Remembering Carter Brothers, Inc.

Pioneers of Chenille Industry

Friday, May 19, 2006 - by Harmon Jolley
Message to New Market, AL customer on this 1924 advertising postcard reads, "Just what you've been looking for."  Click to enlarge.
Message to New Market, AL customer on this 1924 advertising postcard reads, "Just what you've been looking for." Click to enlarge.

Before I get too far into this article, I need to you warn you, the reader. Some folks say that history puts them to sleep. This article is about a company that originally made mattresses, so some of you may be even more likely to nod off.

In the late 1800’s, Col. John Goodley Carter and his wife, Myra Inman Carter, moved to Bradley County to become farmers. The Carters had two sons, August Jarnagin Carter and Peyton Lea Carter. The brothers took divergent paths upon reaching young adulthood, but would later work together in the same pursuit.

At age eightreen, August Carter moved to Chattanooga to take a job with the Mountain City Mills, which produced flour and meal. In his early thirties, he moved to Athens, Georgia to become a cotton broker. After five years there, he returned to Chattanooga.

Peyton Carter also began his career in Chattanooga, but pursued employment in sales. The city directories of the early 1900’s list him as a traveling salesman for the Trigg Candy Company. Peyton continued in that role with the Brock Candy Company, which was organized by William E. Brock following the purchase of Trigg Candy.

In 1913, the Carter brothers teamed to go into business for themselves, and started the Carter Brothers Mattress Company. Each of the siblings brought different types of expertise to the new firm. August had the experience in manufacturing and raw materials, and Peyton had the sales background. August became general manager, while Peyton was the manager of sales.

The Carter Brothers Mattress Company was located at 33 Rossville Avenue, between Read Avenue and Washington Street. The neighborhood was a mix of manufacturing, residences, and retail establishments. The Salvation Army was located across the street from the Carters.

By 1920, the business had relocated to 1428 Williams Street. During the 1920’s, the Carters changed the product line of their enterprise. They sold their mattress business, and began making chenille spreads and rugs.

The work was very labor-intensive, with all of the products being made by hand. To reduce manufacturing costs and boost production, August Carter designed a tufting attachment for a sewing machine. He applied for a patent in 1922, and on Feb. 26, 1924, was issued Patent No. 1485213.

The introductory paragraphs of the patent stated:

“One of the objects of the invention is to provide comparatively simple mechanism associated with a sewing machine to automatically form a series of loops in regular sequence in sheeting or fabric, and to sever the loops to form a long pile which is securely held intact with the sheeting or fabric… A further object of the invention is to provide comparatively simple and effective means for tufting sheeting or woven fabrics to produce spreads which have heretofore usually been manually tufted, with material saving in the cost of production and selling price.”

The new tufting machine allowed the Carters to produce the first chenille bedspread and the first rug ever made on a chenille sewing machine, according to a Nov. 3, 1946 Chattanooga Times recap of the firm’s history. This boosted business at Carter Brothers, Inc., the new mattress-less name of their business

As of 1927, the manufacturer was based at the location it would have for the remainder of its corporate life – between Manufacturers Road and Cherokee Boulevard, bounded by May and Harper Streets. There, Carter Brothers joined with its neighbors to give meaning to the name of Manufacturers Road. Neighbors included Signal Knitting Mills, which adjoined the property’s southern border, Chattanooga Stamping and Enamel, Egg Case Filler Manufacturing, and Lookout Boiler. Peyton Carter had a relatively short commute from his home at 210 Mississippi Avenue, while brother A.J. had to travel from his residence at 1022 McCallie Avenue.

In 1946, Carter announced plans to expand to 500 or more workers, and to add 100 sewing machines, made at the plant, to the line. A new product was introduced as part of the expansion – a chenille rug sized for the largest of rooms, but one which could be unlaced for washing and then stitched back together.

August J. Carter passed away in 1949. Peyton Carter continued to run the textile business, aided by John Carter, the son of August. In 1960, the two men sold their interests in the firm to J.H. Bradley, P.R. Carter, and R.W. Boyd, each of whom had been a vice-president at Carter Brothers.

Peyton Carter passed away in 1971. Carter Brothers was no longer listed in the city directory of 1975. Does anyone know what happened to this pioneering business in the field of chenille manufacturing? If you do, or if you have memories of Carter Brothers, Inc., please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

I wish to thank the library staff of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library and Georgia Institute of Technology for their assistance in locating the patent of August J. Carter.



Patent for the chenille sewing machine attachment designed by August J. Carter.  Click to enlarge.
Patent for the chenille sewing machine attachment designed by August J. Carter. Click to enlarge.

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