THE American is proverbially fond of the paradoxical, and credulous before the marvels of the faker. But obvious facts, a knowledge of which is important in everyday life, he is apt to distrust or despise. So that an acquaintance of mine who sells to dealers the product of a manufacturer of domestic rugs displayed considerable acumen when he said:
"There's no use telling the public the secrets of the trade. The less they know about rugs the better. Just give the salesman his samples and prices and start him out on the road. If the prices are right and the goods are right, and he is right, he'll come back with orders. And the less he knows about the goods the better. The manufacturer takes care of that. It's up to the salesman to be a good talker and a good mixer. But if he tries to tell the local dealer his business, he'll make more enemies than friends."
All of which has been true, and as regards most salesmen and purchasers still is true. Last week on a street-car I heard one woman say to another: "Yes, I'm going to get a real Oriental rug for the parlor, 9 x 12, for twenty-eight dollars and fifty cents at------ It's a Kazak."
Poor woman! Misled by an advertisement that was not intended to mislead, and that was put out by a firm who are scrupulous to state facts exactly, she was about to purchase a domestic Smyrna "made like Orientals in one piece without seam," and in pattern copied from a genuine Kazak. The fact that it was double-faced and therefore "would wear twice as long" helped to persuade her to prefer it to the much more expensive Turkish rugs that she had seen in a shop where Orientals only are sold.
"It certainly is a temptation," said a salesman in a retail rug house to me recently, "when people have just about enough money to buy a Smyrna,* to clinch the sale, after you have found a pattern they like, by flopping the thing over and pointing to the pile that backs the rug. You don't need to tell them it will wear twice as long. Just say, When it's worn out on the face, turn it over and wear the back out.' "
As a matter of fact, the back of a rug wears out nearly as fast as the face, and by the time the face pulls loose the back also is gone. The heel that scrapes the face also causes the back to scrape against the floor. But the stain that spoils one side does not necessarily spoil the other, and reversing the rug frequently keeps the colors fresh twice as long. Smyrnas should come into favor once more.
* Much confusion arises from the fact that domestic rugs have been given foreign names. To make the distinction, in this chapter capital letters are used only with the names of rugs actually made in the locality designated. Thus: Donegal, Bokhara, brussels, Smyrna.
A working knowledge of the various weaves in domestic rugs, and their differences in appearance, price and durability, is essential to the purchaser in deciding the question, "What kind of a rug shall I buy?"
The principal types of domestic rugs with pile of wool are: axminster, wilton, body brussels, tapestry brussels, velvet, Smyrna. The principal types of domestic flat rugs are: ingrain, terry, rag carpet, fiber, grass.
The last three are soon disposed of. They are all alike in weave, having coarse strips of filling (the term commonly used in this country for weft) that interlace with a warp of cotton strings not close together. Rag carpets were the first made in the United States, and the industry continued important until a generation ago. Every village had its weaver to whom the housewives used to bring their big balls of bright-colored rags sewn together in long strips. As late as 1890 there were 854 rag carpet establishments in the United States with an output of $ 1,714,-480. Rag carpets are most suitable for chambers and for summer cottages and come mostly in light blues, greens, pinks, yellows, etc., with plenty of white intermingled.
In 1841, when Erastus Bigelow introduced the first power loom for weaving carpets, there were thirty yarn carpet factories in the United States, mostly weaving ingrains. Ten years later Mr. Bigelow invented a power loom for weaving brussels carpets. The United States is to-day the greatest producer and consumer of rugs and carpets in the world.
Ingrains, also called art squares, have no pile, and in England are sometimes called kidder-minsters after the town that had become an important center of the industry by 1735. They are a double cloth with face pattern the reverse of the back. Terry that is used as a filling for rugs and stair carpeting is ingrain in solid color.
The origin of the name ingrain is interesting. In the Middle Ages the difficulty of dyeing reds that would be fast brought fame to successful dyers and dye materials. The Gobelins acquired their fame as "dyers in scarlet." They made extensive use of cochineal, an insect whose dried body supplies a red dye. Another name for cochineal is grain, and carpet dyed "in grain" were famous in England for the quality of the color. So that originally ingrain designated carpets in a fine red; later, carpets in any fast dye; to-day, woolen rugs or carpets woven flat without pile.
Of domestic pile rugs, the body brussels probably return most wear for the money. As the pile consists of uncut loops, they gather little dust and are easy to take care of. The range of patterns is limited by the number of warps used - from two to six colors - and it is impossible to secure the happy individualism that distinguishes the Oriental hand-knotting. The body brussels rug is avowedly and honestly a machine product. It comes in every type of pattern - Oriental, French two-tone, and I even saw one that was definitely and unfortunately Art Nouveau.