Ever wonder how rugs and carpeting became so prevalent in our culture? We cut the rug, roll out the red carpet, sweep things under the rug, and occasionally, have the rug pulled out from under us. We even affectionately call our toddlers rugrats. An odd fascination indeed.

Humans likely walked upright for 3 million years before we realized how great rugs and carpeting felt beneath their toes. The famous Pazyryk carpet from about 400 B.C. is the oldest known surviving piece of carpet. A source of warmth and color in interior decor around the world, rugs have been traded, dined on, admired as wall coverings, slept on, and used as a story-telling medium or a place for prayer.

Philadelphia was not just the birthplace of freedom, but carpet? In 1791 the first woven carpet mill opened in the United States.

The invention of the power loom tripled carpet production by 1850, and woven carpets started flying off the shelf.

During World War I, carpet looms joined the war effort by creating blankets and tent material.

Marshall Field of retail fame is known for creating machine-made rugs woven through the back, the way Oriental rugs are made by hand. Shortly thereafter, tufted bedspreads became the model for tufted carpets and rugs, and by 1940, Glen Looper Foundry of Dalton mechanized the tufting process.

Post WWII innovations and new equipment marked the time when carpeting went from being a luxury to mainstream. Housewives in the 1950s made wall-to-wall carpeting a must-have.

Before the war, most carpet was woven; now that number is less than 2 percent; today most are tufted.

There’s no accounting for taste: The 1970s saw things like bright orange shag on our living room floors.

The next generation, always looking to be different from mom and dad, made carpeting cyclical. Stone, tile, linoleum, and hardwood floors became vogue after the carpet boom.

Today, a new generation of people have rediscovered the soft, cozy luxury of carpeting. We suspect this may have to do with cold floors in the morning. Whatever the reason, the rich history of rugs and carpeting is far from over.

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