Karastan rugs are remarkable reproductions of the highly fashionable hand-knotted originals from Ancient Persia and the Orient. Marshall Field & Company had, starting in 1921, devoted tremendous energy and resources by building a carpet mill in Leaksville, North Carolina for the purpose of creating Oriental reproductions. It wasn't until later, however, that a New England inventor, Eugene Clark, was able to rebuild one of those old looms into the Karastan version still in use today.
Karastan rugs led to the Axminster loom, which was the first power loom to produce a rug with a soft back that would show the pile yarns through the back just like the hand-woven originals from the Orient. Even so, it was only after the perfection of the finishing step involving the use of non-fading dyestuffs and a special "lustre wash," which truly gave the rugs the realistic highlights and mellowness of the Oriental originals, that the company was finally put on the map.
Karastan rugs went from literally a "Mystery" status to a "Wonder" status almost overnight with their entry into the making of Oriental reproductions as these were quickly considered works of art. These were so far advanced as a result of this new manufacturing process, that it didn't take long for them to prove themselves under the most torturous conditions. It wouldn't be long before consumers would take up on another, perhaps even more apt title known as "The Wonder Company of America." In the 1933-34 World's Fair in Chicago, the company created a large version of Kirman pattern #791. But instead of putting it on display in a roped-off area where visitors could ooh and aah over its beauty, they did the absolute unthinkable. They invited the world to walk all over it. And so the world did. More than five million people, in fact, left their footprints, drink spills, and ground-in food stains all over it. And when the Fair was over, the proving had just begun. Now it was time for clean-up. And not the entire piece either, but just one half. That way, everyone could see and contrast the miracle for themselves. The test sample still exists in just such a state even today—one side almost unrecognizably filthy, the other returned to its original beauty and luster.
We passed the test with flying colors. Then, just to prove that demonstration was no fluke, we did it again, this time at the New York World's Fair of 1939-40, where more than nine million visitors put their dirtiest feet forward. You see, we're proud of our history. You can hear it in our voices. You can feel it in our fiber. You can see it in our original patterns and designs. What you won't ever see, though, is us standing still. That's why, as proud as we are of our past, we keep searching for new ideas, new colors, new fibers, and new machines to bring it all together in our future. That's why we keep designing and weaving together whole new collections, like Colonial Williamsburg, introduced in 1983; and the Loft Collection and the Antique Legends Limited Edition Collection, both introduced in 2001. Just as time keeps moving ever forward, so too does our spirit of innovation.
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