Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Looking Behind the Scenes

Have you ever wondered about commonplace things, like how they put silver wrappers around Hershey’s Kisses? Or how they make cardboard packaging that goes around electric appliances we buy for our kitchens? Probably not. We enjoy items like these, but rarely stop to consider the “how’s” and “what’s” of producing them.

Recently, however, it’s been my privilege to learn the behind-the-scenes story of another commonplace commodity we encounter virtually every day: Carpet. How did the technology – and processes – come about for carpet to become such an integral part of modern culture?

Tufting Legacies, a newly published book I’ve written, answers that question. It tells the story of two remarkable families, the Cobbles and the Cards, who quietly sparked a revolution in carpet manufacture.

In particular it spotlights brothers Lewis and Roy Card. Their imagination, ingenuity and innovation advanced the mechanized tufting process, starting with a single-needle industrial sewing machine. One incremental step at a time, their work set the stage for the huge, computer-driven tufting machines now used throughout the world, not only in the United States but also in such diverse settings as Germany, Dubai, China, Russia and Australia.

My time spent interviewing, researching and writing this book probably makes me the foremost expert of all people who have never worked a single day in the tufting industry. But Tufting Legacies reveals what the “American dream” is really about: hard work and determination not to quit in the face of adversity. It also tells how a clearly defined sense of mission and values has been maintained through four family generations – a rare legacy in any field of endeavor.

Oprah won’t consider Tufting Legacies for her book club. But if you have any interest in manufacturing history, or would like to read about what it took to succeed in the early to mid-20th century, I think you’ll find this book interesting. It’s available at Amazon.com.

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