Fabric foundations 1940s

A Conference of War

On August 3, 1942, the National Association held a conference of war. More than 500 manufacturers crammed into the Grand Ballroom of Chicago’s Drake Hotel in the greatest assembly of canvas good manufacturers since the association was formed in 1912.  

They represented an industry in flux. Due in large part to World War II, cotton production was up almost 7 percent and by the end of 1942 more than 11.25 billion yards of cotton fabric were produced. The amount of workers employed by the industry swelled from 40 million to 52 million as manufacturers tried to compete for highly competitive defense contracts.


German engineer Konrad Zuse finishes building thea, the first working programmable, fully automated computing machine. It is destroyed two years later in a bombing of Berlin. Photo: Computer History Museum.

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The slinky is originally developed as an anti-vibration device for use in naval ship instruments. When the navy doesn’t use his idea, inventor Robert James turns the steel coil into a toy.

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Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral invents Velcro® after closely examining the burrs of the burdock, a thistle that he found stuck on his clothes after a hunting trip in the Alps.

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Capt. James Gallagher and 14 U.S. Air Force flyers complete the first nonstop flight around the world. The total flight takes 94 hours and the B-50 Superfortress, Lucky Lady II, refuels four times while in the air. Photo: Tinker Air Force Base.

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-Jessica Bies