The Early Years of Gordon County's Chenille Industry
an exhibit sponsored by
The Calhoun Gordon Arts Council
Harris Arts Center
in collaboration with
The Gordon County Historical Society
The Calhoun-Gordon County Library
with support from
The Georgia Humanities Council
Gordon Countians of a certain age well remember the days when the roadside of U.S. Highway 41, the Dixie Highway, was lined with clotheslines displaying colorful chenille bedspreads and other products. The spreads were made at first by hand by local tufters, who later worked in the mills that were established for more efficient production.
Many of the early handmade and machine-made spreads stayed in homes in the county, tucked away in cedar chests in attics or proudly displayed on iron bedsteads. The spreads still hung from clotheslines on washday; the aprons and capes were worn around the house and yard on weekends.
The Calhoun Gordon Arts Council and the Gordon County Historical Society in late 2008 undertook the project of gathering early chenille products to display at their institutions. Residents searched their stored textiles and came up with many fine examples of early chenilles, along with some of the tools that were used to make them.
The exhibit Peacock Alley: The Origins of Gordon County’s Chenille Industry, opened in September 2009 at the Calhoun Gordon Arts Council’s Harris Arts Center and Oakleigh, home of the Gordon County Historical Society. For six weeks, old and young residents, and many visitors from nearby towns and cities, admired the early- and mid-twentieth-century products made right here in the county. They attended two outstanding programs focusing on the individuals who crafted the materials and the manufacturers who later distributed them.
This Web site offers a view of the chenille products, some of the people who made them, and the scholars who study their history. I am grateful to the Calhoun Gordon Arts Council and the Gordon County Historical Society for hosting the exhibit and programs; the Calhoun Gordon County Library for creating and displaying this catalog on its Web site; the two scholars who shared their knowledge of the industry; the Georgia Humanities Council for funding the programs and other activities; the arts council’s Visual Arts Guild for its support; Ed Weldon and Kathy Dixson for exhibit design, installation, and moral support; Jason Ray for his work on the Web site; and especially the good people of Gordon County who shared their treasures for the exhibit and for our ongoing enjoyment in this Web catalog.
--Jane Powers Weldon, curator