According to The Carpet and Rug Institute, the carpet industry in the United States began in 1791 when William Sprague founded the first woven carpet mill in Philadelphia. Other mills opened during the early 1800s in New England.
In 1839, Erastus Bigelow, an American industrialist, developed a power carpet loom, the first in a series of machines that revolutionized carpet manufacturing. Bigelow's invention made possible the production of large quantities of attractive carpeting at reasonable prices. Now, wall-to-wall carpeting has become a standard covering for floors in middle-class homes and businesses.
Another flooring developed during the same era was linoleum. Patented in 1863, it was an inexpensive and durable flooring composed of linseed oil, powdered cork, and other materials on a fiber backing. An early kind of linoleum, called battleship linoleum, was first used on the decks of warships.
Many floor coverings today are made of materials that have been developed since World War II. The synthetic fibers often found in carpets today have significant practical advantages over the natural fibers used many years ago. Over the years, various materials have been used in resilient flooring, including rubber, asphalt, and cork. Newer resilient flooring is most often made of vinyl, a synthetic plastic material, or linoleum.
With the growing popularity of flooring materials like these came the need for skilled workers who could efficiently measure, cut, and install the materials to fit exactly, stay in place, and present a clean appearance. Today, floor covering installation is a well-established craft in the building trades.
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