The Dyeing Olympics
Another memorable event from those early days took place about a year later. James Lees Carpet Division of Burlington Industries staged a series of dyeing trials at TAG. Harry Morgan, Technical Director for Lees, Rabun Gap, GA, shipped nine rolls of carpet and invited Bayer, DuPont and Geigy to offer their dyes to match nine shades on various nylon and acrylic styles.13 The trials were soon being called the Olympics (the real Summer Olympics were being staged in Mexico City at about this time and people were tuned in to the competitive spirit). Presumably, the “winner” of the trials would get Lees’ business and win the gold medal. Bayer started the day with a BCF nylon solid shade, a multitone nylon and finally Orlon 33 acrylic. Roland Weber, Bayer, Leverkusen and Al Meilink, from the US subsidiary, Mobay, were up next and remembered achieving good results on nylon and frosty results on the acrylic. Geigy, with Eric Schlaginhaufen and Helmut Raisin, was last and ran different grades of spun and BCF nylon. Schlaginhaufen remembered being grateful that all went reasonably well and ended reasonably on time as they were all invited to dinner at the Kusters home. In attendance for DuPont were: Phil Ebert, Jim Stradley, and Bob Turner. While waiting for the DuPont people to arrive, Ebert remembered playing “Customer Gin Rummy” with Harry Morgan, an avid card player. 19 DuPont did fine with the nylon, but struggled with a heavy Orlon sample. It was getting late and Bob Turner remembered seams constantly ripping out as the heavy dyesoaked carpet was pulled some 20 feet to the vertical steamer entrance. The operators didn’t speak English and Bob spoke little German. A case of beer might have helped bridge the language gap. In the end, they got through the trial and headed straight for the Kusters home. It took just a few steps on Mrs. Küsters’ white carpet to realize they must quickly remove their work shoes. 13
It was very unusual for customers to be invited into the homes of suppliers. It was truly special for suppliers of dyes to Lees Carpet to be invited into a machine suppliers’ home. Eduard Küsters was a very friendly and very modest man. He liked to work with young people and see them develop. It was not unusual for him to know each of his employees and call them by name, e.g., “Hans” and to use the very familiar “du” used only within the family and never in public when addressing an employee. He also took their hand with both of his hands and shook it in greeting.
The Olympics were a time that for a brief moment companies forgot they were competitors as they basked in the glow of a great technical achievement. Harry Morgan of Lees should have been the host but he was the guest of honor and he delighted in the role. Later that night in the Krefelderhof Ratskeller, Harry tried his first steak tartar which he reluctantly ate, having failed to get the waiter to take it back to the kitchen and cook it. 13 The bottom line for this entire story: Lees placed an order for machine number nine and we never found out who got the dye business!
Looking back to ITMA ’67 and the Dyeing Olympics of ’68 brought back fond memories of a happy time. Schlaginhaufen remembered ‘We were part of a revolution in applying color to carpeting, part of bringing the customer greater style and value. Indeed, we were even a small part of history in the making.’ 13
Within a few years, as continuous ranges were installed, there was concern that six to ten ranges would saturate the market. However, this was not found to be true. Demand increased rapidly. The Carpet and Rug Institute figures showed a US production of 496, 790,000 sq. yd. in 1967, 642,645,000 in 1969 and 755,159,000 in 1971, a 52% increase. 1 By 1987 and the twentieth anniversary celebration sixtysix ranges were sold in the US and 73 to the rest of the world. It is hard to believe there was fear of market saturation at ten machines. New developments continued to appear from Küsters and others. 16, 17 In 1997, with 165 ranges sold, on Küsters equipment alone, 4.5 million square meters were being dyed every 24 hours of every working day. Fifty per cent was dyed in the US. The leading US firm dyed in excess of one million square yards every day.18
- Carpet and Rug Institute, 1995 Industry Review, Dalton, GA, 1996.
- Kutz, J., Küsters, Personal communication, March 1997.
- Zimmer, P., Zimmer Print Machine, Personal communication, April 1997.
- Weiss, F., Melliand Textilberichte, 45, 1, January 1964, p60.
- Zimmerli, K., Zima Corp., Personal communication, September 1996.
- Küsters, E., Melliand Textilberichte, 39, No. 1, January 1958, p88.
- Weber, R., Bayer/DyStar, Personal communication, January 1997.
- Weber, R., and H.J. Huypen, Bayer Farben Revue, 13, May 1967, p36, 14, February 1968, p41.
- Heise, W., Bayer/DyStar, Personal communication, December 1996.
- Anon., Melliand Textilberichte, 47, No. 9, September 1966, p10 – 20.
- Rüttiger, W., Melliand Textilberichte, 48, No. 4, April 1967, p423.
- Küsters, US Patent 3,541815, filed June 30, 1967.
- Schlaginhaufen, E., Carpet and Rug Industry, March 1988; Personal communication, December 1996.
- Shaheen, S., World Carpet, Personal communication, January 1997.
- Anon., Melliand Textilberichte, 49, No.3, March 1968, p339.
- Keller, A., Continuous Dyeing of Carpet – A Continuous Challenge, Küsters Memo, November, 1985.
- Kohnen, J., History of Küsters Carpet Applicators, Kusters Memo, November, 1996.
- Grüber, H., and J. Kutz, Küsters, Personal communication, May 1997.
- Ebert, P., Personal communication, May 1997.
- Küsters ITMA’67 leaflet.
- Küsters Customer Reference List. May 1997.
- Mock, Gary N., Development of Continuous Carpet Dyeing, AATCC Book of Papers 1997, p123 – 132.
- Mock, Gary N., Early Development of Continuous Carpet Dyeing, Textile Chemist and Colorist, 30(8), 66 – 71, 1998.