The oldest known form of carpet was a fresco of handloom discovered in Egypt in 1953. It dates from 1480 BC. In 1960, frozen in ice in a Mongolian tomb, a Pazyryck woven rug was discovered. Containing warp and weft fibers and ghiordes knots, dating to 480 BC, it was very similar to the Persian rugs that are so valued today.
In the United States carpet making is only a little over 200 years old. The first carpet mill is credited to William Sprague of Philadelphia who opened a plant in 1791. In the early 1800s several other woven carpet plants sprang up in New England and the Middle Atlantic states. One such plant that operated in Little Falls, New Jersey until 1979 was the Beattie Manufacturing Company.
In 1839 a gentleman named Erastus Bigelow reinvented the woven carpet industry with the invention of the power loom, doubling the production of carpet in the first year. His brother Horatio created the company that produced it. They called it the Clinton Company after the DeWitt Clinton Hotel for which they had a great fondness. By 1850 their production had tripled. In 1845 they opened a second plant, around Erastus’ newly patented loom that produced gingham, a very popular brightly colored fabric of the time. The town was renamed Clintonville and grew tremendously, adding a large population of eager workers and shop keepers. Rails were laid and Clintonville was a boom town.
Erastus’ thirst for innovation continued and gained him 35 different patents. In 1877 he introduced the first broadloom carpet that we still know today.
The Jacquard mechanism was first developed in 1849 and the Clinton Company of Massachusetts began to produce Brussels carpet. The power loom was then modified slightly to produce Wilton carpet. Eventually the Clinton Company merged with the Hartford Company to form the Bigelow Company.
The Bigelow Company produced the worlds finest carpets from 1849 to 1933 being installed in many prestigious locations including the Whitehouse, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Titanic.
Horatio died in 1868 and his brother Erastus followed in 1879.
Bigelow is still a quality manufacturer of fine broadloom today. If you are lucky enough to own an antique or vintage Bigelow carpet, be proud of it as a piece of real Americana and get it cleaned and preserved regularly by a Tampa carpet cleaning professional.