Sedalians wishing to decorate their homes by acquiring a new carpet or rug could patronize one of the stores that sold home furnishings, including John T. Collins Furniture and Carpet at Second Street and Osage Avenue, Lodge, Staley and Company, at 118-120 E. Third St., Ludeman’s at 116 W. Second St., and Sedalia Carpet Company at 223 E. Third.
Their products, however, might be more expensive than the customer might be able to afford or willing to pay. Sedalians wanting less expensive carpets had several options.
One option was to make a hooked rug by pulling folded strips of fabric through a burlap backing. While hooking one’s own rug allowed the maker to choose the design and colors, hooking a rug was a long, laborious process. Another option was to make a rag rug by weaving strips of cloth through threads strung onto a loom. This was also a long and laborious process; it also meant having access to a loom.
A third option was to purchase a carpet of rug from a professional rug weaver. The 1903 Sedalia City Directory lists one carpet weaver, Mary Woolery, living and working at 1511 E. Fifth St. In October 1902, another option developed when A. M. Parks and Sons opened the Sedalia Rug and Carpet Company, whose factory was on East Main Street.
Sedalia Rug and Carpet Co. specialized in “renovating” old carpets by cutting them into strips, fraying the strips, and weaving new rugs using a mechanized loom. Their wagon would come and pick up the old carpet, create a new rug in any size the customer wanted, and deliver the “bright, handsome” new rug to its owner. The company advertised that pick-up and delivery were free.
The company also suggested that immediately after spring cleaning was an ideal time to have a new rug made. An entire house suffered from the dust, ash, and smoke of wood or coal fires, so housewives mounted major efforts to clean everything after the stove had been taken down and put in the shed for the summer. This meant taking up the rugs, carrying them outdoors, and beating the dust out with a tennis racket shaped device called a rug beater. Sometimes taking up the rug revealed exactly how badly soiled or damaged it was.
By 1903, Sedalia Rug and Carpet Co. had expanded its operation. It had started with three looms, and within a year had added three more looms, three cutting mechanisms to slice old carpet into strips, three twisters to prepare the strips for weaving, and three fraying machines to lift the pile of the strips before weaving. In the spring months, the company employed 15 men who produced at least 200 square yards of rugs per week.
The company did business throughout Missouri and Kansas. Old carpets could be shipped to Sedalia and new rugs delivered by rail.
The Sedalia Democrat praised the rugs for their “newness of appearance and wearing qualities.” The renovated rugs could be purchased for about one-third the cost of a new carpet. The newspaper encouraged visitors to visit the factory of East Main Street or call 217 on either of Sedalia’s telephone exchanges. Such a call or visit would “repay all interested in this industry.”
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.