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  • Dalton, Georgia: Carpet Capital of America

    Today, 75% of the world’s carpets and rugs are produced in Dalton, Georgia. Historians explain the humble origins of the tufted bedspread in 1893 and the rise of Bedspread Alley on Highway 41. 

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. How did the Depression affect the economy of Dalton?

    2. An average bedspread might take 2½ – 5 hours to tuft by hand, and the women would receive up to 25 cents for each bedspread. Figure the tufters' hourly wage. How much would a tufter receive at the New Deal wage of 32½ cents per hour? What would the labor cost be at today's minimum wage rate? If labor is only about 50% of the final cost of any product, how much would a new hand-tufted bedspread sell for today?

    3. How did the invention of tufting machines change Dalton's bedspread industry?

    Expansion

    1. Your teacher should bring in sewing supplies. Practice making your own tufted bedspreads. This could be done on a swatch of fabric.

    2. Research how modern bedspreads are made. What are the advantages to machine-made products? What are the advantages of a handmade product like tufted bedspreads?

    Vocabulary

    candlewicking: the act of attaching yarn to a spread
    chenille: the French word for caterpillar; machine tufted textiles had rows of soft tufts of yarn that both looked and felt like fuzzy caterpillars
    commercialized: made into a large scale business
    compensation: a recompense or reward for some loss or service
    cottage industry: business typified by its employees working at home with their own materials
    The Great Depression: A period in the 1930s typified by relatively high unemployment and low wages. It is perhaps the only era in history defined by one bad day on Wall Street. Although the events of Tuesday, October 29, 1929 did not actually cause the Great Depression (it was more a reflection of the unsteady U.S. economy), that date is the one most people associate as the beginning of the era.
    haulers: people who carried the materials for making the tufted items between the manufacturers and the tufters
    National Recovery Administration (NRA): one component of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal that was designed to help promote growth in industry through creating new rules regarding fair competition between businesses
    The New Deal: a series of reforms created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s to help counter the effects of The Great Depression and to pull the United States back into an era of economic prosperity
    product distribution: a marketing term, refers to the dissemination of goods to the public; how these goods will be spread around and to whom they will be offered
    raw materials: the basic ingredients that are combined to create something
    technocracy: a government characterized by a technology focus; sometimes refers to the interaction between business and technology
    tufted: in bedspread manufacture, characterized by the presence of yarn patterns that project from the surface of the spread

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. How did the Depression affect the economy of Dalton?
    Dalton was one of the very few towns in Georgia that was not as badly affected by the Depression, because the bedspreads continued to be popular and brought money into the town.

    2. An average bedspread might take 2½ – 5 hours to tuft by hand, and the women would receive up to 25 cents for each bedspread. Figure the tufters' hourly wage. How much would a tufter receive at the New Deal wage of 32½ cents per hour? What would the labor cost be at today's minimum wage rate? If labor is only about 50% of the final cost of any product, how much would a new hand-tufted bedspread sell for today?
    The pre-New Deal-waged tufters made between 5 and 10 cents an hour. At 32½ cents an hour a tufter would make between 81 cents and $1.63 per spread. Answers to the other questions will vary depending upon inflation and the minimum wage rate at the time the question is posed.

    3. How did the invention of tufting machines change Dalton's bedspread industry?
    The development of machinery for tufting brought more men into the industry (machines being thought of as a man's area), and hastened the change from a cottage industry (where the work was done in individual homes) to one in which the work was done in a centralized factory setting. It also led to the development of "chenille."

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