IT is a textile company with an historic past in Huddersfield.

But mill boss Gordon Hawley admits that the latest commission for Paragon Textiles is one of the most unusual and memorable.

His staff have been using the company’s century-old looms to try and recreate tent fabric for a replica of George Washington’s tent.

Washington, who became the first president of the United States in 1789, was an army commander and virtually lived under canvas.

Now the world-famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the George Washington Museum in Williamsburg in the USA plan to create replica tents.

They will be used for exhibitions and also for an education project for millions of American schoolchildren.

It’s also quite ironic that the Americans have come to Britain for the expertise necessary to create the fabric – as it was Washington who forced the British out of Boston in 1776.

During the Revolutionary War, General Washington and his staff used three tents made for the commanders in 1776 by the Philadelphia upholsterer Plunkett Fleeson.

The tents were used for visitor receptions, meetings, and dining and unofficially became known as The First White House.

The tent eventually came to the Smithsonian and has been exhibited at the National Museum of American History since 1964.

Mr Hawley said: “It is a fascinating commission, but it has not been without its problems.

“We were approached by a firm in Ireland who had been asked to help and we agreed to take it on with our old looms.

“Modern looms could not cope with the varying widths of fabric they need, rangingfrom 20 inches to 40 inches.

“We are using a yarn imported from Belgium which experts from the Smithsonian have analysed and believes it is as near as possible to the original fabrics.

“We have been working on the project for the last two weeks and hope to complete it next week, when it will be shipped over to Ireland for finishing and then on to the States.

“I am delighted we have been given such an important commission and it’s great to think that British expertise will be used to educate so many American children in the future.”

Paragon Textiles, at St John’s Road, is the only commission pattern weavers in the world operating with traditional looms, some of which are over 100 years old.

The company works closely with leading textile designers from all over the world to create unique, highly-specialised fabrics, mainly top quality worsteds.

The pattern weavers may have to incorporate intricate designs and expensive materials such as vicuna, mohair, gold or platinum threads or even glass crystals into the cloth.

One recent commission was for a premium worsted costing over £10,000 for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

It had the word ‘President’ woven into the cloth.


He was born in Virginia in 1732 and died in 1799

He became the first president of the United States in 1789, serving until 1797

He was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution

His face appears on a US dollar bill