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The Hidden Wonders of Catalogues

April 7, 2011

During my research placement at Glasgow University Archive Service (GUAS) I was able to investigate and analyse the Stoddard Templeton Catalogue Collection. It has been fascinating to work with a collection which clearly reflects Scotland’s significant industrial design heritage. My initial research focused on the contextual history of James Templeton & Co. revealing their important role as carpet manufacturers within the Scottish Industrial Revolution. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries James Templeton & Co. was the leading carpet manufacturer combining technical innovation with applied design. The company sold carpets to stately homes, luxury hotels, cruise liners and also received commissions for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and the White House in Washington D.C.

From my research I developed various theories on how the company used the catalogues to sell their carpets. My theory centres on the use of the catalogues as being selling tools for the Company. I believe these catalogues were produced to show the wide variety of carpet designs directly to the potential customer. They contained no prices because separate price lists were used and printed for “Trade Use Only”. It appears from my research that James Templeton & Co. initially sold their carpets through wholesale merchants who would probably have been shown the catalogues. In turn the wholesale merchants would probably show their customers the catalogues, again to highlight Templeton’s wide variety of quality designs. Then the catalogues were used by the “Trade”, which from my research appears to be either retailers (department stores) or agents (carpet salesmen), to show Templeton’s carpets to potential customers. The agents would have been supplied with a price list and catalogue. I also believe the agents would have sold carpets directly to private (wealthy) customers and retailers.

The Templeton catalogues range from the late 19th century up to the late 20th century and revealed a substantial amount of information about how the Company functioned. I analysed the catalogues reporting on how they have been constructed and documented how this process changed over time. I conducted an artefact analysis of three catalogues in detail which ranged from the earliest forms of catalogues in the collection to the latest versions. This analysis was extremely interesting as the first catalogue was in the form of a sample board made from cardboard. This earlier form of catalogue features intricate hand-painted colour carpet designs.

'Wellington Rugs' Design Sample Board

The second catalogue entitled ‘Medallion Carpets’ from the late 19th century contains beautiful chromo-lithographs (colour prints) of Templeton carpet designs. The intricate patterns and colours of the designs have been well preserved inside this catalogue. The use of chromo-lithography highlights the importance of these catalogues to Templeton & Co. as this would have been a very expensive process in the late 19th century. Both the first two catalogues would have been equally expensive/labour intensive to produce during their time of production and I believe the quality of these catalogues was to highlight the high quality of Templeton’s carpet designs to the potential customer.

Chromo-lithograph carpet design, printed inside 'Medallion Carpets' Catalogue.

The third catalogue entitled ‘Templeton The Best in Broadloom’ although appearing cheaper looking than the previous two catalogues does also use the latest printing technology of the time and a seemingly new product in the 1960s, named plastic. This catalogue contains a new range of carpets entitled “Templeton Bedroom Broadloom” described as the “clever economy” carpet range, highlighting Templeton’s aim for a new wider target market. The third catalogue highlights the change in the British carpet industry from the 1960s onwards, as foreign markets began to disappear and the British carpet industry began to widen their home markets. This also reinforces my theory that these catalogues were shown to potential customers by retailers or salesmen and were primarily a selling and advertising tool for Templeton’s. These catalogues are really valuable assets to the Stoddard Templeton Archive Collection and document the Company’s incredible designs and high quality production over 100 years.

Laura McGovern

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