Google+ Georgia On My Mind: September 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Georgia's Bedspread Alley

Are you on Pinterest? I have an account, but my four or five little boards there are awfully lonely.

I’ve ignored Pinterest on purpose.

I’m afraid once I dive in there will be no saving me, and I’ll spend too much of my time scrolling through the pretty images and forget more pressing matters.
Every now and then I get a notification that someone new is following my boards. I feel so bad and want to send them an apology letter letting them know that one day…someday… my Pinterest boards will be more interesting.

I most certainly see the value of Pinterest just from the pins that roll across my newsfeed on Facebook. 
I see things I could forward to others...I saw this and thought it might interest you

Ideas that I could use thinking to myself...Oh, that would be perfect for the bedroom.
All sorts of craft ideas that make me dream...Yes! I can make that, too.  I’ll try that…, and then I laugh myself right out of the thought minutes later since I’m not very crafty as in glue and thread kind of “crafty”.

In 1892, when she was 15, Catherine Evans didn’t have Pinterest, of course, but she did see something she wanted to try. She saw a tufted bedspread someone had made prior to the Civil War. Catherine decided she wanted to try the technique.

She took a bodkin needle, a blunt needle used for pulling something large through a piece of material, and tried her hand at tufting. The tufts were made by pulling eight threads at a time through the material. Over and over the threads would be pulled until the design was complete. Once the fabric was washed and dried the tufts would be there to stay.
What began as a personal challenge to see if she could recreate something turned into something she did over and over for family and friends finally selling one for $2.50.

That’s where the story really takes off economically not only for Catherine, but for nearly 10,000 women and their families across North Georgia.
You see, after that first sale the orders just kept coming. More and more folks were recruited to complete the tufting.
A cottage industry was born!

Gradually over time men were hired to work in stamping facilities where the designs were made on plain white sheeting.  There were various methods used to stamp the fabric,  but one way was to lay a plain piece of sheeting over a completed tufted spread.
Blocks of melted paraffin with bluing would be rubbed across it. The tufting underneath would leave marks and form a pattern to follow.

Sheeting stamped with designs would be delivered to homes where the women would complete the tufting. Once the design was complete the sheeting would be washing in hot water shrinking the fabric which in turn would hold the threads in place. The sheeting would be tossed over the clothes lines for drying which helped the tufting to “fluff”. 
Hanging the sheeting over the clotheslines with the bright colors and interesting designs was also a great way to advertise the bedspreads, and fairly soon the route down Highway 41 between Cartersville and Dalton became known as “Bedspread Alley”. 

Over and over again delivery men would pick up the completed pieces and drop off more printed sheeting for the women to complete.

Eventually, real manufacturing centers were set up while the orders came in from all over the place.  There are stories though the ladies didn’t always wait for the orders to arrive. Sometimes they would simply pack up 15 bedspreads along with an invoice and mail them off to a northern department store.  When the first invoice was paid without question the ladies also received an additional order for more bedspreads. The process was repeated over and over with department stores all over the place.
The demand for tufted items grew – house robes, rugs, wall hangings, and house shoes.

The Singer Sewing Machine Company took note and created a needle that could be used along with their machine to push the threads through he cloth, and a hook or “looper” would catch the thread and keep it from being pulled out as the needle moved to the next stitch.

If you’ve ever wondered how the Dalton area became home to the carpet industry you only have to look back as far as the ladies who made tufted or chenille bedspreads. The tufting process eventually led to wool fibers being used with jute resulting in Dalton’s carpet industry.
Hmm, I wonder what I might find on Pinterest that could be the next cottage industry in Georgia?
You just never know….

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College Park's Cox College

I wish I had a five dollar bill for every time I ventured up Highway 29/Roosevelt Highway from Red Oak to downtown College Park. I’d have a tidy sum to invest.

From the age of four until I was around 20 years of age I made that trip often…sometimes daily….sometimes two or three times a day whether I was running errands with my mother or simply going back and forth to school. 
During all those years I didn’t give the history of College Park any real notice. It’s where I hung out and lived. I was too busy going about the business of growing up to be concerned with what might have happed on any given block.

Of course, once I entered the tenth grade and began to have more rigorous history courses, and once I began attending Woodward Academy – the former Georgia Military Academy – where history and tradition just seem to ooze from every monument and brick, I couldn’t help but be interested.
For years the block along Main Street where College Park’s city hall, library and what once was College Park High School seemed to hold a secret – a secret of a past occupant due to the positioning of the  lovely old trees. I could hear the secret whispering to me as Mother and I would drive past. I’d look out of the window and wonder what had once been there, but never had the time to really look into the matter... though I heard rumors.

Who knew that back as early as the 1890s a very large and well thought of female college was on that very property – a college known as Cox College and Conservatory? The picture below shows the main building on campus. This building faced Main Street, and this picture shows what they called the Marble Entrance.
To get the whole story regarding Cox College we need to go back a little bit to 1842 when Pastor John E. Dawson organized LaGrange Female Seminary.  By 1854, the name changed to Southern Female College. The campus was located close to the intersection of Dawson and Seminary Streets. During the Civil War the school was used as a hospital and unfortunately, was lost in a fire. A second building was erected near Smith and Church Streets, but that building is also gone and is now the location of a post office.

Ichabod F. Cox took over as president of the school in 1857. When he was ready to retire his son, Charles C. Cox took over, and in 1895 he moved the school to Manchester, Georgia. The Cox family had been in charge of the school for so long that the name Cox was so strongly associated with the school that eventually folks just referred to it as Cox College.
The folks in Manchester were happy about the arrival of Cox College and welcomed the young ladies who attended. The people in Manchester were, according to Robert Ballentine author of The Woodward Story, “very school-minded and envisioned Manchester as an educational hinge in the southern area. By 1900, the college had an enrollment of more than 300 young ladies and was internationally known as an outstanding female school.”

Yes, the folks in Manchester were very school-minded, so much so they changed the name of the town to reflect it. Beginning in 1896, Manchester was known as College Park, Georgia.
Mr.Ballentine, who I remember fondly as my principal at Woodward Academy, writes in his book about the day Colonel John Charles Woodward headed up to College Park from his home in Newnan one spring morning in 1900 for a meeting about another school the citizens of College Park wanted to form.

Woodward would have noticed the large and very impressive structure of Cox College as he disembarked from the train and began walking up Main Street to the White home (today’s College Park Women’s Club) where the meeting would be held.  Colonel Woodward would have walked right by the college grounds and noticed how the campus filled a “block and forty acres”. 
Rachel Mays Dempsey advises in College Park Heritage (1958), "The campus was covered with native hickory and oak trees...There were many varieties of shrubs, hundreds of roses that bordered the walks and rows of violets and beds of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias…The campus outlined with a low white wooden fence, was bordered on three sides by attractive homes of the faculty.”

You can get an idea of what the campus was like in these two pictures.

The inside of the school was just as luxurious for the period.  Here is a picture of the grand staircase,
As you can see from these few pictures the young ladies at Cox College enjoyed a beautiful campus. They had all of the modern conveniences at the turn-of-the century including electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold water, baths, a passenger elevator, tower clock, electric bells and speaking tubes per an ad in Alkhest Magazine I found online.

There was gymnasium space for tennis, and in infirmary with an experienced nurse.
The library which I picture below contained 5,000 volumes.  The school also boasted a museum of natural history and industrial chemistry with over 7,000 specimens and physical and chemical laboratories. 

So much for thinking a young ladies finishing school was simply about elocution lessons, right?
The fine arts department had 46 pianos, a large pipe organ, 2 Italian harps , an orchestral outfit, and art studios with flat models and statuary.

Charles C.Cox was known to boast, “A merely cheap school is not the aim of the management of this institution; we are working for the best in education, and are building with reference to the future.”
Getting back to the meeting Colonel Woodward attended in College Park that day in 1900…He was meeting with a group of folks to discuss the abandoned property where the Southern Military Academy had been located.  Charles Cox was a member of the group along with Colonel P.H. Brewster, I.C. McCrory and others.  At that meeting College Park’s second academic center was formed as Colonel Woodward was persuaded to take over the abandoned property, and the group became the original committee who established Georgia Military Academy/Woodward Academy.

Cox College went on for several more years educating hundreds of young ladies from across the South, however the school did close several times between 1923 and 1933 due hard times.  
Cox College closed their doors for the last time in 1938, and eventually the property became home to College Park's government complex.

You can find more pictures of this amazing place at my Facebook page under “albums” here.
…and in case you aren’t aware Colonel Woodward did take on the abandoned 16 acres. The abandoned building was renamed Founder’s Hall and Georgia Military Academy embarked on their own rich history.
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