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Chapter One

Composing the background of progress are the industries of supply, which recreate and temper raw substances, adapting them to thrifty manufacture.

Among the refines materials emerging from this background is felt, whose function, in most cases, is protective, rather than structural.

Rendering a highly specialized service, the American Felt Company is an important contributor to the orderly advancement of industrial design.

American industry flourishes under an interlocking system where by the touch of countless skills is finely interwoven in the pattern of production. Supporting every industrial front are literally hundreds, and sometimes thousands of suppliers. They build and equip plants, furnish the materials and supplies that are consumed in the processing; they produce the parts out of which all things are made. The industries of supply collectively form the background of progress; yet comparatively little is known to the world outside of their individualities or how they intertwine the strong and pliant fabric of industrial enterprise.

Among them all, perhaps none had aided the manufacturer of the finished product more effectively than that group which recreates the raw substance and places in the customer plant materials designed with judgment and foresight to flow with maximum economy through that one particular channel. Instancing one of these background industries, and a material that is protective rather than structural in its commonest function, is the Story of Felt as delineated by the American Felt Company. For more than seventy years the American Felt Company and its constituents have been rendering specialized service to the Nation’s advancing industrial system, producing felts of almost every known kind, and constantly conceiving new ones. Its service, besides creating products of astonishingly varied uses, goes even further and harmonizes the felt parts with the products in which they are merged. American’s felts are engineered felts.

The American Felt Company had its inception at the turn of the century and owes its comprehensive character to the fact that it embraced number of older concerns which had been specializing in felt for different purposes. The company’s history traces back to the earliest production of felt in this country and includes the best of the industry’s traditions. Felt manufacture in the early days was the work of small mills, generally confined to special felts made up on order for a few customers. Often the proprietor would deliver the goods, collect more orders, then go back to the mill and start another run. While this status continued, the making of felt was governed principally by the knowledge handed down in confidence from one generation to the next. The significant thing about the formation of the American Felt Company, therefore, was that it brought into a single group the experience and craftsmanship previously developed in independent branches of the business.

Six concerns, highly individualized and operating for the most part on specialties, merged identities in the American Felt Company. They were: The Alfred Dolge Felt Co., of Dolgeville, N.Y; City Mills Felt Co., Norfolk, Mass.; Taylor & Bloodgood Felt Co., Rahway, N.J.; Tingue, House Mill, Glenville, Conn.; Waite Felt Co., Franklin, Mass., and S. Strook & Co., Newburgh N.Y. consolidation of this group, when completed over a period of years, created the largest enterprise in the felt industry. What there smaller concerns had lacked and could never have achieved individually, organization and centralized management immediately inspired. Manufacture of American felts soon became more highly mechanized. Precision controls were invented to systematize experience and render skill more highly productive. Manufacture was remolded by research. The work of standardization was started. Volume production caused better material to become widely available at lower cost to the consumer. Even more important was the progressive step in marketing was the creation of a better understanding of the properties of felt, particularly regarding the distinction between various qualities or grades. This went hand in hand with intensive studies of the customers’ needs.

In turn, followed one of the most important developments in felt of recent years, in the evolution of the cutting divisions. Under the early conventions of the business the customer took over the material in roll or sheet form, shaping it for use according to his own ideas. The felt manufacturer often lacked information as to the precise use of much of his product which consequently sometimes suffered the disadvantage of ill-judged adaptation. In more recent times the felt manufacturer has delved deeply into the fabrication of felt parts to customers’ blueprints, and so is able to advise expertly on quality selections. Establishment of its own cutting divisions put the American Felt Company in the business of designing and fabricating parts for customers’ uses, in addition to producing roll and sheet felts in standard and special qualities for the customers’ own application. This has been an important influence from the standpoint of economy…removing uncertainty about performance of felt parts arising from unfamiliarity with the possibilities of the material on the part of industrial designers. It has promoted precision cutting, prevented waste and increased performance.

The result is that today cut felts play a highly important part in industry. Fabricated felts reach the consumer’s plant ready for assembling; there is no waste in handling, no problem in cutting and fitting. More than that, the felt manufacturer, having consulted with the designer of the machine or product in which felts are used, has contributed to the end result in a responsible way.

The American Felt Company, larger in machine capacity than at any time in its history, has consolidated its mill operations at Glenville, Con., Newburgh, N.Y. and Franklin, Mass. Cutting divisions are located at Glennville, Conn., Detroit, Mich. and San Francisco, Cal.

Sales branches are maintained at New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Rochester, St. Louis, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.