The subject of linoleum area rugs came up again recently, and I Scan Therefore I Am, so I dug out my 1954 Armstrong flooring catalog to show what was being sold back in the day. In all, it seems that Armstrong was selling 31 different linoleum are rug designs — plus faux wood linoleum floor edging — in 1954. These were sold under the Armstrong Quaker Rug brand. I also have a 1955 catalog and at some point will cross reference the two to see if there are more.
Actually, I was surprised there were as many as 28 linoleum rugs beings sold by Armstrong as late at 1954. I have tended to believe that by this time, vinyl composite tiles (of many variations) were all the rage by then.
I need to really study this whole catalog more — but just by scanning the sheet yardage goods and tiles (many many more than rugs), there was a wide variety of flooring available in 1954 — from true linoleum to inlaid linoleum to vinyl composites to plastics, even.
BUT NOTE: They’re not telling us exactly all the material used — this is not a Material Safety Data Sheet like we get today, and I don’t even know if they had them back then. So, we don’t know all the materials used to make these rugs. In her book “Linoleum,” Jane Powell says that while linoleum is known today for its use of renewable resources (cork, linseed oil, namely), heavy metals such as lead may have been used in the manufacturer of old linoleum. There could be other materials of concern. So — Precautionary Pam repeats: Be sure to get with your own properly licensed professional to determine what’s in your house and its layers, so that you can make informed decisions about how to handle. Be Safe / Renovate Safe.
I have only come across a linoleum rug once in my travels. At an estate sale 15 years ago. It was in the dining room of a cute bungalow on East Henry Street in Saline, Michigan, about a block from our first house. It was adorable, and I could have bought it for just $35. But, it was very brittle, and I didn’t think it would make it out the front door without breaking unless I put it on a sheet of plywood the same size, and it was bigger than 4×8, and it was all a hassle, so I just passed.
I think that is an issue with these old linoleum rugs: They get brittle.
Even though these rugs were likely very common in the past, I guess that over time, they were just thrown out, because of the brittleness issue and because folks didn’t pay them much mind. The were the “old floor.” So, I think they are pretty rare today. If you find one in excellent shape — see the linoleum rug in Cullen’s fabulous apartment — it is probably worth some money.
I tend to believe that linoleum rugs were purchased by homeowners who already had their houses built. They may have had low-cost wood flooring down — fir was common, I think. And, they wanted a softer covering but could not afford a real oriental or Wilton rug.
Continue on for the complete line of linoleum rugs available from Armstrong in 1954. Note, a number of these designs were available as sheet flooring, too. I recognize many designs from estate sale houses I’ve been in. In those houses, the floors are still in pretty great shape, although, again, along the edges and at the seams, you can see the brittleness of the years showing. In general, though, this stuff was Built to Last.