Klearflax Rug Factory, Duluth, Minnesota

Julius Howland Barnes founded Klearflax Linen Looms, Incorporated, and was president of the board. This was the manufacturing plant at 63 Avenue West and Grand. Barnes sought a way to utilize flax straw, then largely burned in Minnesota fields were it was produced. He planned to make toweling, but that proved unworkable. Flax made a durable and artistic rug. In 1933, only 60 people were employed in the mill. They diversified, and 200 were employed with a payroll of $30,000 a month. The plant used no coal, but was steam heated using waste products from raw materials. Looms were invented to accommodate the flax material after it had been cleaned, steamed, dried, combed and carded, and spun into yarn. The company also utilized wool and cotton. The company gained national prominence when it began to advertise in magazines like Vogue, Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. One rug was in the main entry of New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel and showed little wear after an estimated 10 million people had walked across it. Another was made in 1939, weighing a half-ton, cost $300,000, was 15×30 feet, of special design, for the Finnish capital at Helsinki. Barnes sold the company to Romos enterprises of Ohio in April 1953.

~ Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections

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