Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bedspreads to Broadloom (book review)

Bedspreads to BroadloomBedspreads to Broadloom by Deaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This vintage, non-fiction selection (published in 1993) is of local and regional interest for readers who enjoy reading about the topics of tufting and cottage industry, and lifestyles of the Northwest Georgia region ~ specifically of Dalton (the Carpet Capital of the World), Chatsworth, Eton, Calhoun, and surrounding areas. It would well serve genealogists, whose ancestors worked in tufting in North Georgia, to read this book. As topical non-fiction, it is informative and highly entertaining, up to a point. About halfway through, it does get a little dry, detailing the growth of specific large corporations and their CEOs. The book starts with a description of chenille-tufting beginnings, including a brief biography of youthful entrepreneur, Catherine Evans Whitener, locally credited as being the "first" to revive the folk craft of candlewicking (her own variation of it) in Dalton after the Civil War. It then follows the early-to-mid 20th-century growth of the cottage industry of bedspread tufting that led to innovations in broadbeam and broadloom carpet tufting, documenting specific dates of origin and acquisition of companies.

Bedspreads to Broadloom is a "vanity-press" publication and does have earmarks of community bragging. However, it goes beyond being a brag book to document stories, anecdotes and biographies of local textile pioneers, many of whom had spreadhouses on Old Highway 41 ~ an area once known as "Peacock Alley" for all the peacock-themed bedspreads that hung on spreadlines there. OSHA lovers and haters will both shudder and laugh at anecdotes of low-paid, snuff-spitting grannies and children in mountain cabins, tufting away well past midnight by the light of a kerosene lamp; old men converting chicken houses to spreadhouses so they can sell spreads and tinker around with inventions; and early, rather dangerous innovations in textile-manufacturing methods. It really is a wonderful depiction of what hard-scrabble folks will do to earn their keep during hard times. It is indexed and contains about 245 surnames (not counting names of companies, which would add more). It has a glossary of industry terms.

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