Remember the Nauga – that mythical creature from which Naugahyde supposedly comes from? In the 1960’s and 1970’s you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing one. Today, they’re still spearheading marketing campaigns for the all-American brand of artificial leather. In fact, you can even adopt a Nauga through Naugahyde‘s website.
Cheaper imports have made it so that Naugahyde no longer dominates the market for faux leather, but customers who pride themselves on buying American still ask for it. So why not read up on a bit of its history? It may come in handy during a sales pitch.
Pennsylvania’s The Mercury recently published an article titled “Where did Naugahyde come from?” that does a great job of summarizing how the fabric came to be:
It could be argued that Naugahyde started in Newburg, N.Y. The Fabrikoid Company, a small textile business in the Hudson Valley, had been working on creating artificial leather materials, particularly for use in the carriage and luggage trade and the growing automotive market. Leather had been used throughout human history for clothing, shelter, tools and many other purposes, including upholstery and footwear. People had tried to create synthetic versions of the versatile material but it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that some promising developments came into being. […]
Fabrikoid quickly found its way onto automobile tops and upholstery and luggage. Its success was noticed by the DuPont Company, and in 1910, they purchased Fabrikoid for $1.2 million. […]
In 1936, chemists at the U.S. Rubber Company’s plant in Naugatuck, Conn., came up with a knit fabric backing coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that was an excellent leather substitute. They named it Naugahyde, after the location at which it was developed. Naugahyde came into widespread use in the ‘50s and ‘60s and was seen everywhere in auto upholstery and household furniture. [more]
If, however, what you’re interested in is the Nauga, you’ll be happy to know that Naugahyde has gone to great lengths to develop the creature’s backstory. It’s fun, entertaining and very ridiculous. For instance, Naugahyde writes:
One prominent historian believes the first Naugas arrived in America in 1778 when they delivered designer clothes from France to George Washington’s Continental Army. Others suggest they arrived far earlier, pointing out an abandoned tenth century Viking settlement that was recently unearthed in Newfoundland. Among the tantalizing evidence is the discovery of two Nauga names, Olaf the Red and Erik the Navy Blue, on a fragment of stone tablet at the site. [more]
Rest assure that Naugahyde is a “cruelty-free fabric” – as “Naugas shed their hydes with no harm to themselves”.
Naseem Muaddi says
Great article! Very interesting history
Thanks Naseem – much appreciated!
Our readers left the following comments about this article on another upholstery forum:
Ragtacker: Kim Buckminster of Buckminster Upholstery actually has a Nauga! I must assume that it had been caught and stuffed after its’ demise…
Ahkahn:Yes, we know it all to well. We’re the second oldest distributor of Naugahyde (have been distributing it since the 1950’s).
We have quite a few of the old Nauga’s, as well as a lot of other Nauga-“lore” in our archives. In fact, the front of our building (which was built in 1967) to this day still has original “Naugahyde Headquarters” sign on it, which back then was a very exclusive title.
The neatest part about the whole Nauga story is that if you go up to the Naugahyde plant in Wisconsin, in their lobby they have a showcase full of old Naugas. There was a lady who was an avid collector of Naugas since the 1950’s, and when she passed she left the entire collection to the Naugahyde company. Neat stuff.
Trivia: The Nauga often made visits to the Johnny Carson show throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. We have a framed picture of a Nauga with Carson in our office. I’ve come across this picture on the Internet in the past. -Andrew
Roy Keith Classics says
I have a Nauga on the bookshelf in my office. In the mid 70’s my father purchased 500 Naugas. My mother wanted to kill him but he sold them all in just a couple weeks! Who would have thought?
Naseem Muaddi says
Wow Naugas must have been really popular!
I love it. Wonder if anyone has the pattern for making Nauga’s? “Build-A-Naugas” could pop all over the country. There could be American Nauga’s, with clothing and hair bows and glasses as adjournments. And of course Nauga Potter, a teen wizard who attends Vinylwarts School of Upholstery and Covering (would the invisibility cloak be made from nauga as well?)would be the hero of many books and movies.
Excellent story! Another factoid, DLT is the second oldest Naugahyde distributor in the world! We’ve been distributing Naugahyde since the early 1950’s.
There is a very complete collection of Nauga dolls at the plant in Stoughton, WI that was left to Naugahyde in a will from an avid collector when she passed away. They have them framed and showcased. Great collection!
how much are these critters worth?
Who’s the blonde?
I wish I knew! Stunning!
I have a blue nauga monster, if any one is interested.
Denise, how much are you asking for the nauga? I might be interested.