Thursday, October 8, 2009

The History of The Carpet and Rug Institute

Pictured: Then Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter at the 1971 dedication of the CRI Dalton Headquarters.
Governor Jimmy Carter dedicating the CRI headquarters, Dalton, GALately, I’ve had several conversations; either at trade shows, meetings, luncheons or just folks I’ve run into and haven’t seen in a while who wanted me to tell them more about the Carpet and Rug Institute and what we do.

I’m certainly never at a loss for words when it comes to talking about what we do at CRI, but in the course of several of those conversations, I got the question phrased to me more in a historical context. So today, I thought I would give you more of a history of CRI so you could see a little deeper into our roots. Like my momma always said, sometimes it’s easier to tell more about someone and where they are headed by looking at where they have been. Without further ado, here is what I came up with:

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) is the national trade association for the carpet industry, spanning coast-to-coast and working as one voice for the carpet business. This organization is the realization of a dream that began back in the 1800s.

CRI has been around, in essence, since the early 1920s, but has roots reaching back to the days of old-fashioned broadlooms and spinning wheels in log cabins. One publication, Broadlooms and Businessmen, refers to “The Carpet Manufacturers Association” which was functioning around 1884.

However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that manufacturers realized the crucial need for one organization to keep track of industry data and bring industry information to the attention of carpet manufacturers nationwide. In 1927 the Institute of Carpet Manufacturers of America, Inc. (ICMA), began in Washington, D.C., and became one of the first organized groups formed on behalf of the carpet industry. The South’s version of this group was the Tufted Bedspread Manufacturers Association, formed in the 1930s and was the forerunner of the Tufted Textile Manufacturers Association (TTMA), which was formed in 1945.

The ICMA went to bat for the carpet industry for the first “big” time in 1929 when American cotton growers wanted protection against imports of carpet materials. In 1930 President Hoover signed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act that permitted free importation of carpet wools and strengthened the position of the domestic manufacturer, thanks to the work of the ICMA.

With war looming near, the ICMA worked to bring carpet manufacturers together. World War II brought carpet to the front lines, at home and at war. With leadership from the ICMA, manufacturers agreed to exchange all the technical information on loom conversion. This action created the first Technical Committee, which continues to function today.

During the war carpet makers shared all the information they could, and made war products including Axminster blankets, army tents, and rayon fabric for camouflage netting.

After the war, members of the Institute decided to embark on a PR campaign that capitalized on the end of the war and the return of soldiers. The campaign, “Home Means More with Carpet on the Floor,” emphasized accent rugs, carpeted family rooms and area rugs. Other post-war programs helped get carpet into public schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

In 1947 the Institute of Carpet Manufacturers of America was changed to the Carpet Institute, Inc., and was moved to the Empire State Building for headquarters. However, in 1958 the name changed again to the American Carpet Institute (ACI) to help identify nationality and fight import competition.

The ACI worked to identify areas of concern and were successful in pinpointing areas that CRI still works with today. The ACI managed industry statistical information, maintained a reference library of background material on the industry, and followed the tax laws and regulations as they affected the industry. They also began product research, held annual meetings, produced an industry newsletter, and coordinated marketing activities.

The ACI was maintained until 1968, when it merged with the Tufted Textile Manufacturers Association (TTMA). The TTMA had become a strong voice in the tufted textile industry since the 1930’s and a merger between the two had been discussed for years. Before a merger agreement could be reached, the TTMA changed its name to the Tufted Carpet and Rug Institute. The two sides were able to reach a merger agreement and the new team became a larger, more solid association of carpet and rug manufacturers and suppliers. The new group named themselves the Carpet and Rug Institute.

Shortly after the merger, the national headquarters for CRI were moved to Dalton, Georgia, because 65% of the industry was centered in North Georgia. CRI and its members currently represent over 95% of all carpet manufacturers and suppliers. The industry now has one strong voice to represent both manufacturing and supplier needs and interests.


A related story: Carpet Industry Overview from the New Georgia Encyclopedia

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1 comment:

Paul Shoffner, Jr. said...

James, I feel like you may have slighted our early TTMA a bit in this short history, and their essential influence in maintaining this industry when the U.S. government cut off cotton at the advent of WWII, which stopped it cold.

Tufting at the time was primarily chenille, but the industry was in an important transition period to what was to become broadloom tufting.

These men and women banded together to form TTMA and lobby Washington to release the cotton the fledgling industry needed to survive, and wound up not only with that, but government contracts to produce war materials.

Tufting in NW Georgia persevered because of their efforts.

Just thought more credit was due here.

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