital of the world. In 1878, the year four brothers in the Shuttleworth family created what would become Mohawk, New England boasted a large number of textile mills. That year the Shuttleworth family shipped 14 used Wilton looms from Great Britain to Amsterdam, N.Y., and launched their own carpet mill.
- In 1926, American inventor Dr. Waldo Semon was trying to bond rubber to metal. He tried using the vinyl chloride mixture with other chemicals; his first attempts resulted in wisps of gas and an occasional explosion. Eventually he created what we now call PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or vinyl. It was first used in shock absorbers, and it later helped in developing synthetic tires. Used to insulate wires during World War II, it became popular as a floor covering after the war.
- Flooring has been used in the vernacular of some famous sayings. For example, Benjamin Franklin reportedly coined “snug as a bug in a rug” in 1772 when he used it in a letter to mean “the utmost contentment.”
- The term “carpetbagger” comes from a time after the Civil War when some greedy northerners packed up their belongings in luggage made from carpet and moved south. They became known as “carpetbaggers.”
- Mannington Mills, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary at the end of 2015, has adopted “Made Right Here” as one of its mottos. And for good reason: Mannington manufactures its flooring products in six states.