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Prologue

The story of felt, as exemplified by the progress of the American Felt Company, is a case history in of the least known arts of the gigantic American Industrial System. That is the art which creates and adapts materials for manufacture. It is the keystone of the business structure which enables fine products to be reproduces in huge quantities and to sell for prices which are modest indeed when measured by the common test of utility; trivial when compared with the cost of equivalent handcraft. Under the American Industrial System, the high-speed automatic machine will operate only when the right kind of material is fed into it. It will turn out a satisfactory product only if that material is workable.

The product, in turn, will suit its purpose only if its properties have been fitted to all the requirements. The modern manufacturing method, which is the essence of the American Industrial System, is a binary equation in which the machine is one variable, the material the other. Hence, the equation can be satisfied only when the functions of both variables are coordinated. So felt, once known as a kind of cloth, whose soft springy substance recommended it as a convenient protective covering, now has a great variety of applications, for which it is adopted by its unique assortment of physical properties.

Like other working materials, those properties have been dissected out and examined in the laboratory, their causes and effects analyzed. Finally, a special production technique has been established enabling felts to be fabricated by methods which hold its characteristics under positive and selective control. In this way, felt is now aligned with other materials which are designed into useful products in a hundred different industries and more, through the common medium of engineering standards and specifications.