Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Carpet Capital: The Rise of a New South Industry

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Carpet Capital: The Rise of a New South Industry

Article excerpt

Carpet Capital: The Rise of a New South Industry. By Randall L. Patton with David B. Parker. Economy and Society in the Modern South. (Athens, Ga., and London: University of Georgia Press, c. 1999. Pp. xviii, 341. $35.00, ISBN 0-8203-2110-9.)

Dalton, a small town in northwest Georgia, had one of the highest high school dropout rates in the nation in the 1970s. Dalton also, oddly enough, had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States. Both measures reflect the impact of carpet production, one of the South's most successful indigenous industries. Randall L. Patton's Carpet Capital began as a sponsored research project funded by the carpet industry and is a combination of business history, community study, and biography. It tells the story of the carpet industry's rise in Dalton and that of the businessmen who made it happen. David B. Parker opens the book with an extensive prologue on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history of carpet production. But the bulk of Carpet Capital focuses on the post-World War II years, when southern entrepreneurs secured dominance over the soft floor coverings market.

Patton suggests that tufting represents that illusive and profitable combination of native ingenuity, technology, and local capital that New South boosters always longed for but never quite achieved with cotton textiles. Based on a native handicraft revived by a Dalton woman in the early twentieth century, tufting was converted to factory production in the 1940s by the region's local inventors. Carpet production then became a model of the New South vision of a thriving regional industry: it was virtually free of unions, had low start-up costs, and showed a potential to enrich a select few while uplifting the masses. Manufacturers relied on sympathetic townspeople, trade organizations, and a heavy dose of their own propaganda to promote the industry. …

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