In 1892, John E. Garrett (1865-1937) of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, printed and sold his first "patterns" for hooking. These printed designs on burlap would become the base or foundation cloth for hooked mats, or rugs.

(In Nova Scotia today, many hookers still maintained the local usage of the word "mat," while people from other places say "rug." Garrett used "rug" in most cases, probably taking into consideration his American market, but he also advertised "door mats" and even used both together at times, as in "hooked rugs and mats.")

Although John started working in his father's upholstery and furniture business, he preferred to use his artistic talent to design mats. His small enterprise began in two rooms at home and grew into a company that served customers across Canada, as well as in Britain, the United States and elsewhere, including South Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii.

In the first year, about 1800 patterns were sold; in the third year, over 6000. Efficient and economical production was required, so John developed his own simple printing method. In 1892, his first year of operation, he obtained a Canadian patent for his process of stamping designs on burlap.

As production improved, output rose, and demand increased, John Garrett expanded distribution by mail order, with his own pattern design sheets and, later, catalogues. As early as 1900, he placed advertisements in various farm papers, but he found that the most successful vehicle was the popular Family Herald & Weekly Star, published in Montréal. The business expanded to the extent that, by the onset of the First World War, over 200 000 yards of burlap were used annually.

Commercial activities of the Garrett business included the sale of wool yarn, hooks, binding, frames, and other materials, as well as several versions of a rug-hooking machine. Garrett began experimenting with various models and refinements of the machine, one called "Garrett's Rug Hooker" (advertised in 1920) and another named "Little Wonder." Finally, in 1926, he patented the Bluenose Rug Hooking Machine in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain. It was popular immediately, with about 12 000 selling in the first year. The machine was meant to be used with yarn, but could be used with finely cut rags.

Three of John's children were employed in the business. Frank (1892-1958) and Cecil (1902-1954) worked at the main factory in New Glasgow. Arthur (1888-1954) managed the branch factory at Malden, Massachusetts. The branch had opened in 1929, but the company had operated an outlet in the Boston area from about 1902, at various addresses; Arthur's wife, Katherine, continued to run that location after Arthur's death. Frank's son, Cameron, took over the New Glasgow location after his father's death in 1958.

Printed rug patterns declined through the 1960s and 1970s, then ceased; the remaining stock was sold into the 1980s. In 1985, Ed MacArthur, who had worked as general manager, bought the business. He later sold the rug stencils to someone who wanted to print the patterns for sale.
by Scott Robson

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