March Newsletter 2016

A History of Hand-Woven and Machine-Made American Rugs

 By Grady Ferguson

Even though America has a short history as a country, it has gone from a land of immigrants to a world leader in economic growth and industrialization. Through this growth new manufacturing processes and consumer demands has help dictate the design, material and cost of rugs in the marketplace. We evolved from making rugs from scrap material such as old clothes to natural fibers such as corn husk to synthetic materials, plastics, latex and even metals. It will be interesting to see what the next generation of new rug designs and materials will be in demand by the American public. Unfortunately they probably will not be of the quality and durability of the past generations of rugs, but dependent on passing fashion and made with inferior materials.

The early settlers had very limited resources so household rugs were made of materials that were easily attainable to them. Sometimes rug making would depend on what part of the country you settled in that dictated what materials were available. Rugs could be made of old clothing or other cloth material which were called rag rugs. These rugs were durable and practical. Rag rugs were reversible and also washable when it could not easily be swept clean. These rugs were woven in homes and in some mills throughout the 19th century. The E. C. Beetem & Sons CO. produced the rugs in Carlisle, Pennsylvania from 1876 until 1951 when it closed its doors. Rag rugs are still produced today but most are woven on power looms with a small percentage woven on old hand looms.