MethodologyClues to George MasonPublic SpacesDomestic SpacesInterpretive PeriodRecommended ObjectsArt BeverageFood ServiceFurnitureHeatingDecorationUtensilsFile NamesShort titlesCredits

RECOMMENDED OBJECTS

TEXTILES

Textiles, primarily as bedding, but also as window curtains, floor coverings, table linens, towels, and toilet table covers, comprised an important and valuable category of furnishings in 18th-century Elite households. From the coarsest linen to the most elaborate silk, textiles represented tremendous amounts of hand labor. The raw materials, whether gathered from plant materials or sheared from animals, had to be raised, harvested, processed, and then spun into thread. Only then could it be woven into yard goods. Once the fabric was woven, much of it still required some type of finishing—bleaching, dying, or printing with a design.

Some types of textiles, such as window treatments and floor coverings were limited in their usage, even in the homes of the well-to-do. Where they were used, they made a statement about wealth, gentility, and status. Floor coverings were generally employed in the important public spaces of a house and used as small, practical, decorative accessories in better bed chambers. Window curtains were found in even fewer households than floor coverings. Often they were found, not in the public rooms, but en suite with bed curtains.

Clearly textiles were a primary component for being able to sleep in a comfortable and genteel environment. Often underpinned by a canvas sacking bottom, layered with fabric covered mattresses and beds,(1) covered with linen sheets, wool blankets, textile coverlets, counterpanes, bed rugs or quilts, bedsteads in elite households represented a significant investment in both time and money. If the bedstead was a highpost example, one would most likely have been surrounded by bed curtains which were not only decorative but also provided privacy and warmth. Sleeping was a textile intensive experience.

Textiles provided grace notes in the pursuit of many aspects of gentility. Personal cleanliness was underscored by the use of towels for drying one's face and hands. Dressing tables were ornamented with layers of expensive and fashionable textiles, further emphasizing the importance of time spent on the presentation of self. The dining experience, perhaps the ultimate theater of 18th-century gentility, was enhanced by the presence of table linens in the form of tablecloths and napkins.

Inventories provide strong evidence for the importance of the textile components in Elite Households. A particularly detailed inventory, that of James Wardrope of Prince George's County, Maryland, provides examples of the range of textile items found in a well equipped home. In addition to numerous examples of household textiles such as carpets, bed and window curtains, and bedding of various types, the Wardrope inventory listed:

Taken out of the Trunks above Stairs & shewed
3 Pr fine Holld Sheets IwL No. 1,2,3 6.--.--
6 Pr. Do Do No 1 to 6 9.--.--
5 Sheets Do 1 Sheet No 1. 1 pr 2, 1 p 3 3.10.--
9 P Sheets No 1 to 9 9.--.--
5½ P Do Scotch Linnen IT 5.10.--
5 pr Courser[sic] Irish Linnen 3.--.--
1 pr Sheets course & Old 0. 5.--
3½ pr Brown very old 1.12. 6
6 pr pillow cases new IwL 1.10.--
6 pr finer Do Do 1.16.--
6 P Do Courser Do 1.--.--
2 pr. fine Do 0.10.--
2 pr. Do 0. 8.--
3 pr. Do Courser IwL No 1 to 3 0.12.--
4½ pr Do 1 to 5 0.18.--
5 P Courser Do 0. 8.--
12 large diaper Towels 1.--.--
12 Do Courser & smaller 0.12.--
2 Dozn brown Do 0.15.--
1 Dozn fine diaper Napkin IwL 1 to 12 2.15.--
1 Dozn large Damask Do Do 2. 5.--
15 Do IT pretty much worn 2. 5.--
12 Do Do more Do 1. 4.--
11 Course Diaper Do Do 0.16. 6
20 Diaper Do IW No 24 1.10.--
12 Do Do IT 1. 2.--
6 fine Diaper Do IwL No 1 to 6 0. 9.--
6 Do Course Do IT 0. 5.--
11 large Diaper Do IwL No 12 1. 5.--
18 small Huckaback Do W No 18 0.10.--
6 old Ozenbrigs Table Cloths very small 0. 6.--
12 Do Napkins 0. 3.--
7 small baggs for flower 0. 4.--
1 fine Diaper Table cloth IwL No 12 1. 5. 4[?]
5 Do Damask Do 5.--.--
2 Do Do IT large 1.10.--
3 Do Do IwL smaller 2. 5.--(2)

BEDDING(3)

Bedding is defined by this study as being composed of those structural elements—beds, bolsters, mattresses, and pillows—which underpin the sleeping experience. These items were found in some combination in all Elite household sleeping arrangements.

A mid-19th-century American dictionary defined a bed as “in modern times, and among civilized men, a sack or tick filled with feathers or wool; but a bed may be made of straw or any other materials.”(4) These “sacks” used with or without a mattress, were the major component in most 18th-century sleeping units.(5) Ticking for such items of bedding were part of the regular stock of regional merchants. In 1759, the goods ordered by storekeeper Alexander Henderson included a total to 360 yards of “Bed Tyke” in two different widths and four different price grades ranging from eight pence per yard to 15 pence a yard.(6) The following year he ordered 550 yards in two widths and five grades.(7) In 1771, the Maryland firm of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson ordered two different widths of bed tick to have “a neat strip.”(8) They also ordered “2 Bed Bunts or 20 yds bed Ticking,” offering evidence of pre-made bed ticks as well as clues to the amount of yardage required for these essential items of bedding.(9) The following year, they ordered “2 Doz. Flock beds,” evidence that these items could be purchased already stuffed.(10) It is clear from the inventory listings that some bedsteads had more than one “bed” as part of the bedding.

Bolsters were defined in the same dictionary as “a long pillow or cushion, used to support the head of persons lying on a bed; generally laid under the pillows.”(11) Generally long enough to reach across the entire head of the bed, bolsters provided a firm support to help the sleeper achieve the desired semi-sitting posture preferred in the eighteenth century. Bolsters, like beds, could either be made at home or purchased ready made. In 1761, Thomas Jones purchased “bolster tyck” for 11(12) and the 1767 order of Charles Carroll, Barrister, included a request not only for “best fine thick flanders Bed ticks” but also for bolsters and pillows.(13)

Mattresses, were not a universal part of 18th-century bedding, even in Elite homes.(14) Generally commercially made, they were stuffed with wool, straw or, in the best examples, curled hair, and provided a firmer sleeping surface than beds. Charles Carroll of Carrollton in October of 1771 ordered through his English agent “4 best Wool or hair mattresses for Bed Chambers” as well as “6 common strong [B ?] flock mattresses for servants pretty full & strong ticked or quilted with black thread.” The following year he ordered “30 yds of thick brown Linen one yard wide proper to cover mattresses not to exceed 12 pr yard.”(15) In November of 1771, Charles Wallace ordered for himself “1 large good Hair Mattress.”(16) The following year, his firm ordered “2 Doz. Hair mattress sorted.”(17)

Pillows, like bolsters were ticking sacks filled with a variety of stuffing materials. Generally square in shape during the period, they could be made at home or purchased ready-made. Two “Spittle field best Bed Tick, boulster & pillows” were among the goods ordered by the Jones family in the 1760s.(18) Other examples of imported pillows include George Washington's July 1767 order for “. . . ticks with Boulsters & Pillows,” and that of John Galloway's invoice from Palmer & Company in England for pillows.(19)

Beds

Beds are listed in 88% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI). In reality, ownership was no doubt 100%; however, the use of the term “furniture” to describe the various components of bedding, bed linens, and bed upholstery as well as confusion when the term “bed” may or may not refer to the bedstead obscures specifics. Among those inventories in REI which list beds the average is 9.8 and the median is 10. All (100%) of the family inventories include “bed” as part of their listings. The family average is 7.4 and the median is 8. George Mason purchased a “bed” at the Belvoir sale in 1773.(20) Bed ticking was also among the goods received by George Mason in his 1780 order from De Neufville & Son.(21) The recommended number of beds which is higher than the family average and median reflects the interpretative recommendations for the bed chambers. For a discussion of this interpretation see Volume One-Chapter Five of this report.

Bolsters

Bolsters are listed in 56% of REI. The REI average is 6 and the median is 5. It is probable that this percentage under represents ownership due to the use of the inclusive term “furniture” in some inventories to describe bedding. Among the family inventories four (80%) list bolsters. Only MASON63 fails to include this form; this inventory being one which uses the descriptive term “furniture.” Even ELBCK65 which includes one bolster is no doubt under counted as the rest of the sleeping units employ the term “furniture” without further explanation. The family average is 5.5 and the median is 6. These numbers are no doubt low, due to the use of the use of the unspecific term “furniture” to describe bedding in MASON63 and ELBCK65. A bolster was among the items purchased by George Mason at the Belvoir sale in 1773.(22) The number of bolsters recommended is higher than the family average and median reflecting the interpretative recommendations for the bed chambers. For a discussion of this interpretation see Volume One, Chapter Five of this report.

Mattresses

Mattresses occur in 44% of REI, with an average per households having type (HHT) of 2.7 and a median of 2.5. Among the family inventories three (60%) have mattresses — MASON86, MASON97, and MASON00. It is possible that MASON63 also owned mattresses as part all of her sleeping units(23) use the catch-all phrase “furniture” rather than enumerating the specific elements such as beds, bolsters, pillows, etc. It is less clear that ELBCK65 might have owned mattresses. Most of his sleeping units use the undifferentiated term “furniture;” however, the various component parts for the most expensive sleeping unit are not detailed. No mattress is included. The family average is 2.6 and the median is 2.

Pillows

Like bolsters, pillows are an item of bedding which is somewhat difficult to count. Again the all purpose term “furniture” complicates the matter. In addition, many entries simply use the plural form of the word without enumerating the examples. When a specific count is given, the most typical number per bed is two. Based on this precedent, when an inventory listing of bedding for a sleeping unit states pillows, the count is assumed to be two. Pillows occur in 60% of REI with an average of 7.2 and a median of 5. Among the family inventories, pillows occur in four (80%) of the inventories. Only MASON63 whose bedding is simply listed as “furniture” does not include this form; pillows in ELBCK65 are no doubt under counted due to the use of the same term for all but one sleeping unit. The family average is 10.25 and the median is 10.5. These numbers are no doubt low, due to the use of the unspecific term “furniture” to describe bedding in MASON63 and ELBCK65. Two pillows were among the items purchased by Mason at the 1773 Belvoir sale.(24) As with bolsters, the number of pillows recommended is higher than the family average and median, reflecting the interpretative recommendations for the bed chambers. For a discussion of this interpretation see Volume One-Chapter Five of this report.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Beds: 10 full size and 2 children's
Origin, Form and Materials: Specialized Form / Requires Additional Research (SF/RAR)

Bolsters: 10
Origin, Form and Materials: SF/RAR

Mattress: 2-3
Origin, Form and Materials: SF/RAR

Pillows: 15-20 adult; 2 child
Origin, Form and Materials: SF/RAR

______________

BED LINEN

Bed linens—sheets and pillow cases—were made at home, part of the plain sewing skills expected of every woman. Generally made from various grades of linen, sheets were seamed down the middle and finished with tiny hems at the top and bottom, and used the selvage edges instead of outside hems. In an elite household, which would have owned multiple sets of sheets, the various sets were marked with the initials of the housewife and with numbers to aid in inventory control.(25) Pillow cases, made to fit the square pillows of the day, were seamed at one end with small ties inside the other end to keep the pillow in place. Merchants imported a wide variety of linen suitable for sheets and pillowcases. In 1759, the scheme of goods for the Occoquan Store of the Glassford empire included 200 yards of brown sheeting and 450 yards of “9/8 fine sheeting.”(26) The firm of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, in the early 1770s, offered an even greater variety of sheeting materials. Their order included “brown rusha” sheeting, “white sheeting” in price ranges from 40 to 50 and “Ell wide sheeting” valued from 15 to 22.(27)

Sheets

As with all other categories related to beds and bedding, sheets lend themselves to being under counted; however, apparently not so often as the bedding components. Sheets are listed in 94% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI) with an average of 30.9 and a median of 26. When categorized by fabric, the vast majority of these are some type of linen.(28) Often these linens are described by country of origin—Scotch, Irish, Holland, or Russia.(29) Inventory takers also described sheets by refinement of weave—fine or coarse, or by color—white or brown, which in turn referred to the degree of bleaching and finish.

All family inventories list sheets. The family average is 22.8 and the median is 24. As part of his 1780 order, George Mason received one piece of Russia Sheeting.(30) As with bedding components, the number of sheets recommended reflects the interpretive decisions outlined in Volume One, Chapter Five of this report.

Pillowcases

Tabulating the number of pillowcases, like sheets, is problematic. Not only are they likely to be included among “furniture” but they may also have been listed with the pillow rather than as a separate item. Pillowcases appear in 84% of REI with an average of 16.8 and a median of 16. Among the family inventories three (60%)—ELBCK65, MASON97, MASON00 have separate listings for pillow cases. The listings in MASON63 for bed “furniture” might well include these items. The family average is 15.3 and the median is 10. The number of pillowcases reflects the interpretative decisions discussed in Volume One, Chapter Five of this report.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Sheets: 15-20 pairs full size; 2-4 pair children's
Origin: Textiles: Britain, Europe, or local
Construction: made locally
Date: 1750-1788
Style: Marked to reflect both Ann Eilbeck Mason and Sarah Brent Mason
Material: Linen of various grades and origins

Pillowcases: 22-30 full size; 2-4 children's
Origin: Textiles: Britain, Europe, or local
Construction: made locally
Date: 1750-1788
Style: Marked to reflect both Ann Eilbeck Mason and Sarah Brent Mason
Material: Linen of various grades and origins

__________

BED OVER

The subcategory “Bed Over” includes all those items used on top of sheets—blankets, counterpanes, coverlets, quilts, and bed rugs. Many of items served a dual function, providing both warmth and a decorative top layer for the bedding. Some could be constructed at home, but most were the work of professional weavers, quilters, and needle workers. Like much of bedding, this subcategory is one for which information is tantalizingly incomplete. While it is clear that there were a wide variety of options available to 18th-century homeowners, little information survives today to help differentiate between type of blankets, to clarify apparent period variations among coverlets, counterpanes, and quilts, or to provide a clue as to the appearance of professionally woven bed rugs.

Blankets

Blankets, made of wool, and often woven and sold in pairs, were the first line of defense against cold on a colonial bed or bedstead. Samuel Johnson's 18th-century dictionary defined blankets as “a woollen cover soft, and loosely woven, spread commonly upon a bed, over the linen sheet, for the procurement of warmth.”(31) Period references make it clear that blankets were available in a number of different types. Over the course of three years, 1769-1771, the Piscataway store of John Glassford & Co. received half-thick, Dutch, fife check, and Glasgow blankets.(32) By the late 1780s, references to rose-blankets begin to appear in merchants' records,(33) although they were apparently available as early as the 1770s as Robert Beverley ordered “4 Pair of best rose Blankets” in 1773.(34) Blankets are generally cited both in merchants' records and in inventories as occurring in pairs.(35)

Blankets are found in 84% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI) with an average of 17.3 and a median of 16. Among the family inventories, four (80%) list blankets. This number surely under represents the occurrence of blankets, as this type of bedding was universal enough to even be among the textiles provided to slaves. Only MASON63 lacks this form and it should be noted that the bedding in this inventory is lumped together under “furniture.” The family average is 19.25 and the median is 21. Blankets are among the items which occur in the surviving records of George Mason's purchases of household goods. In 1767, he bought “2 pr fine large blankets” valued at 186 from the Glassford store at Piscataway, in 1773, a pair of blankets were among the items he acquired at the Belvoir sale, in a 1778 letter to William Lee, he made reference to 10 pairs of “good woolen Bed-Blankets.(36) Blankets were also among the items detailed in the 1780 De Neufville order, but from the descriptions and numbers it seems likely that these were intended for use by the Mason slaves. Final recommendations for blankets are based upon interpretative decisions discussed in Volume One, Chapter Five of this report.

Counterpanes, Coverlets, and Quilts

In modern terminology, counterpanes, coverlets, and quilts are distinctly different types of bed covers. However, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate one from the other in 18th-century documents, as there is some evidence that the terms were, at least in some cases, used interchangeably. For example, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, in an order to his English agent in 1772, requested “6 large callico counterpanes for summer use not quilted.”(37) One can only question how these would have been described had they been requested as quilted bed covers. The diversity of descriptive terms found in the REI database also provides insights into the complexity of the topic. Adjectives include stripped, quilted, embossed, India, tufted, flowered, patch, country made, summer, stamped, shag, fringed, knotted, worked, and merseilles [sic]. Coverlets and quilts lack the diversity of description but the database does include one worked coverlet as well as patched and marseilles quilts. The definitions in Johnson's 18th-century dictionary only highlight the problem. It defines coverlet as “the outermost of the bedclothes; that under which all the rest are concealed” and counterpane as a “coverlet for a bed, or any thing else woven in squares.”(38) Despite these period dictionary definitions, it seems clear from reading other period sources that actual usage was much looser.

For purposes of clarity, this study will use widely accepted modern terminology. Coverlets will be assumed to be bed covers with a woven design. The term counterpane will be utilized for an unquilted bed cover. Included here are counterpanes with printed or needlework pattern decoration as well as those made from a single type of fabric such as dimity. Quilts, as their names imply, either whole cloth or pieced, will be used for covers having a pattern stitched through multiple layers of fabric.

Period sources are frustratingly silent in describing these important pieces of bedding ensembles. Occasionally a reference can be found which specifies color. Shipped to the Glassford store at Piscataway in 1769 were “3 doz middle black and white coverletts 30” together with a dozen black and yellow examples and “2 Large white cotton Counterpanes” costing 18 each.(39) Among the goods detailed in the papers of Robert Carter in 1784 was “1 Pink persian Quilt” which cost 2.(40)

These types of covers were sometimes made en suite with bed curtains. George Washington, in 1759, was billed by Londoner Philip Bell for a set of bed hangings made from “chintz Blue plate cotton furniture.” Included in the bill was a charge of 1.1.- for “making 11/4 Quilt of the above Cotton on one side Scotch Cloth on the other.”(41)

Counterpanes

Counterpanes occur in 78% of REI with an average of 7.5 and a median of 7. Only 16.3% of the 294 counterpanes listed in REI are described by decoration or work. Of those so described tufted account for 27%, stamped for 25% and quilted/embossed together for 18.75%.

All five of the family inventories list this form, with an average of 8.6 and a median of 6. The use of the term “furniture” in MASON63 and ELBCK65 suggests that actual count for this form among the family inventories may have been higher. Counterpanes are among the items recorded in George Mason's purchases. In August of 1757, he bought “2 white cotton counterpins” costing 20 each and a counterpane was among the bedding Mason purchased at the Belvoir sale in 1773.(42) As with all bedding, final recommendations are based upon interpretative decisions discussed in Volume One, Chapter Five of this report.

Coverlet

Coverlets are listed in a much smaller percentage of REI—occurring in only 22% with an average of 4 and a median of 4. Among the family only MASON00 has this form, listed as “2 callico coverlids.”(43) In 1766, Mason purchased a coverlet from the Glassford store at Piscataway. No description or price is recorded for this purchase.(44)

Quilts

Quilts might be produced at home or they could be the product of a professional needle worker. Throughout most of the 18th century, quilts were what textile historians today call whole cloth, i.e., made from only one type of textile per side, with a large overall quilting pattern providing the primary decorative focus. Quilts might be made from wool, silk, or cotton. It is not entirely clear when pieced or “patched” quilts became popular in this country; however, by the second half of the 18th-century the term “patched work” begins to appear in a few of the inventories in the Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database. The earliest reference is in GREEN59 for a silk patch work quilt. In REI, the earliest listings are ADDSN75 and HPBRN75, neither of which cites materials. Other types of bedcovers might also be quilted (see above) and raise numerous issues about period terminology. For purposes of this study, the use of the term “Quilt” is used to refer to quilted whole cloth or pieced work bed covers.

Quilts are found in 66% of REI with an average of 3.5 and a median of 3. Among REI, quilts described as “patch” occur in only six households.

Four (80%) of the family inventories include this form. The use of the inclusive term “furniture” in MASON63 raises the possibility of 100% ownership. Among the four having the form, the average is 2.25 and the median is 3. ELBCK65's four examples are described as “old.” MASON97's inventory includes two “old,” one white “Mersaile [sic],” one “patched calico,” and one “patched silk” examples. MASON00 also includes patched examples but does not cite material.

Rugs

Bed rugs are yet another type of bed covering for which there is little concrete information. Samuel Johnson, in his 18th-century dictionary, noted in his definitions for rug that the term could mean “a coarse nappy coverlet used for mean beds.”(45) Several modern texts insist that bed rugs were strictly the product of home production, worked with a needle to produce a thick, shaggy product somewhat resembling the hooked “rugs” of the later nineteenth century.(46) While this may be true of the generally New England examples found in museum collections, substantial documentation indicates that there was an alternative available to 18th-century consumers. Merchants' account books record the regular importation of what were undoubtedly professionally knotted and woven bed rugs.(47) Period references show that such items came in a variety of colors, patterns, and even fabrics.

For the Glassford store in Occoquan, Alexander Henderson, ordered in 1758, three dozen “Mottled Rugs” at five different prices ranging from 5 to 106 each, all to be “thick shagg'd.” In addition he wanted a dozen and a half “fine white spotted Ruggs” in two widths costing 11 and 14 each for the different sizes and nine “8/4 Good Dyed rugs, 6 green, 3 blue” to cost 12 each. In 1759, he placed a virtually identical order as well as a dozen and half “thick spotted Rugs” at two different sizes. In 1760, he tried again for the white spotted rugs complaining, “Rugs of the above sort have been wrote for both the last years but never sent . . .” The following year, he was once again trying to order the same rugs. He wanted 12 “thick Rugs,” 12 “fine, white thick spotted, worsted Rugs,” and 12 “good, thick, dyed Rugs 6 Green, 4 Blue, 2 Red,” adding “Mr. Talnall sends silk rugs(48) in place of the fine white Spotted worsted rugs, which do not answer so well.”(49)

Other merchants do not seem to have had the same difficulties but did order rugs of various types. One merchant in writing to advise another about sources for merchandise wrote that rugs were among the goods that “come best from Bristol.”(50) The 1769 inventory for the Glassford store in Piscataway included 3 spotted yarn rugs and one red rugg.(51) The firm of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, in their orders for 1771 listed “18 8/4 Torrington Rugs of different colours, 12 8/4 blue & green Wilshire do,” and “6 8/4 blew & green do.”(52)

Rugs appear in only 34% of REI with an average of 3.1 and a median of 2. This relatively low percentage may suggest that this form of bed covering had fallen out of fashion by the later part of the 18th century. Most are not described, but MTCHLL81 owned four, including one blue, one worsted purple, and one silk example; BROWN62 owned two yarn, two worsted, and two silk examples; and SMLLWD69 listed four silk, two wool, and one worsted examples.

Among the family inventories, only MASON97 includes the form, listed as “two silk rugs and two old quilts.” Bed rugs are among the items purchased by George Mason from the Glassford store in Piscataway, Maryland. In 1766, he bought “6 Torrington rugs” costing 33 each.(53)

It is clear from the database records that REI households and the Mason family inventories, that the majority of these households owned a variety of different types of bed coverings. The recommendations mare here are intended to reflect this mix.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Blankets: 20-25
Origin: England, Europe, American
Date: 1750-1788
Style: Multiple pairs; type—Specialized Form / Requires Additional Research (SF/RAR)
Material: Wool

Counterpane: 9-12
Origin, Style, Material: SF/RAR
Coverlets: 1
Origin: Britain
Date: Circa 1766
Style and Material: SF/RAR

Quilts: 2
Date: 1750-1788
Style: 1 patched; 1 whole cloth
Material: Patched—either calico or silk; Whole cloth—either wool or silk
[Note: if silk is selected, only one example should be silk]

Rugs (Bed): 3-6
Origin, Style, and Material: SF/RAR

______________

BED UPHOLSTERY

Bed upholstery, as defined by this study, refers to bed hangings or curtains. The crowning glory of the highpost bedstead, they offered an opportunity to make a conspicuous statement of fashion and wealth as well as providing much needed warmth and privacy. In some households, these might be accompanied by matching window curtains, even when none were used in the public areas of the house.

Because bed and window curtains represent a considerable outlay of money, orders and invoices for these complex constructions tend to be fairly detailed. Among the goods shipped to George Washington from England in 1757 was a bedstead with mahogany footposts and “yellow Silk & worsted Damask Furniture, lined with Tammy & carvd Cornishes compleat” together with “3 pr. Yellow silk and worsted Damask Window curtains.” The bedstead and curtains cost 2510 and the window curtains another 9. Also part of the same order was “1 Fine 10/4 Chintz Quilt” costing 1.19.-. Two years later, he received a second bedstead with hangings. These hangings, of “chintz Bleu [sic] plate cotton furniture” required 70 yards of chintz to make and 54 yards of linen to line. This ensemble also included matching window curtains.(54) Marylander, Charles Carroll, the Barrister, in 1766, requested that his London agent send him not only a “neat four Post Mahogany Bedstead,” but also

1 Suit of Curtains and valins for Ditto of a Good Furniture Cotton of a large pattern and Rich colors to be well fitted and to Hang upon brads or with Hooks and Eyes so as to be Easily taken up or Down.

To accompany the order, presumably to match, were “2 pair of window Curtains 2 yards and 3 Inches Long” and “2 single Ditto one yard and 3/4 Long.”(55) Robert Beverley, in 1771, ordered through his British agent two bedsteads to have hangings made from printed cotton with matching window curtains as well as enough matching fabric for a coverlet with appropriate bindings and fringe to match.(56)

The components needed to make bed hanging could also be acquired from local merchants. Among the goods ordered by Wallace, Davidson & Johnson were brass curtain rings, “6 ps 36 yds each some purple & Coloured Callico for Curtains” and “3 ps Red & white Furniture Check 2 ps blue & white Do both sorted small square.”(57) John Norton & Sons were to send “2 ps grounded Callico fit for Bed & Windo Curtains 32 yds each not to exceed 4” to Virginia merchant Robert Hart.(58) Large stocks of curtain rings, also appear in the invoices of Glassford's Port Tobacco store.(59)

Bed curtains occur in 74% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI) with an average of 4 and a median of 3.5. All five of the family inventories show this form, with an average of 3 and a median of 6. The family numbers are influenced by the use of the inclusive term “furniture” in MASON63. The recommendation here reflects the interpretative decisions discussed in Volume One, Chapter Five of this report and the number of high post bedsteads recommended. Because a change of decoration is postulated for the bed hangings in the first floor chamber, there is the likelihood of one or more “old” sets of hangings in storage.

RECOMMENDATION:

Bed Curtains: 5-7
Origin, Date, Style, and Material: Specialized Form / Requires Additional Research (SF/RAR)
Note: The set for the first floor chamber should reflect the presumed redecoration of this room in the 1780s. Color, fabric, and style should be in keeping with this second period of decoration.

______________

FLOOR COVERINGS

Floor coverings of any type were rare in eighteenth-century America. The cost of woven textile floor coverings, in particular, meant that such items were generally limited to the households of the wealthy.

During the period of concern to Gunston Hall, the vast majority of such items were imported. There are, however, a few references which indicate that some floor coverings were locally produced goods. For example, the 1779 inventory of Landon Carter lists a Virginia cloth carpet in the small dining room, but provides no clues as to the type of textile actually used.(60) It is possible that this “carpet” found in the dining room was actually some type of crumb cloth used under the dining table when the room was set up for meals. More easily produced locally were painted canvas floor cloths. While these were possible to create at home, it is far more likely, at least among elite households, that such items were the products of professional painters. The often quoted advertisement for runaway convict servant John Winter attests to such practice:

Charles County, June 22d, 1760
RAN away from the Subscriber, a Convict Servant Man
named John Winter, a very compleate House painter: he can
imitate Marble or Mahogany very exactly, and can paint floor
Cloths as neat as any imported from Britain . . . he was hired
to a Gentleman in Virginia . . . The last Work he did was a
House for Col. Washington near Alexandria . . . (61)

Despite such occasional references to locally made items, however, merchants' records and orders placed by individuals clearly show that imported floor coverings were a limited but regular part of the mercantile trade.

Carpets, either hand knotted or woven on a loom, were rare items in colonial America.(62)

By mid-century, however, due, perhaps in part, to the rising demand for a wider range of consumer goods with which to furnish elite houses, an increased usage of floor coverings begins to be seen. Inventory evidence suggests that such usage was still comparatively rare until the end of the 18th century, with a notable increase in the third quarter of the century. Only 137 inventories of the 361 in the entire Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database include floor coverings of any type.(63) Of these, the majority occur after 1760.

Carpets

Carpets are among the imported goods advertised by Chesapeake area merchants. James Dick noted that among the goods just arrived from London and for sale at his Annapolis store in 1764 were “Floor-Carpets of different Sizes, from Six to Eighteen square Yards each . . .”(64)

In 1773, the Piscataway store of Glassford and Co. listed in their inventory, three “Plush,” i.e., woven pile, carpets of different sizes.(65) Some merchants also carried strips of carpeting as yard goods so that patrons could purchase the needed amount to sew together carpets that more closely fit the sizes of their rooms. In March 1761, a consignment of goods for James Glassford included five carpets of different sizes ranging in price from 1.15.11 to 3.7.1, as well as seven different pieces of carpeting varying in length from 31 and yards to 40 yards a roll. Additionally, Huie, Reid & Co., in the 1790 scheme of goods for their store at Dumfries, Virginia, included 100 yards of “Carpeting 4/4 [36 inches wide] of two figures” as well as 50 yards of carpet binding.(66) At least one customer of Huie, Reid & Co. apparently found their carpeting by the yard too expensive, for he wrote, “The carpet is too high. I must endeavor to get one already put together.”(67)

Unfortunately, very few period references to carpets provide clues to appearance. Charles Carroll, Barrister, ordered through his London agent in 1766, “1 Good English Carpet with Lively colours” and among the goods ordered by Wallace, Davidson & Johnson in 1771 was “1 ps. Spittled fiolo [sic/field?] carpetting lively colours.”(68) Among the papers of the Philadelphia merchant company, Stephen Collins & Son is a 1794 order to Harrison, Ansley & Co, London, for a “handsome Wilton carpet . . . not any black ground.”(69) This carpet was destined for the home of Collins' daughter, soon to be married to Richard Bland Lee, of “Sully,” Fairfax County, Virginia.

Floor Cloths

Another type of floor covering used in elite homes were floor cloths which were made by painting canvas. Even if produced regionally, they were most likely to be the work of professional decorative painters as shown in the advertisement for runaway John Winter, quoted above, and in the notice of Alexander Stenhouse. Stenhouse had “engaged a young Man compleatly bred to the different Branches of Painting” and therefore could offer at his shop in Baltimore “all Sorts of painted Oil cloths for Room, Passages, and Stairs, of various Sizes and Patterns.”(70)

Many floor cloths were also imported. Annapolis merchant Robert Couden listed “Oil Floor Cloths of different Sizes” among the goods just imported from Glasgow and London in the summer of 1760.(71) Floor cloths were also among the items ordered directly by individual home owners through their agents abroad. Charles Carroll, Barrister, in 1767, requested that he be sent:

2 Good Painted floor Cloths, one of them to be 18 feet Long by 16 feet wide the other 16 feet wide by 12 feet Long, both made of the best and strongest duck and Painted so as to bear mopping over with a wet mop and Put up Dry and so as not to be Cracked or to have the Paint rubbed of.(72)

Virginian Robert Beverly also ordered a floor cloth, asking for “1 good Thick Floor Cloth diced with white Divisions on one side, and red on the other side—The length 15 feet, Breadth 12.” A year and a half later he ordered, from a different merchant, what was apparently a second floor cloth, to be “sixteen foot long & fourteen feet wide, painted Red on one side, & diced on ye Other.”(73)

Although period documents are often silent about details of the appearance of floor covering, they do sometimes provide information about how these objects were used. Among the textile furnishing sent to George Washington from London in 1759 were “2 Wilton Ingrain bedside Carpets.”(74) Maryland merchant Alexander Stenhouse concluded his advertisement in September of 1764 by noting “Likewise may be had all Sorts of painted Oil Cloths for Rooms, Passages and Stairs, of various Sizes and Patterns.”(75) Charles Carroll of Carrollton, in 1771, ordered a carpet of a very specific size, presumably to go with the grand furniture being ordered for what was clearly meant to be a spectacular parlor or drawing room. His instructions were that if a Turkey carpet could not be had that he was to be sent “one of the best kind of Axminster, Wilton, or any other English manufactory.” In an order just a month later, he requested that “12 yds of Scotch carpetting proper for Stairs—the width to be not less than 28 Inches: and “12 yds of do. Proper for the sides of Beds.”(76) Among the goods being discussed in William Lee's correspondence as he prepared for a move was “the dining room carpet.”(77)

Among REI, 66% include some type of floor covering. The average for all types of floor coverings is 4 and the median is 4. The average number of carpets is 3.7 and the median is 3 while for floor cloths the average is 2.1 and the median is 2. Of those households having items in this category, 63.6% have only carpets, 9% have only floor cloths and 27.2% have some type of combination of carpets and either floor cloths or straw matting. Just over half of the floor coverings listed have some designation which speaks to placement within the household. Of those so designated, 11.8% were used in passages, 34.2% were found in public rooms such as parlors and dining rooms, and a surprising 53.9% were associated with bed chambers.(78)

In the family inventories, four (80%) have some type of floor coverings. Two of the four have large numbers of examples—ELBCK65 has 7 and MASON97 has 8. The family average for all types of floor coverings is 4.75 and the median is 5. For carpets only, both the average and the median is 3.5. For floor cloths the family percentage is 40%; average is 2.5%. The median is not available.

Only in MASON97 is it possible to postulate usage. Although the inventory takers did not divide George Mason Jr's (V) the inventory by room name, the progression of the listings allows for reasonable assumptions about room divisions. In what was undoubtedly the parlor, the listing was for one new Wilton; in the passage there was twelve yards of oil cloth; and in the dining room a worn Scotch carpet. The rest of the floor coverings—a large oil cloth carpet, two additional Scotch carpets, an old carpet and four yards of carpeting—are associated with bed chamber furnishing.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Carpets: 3-4
Origin: Britain
Date: 1750-1788
Style: Joined strips / Wilton and or ingrain
Pattern: Determined by date and type
Material: Wool

Floor Cloths: 1-2
Origin: Britain
Date: 1750-1788
Style: Determined by date
Material: Painted Canvas

___________

HYGIENE

The increased emphasis on personal cleanliness in the 18th century was an expression of gentility and refinement. It made the humble towel used for drying one's face and hands an important household accessory and turned the dressing table, many of which were lavishly draped with textiles, into a center of attention.

Towels

The act of bathing as understood in a modern sense, that is the complete wetting of the body, was a rare practice in eighteenth-century America.(79) Indeed, much of Western society shared the same distrust of bathing. By the second half of the eighteenth century, however, it was considered proper to keep the visible parts of the body free of dirt. Thus, in a genteel household, linen towels with which to dry one's face and hands were increasingly part of requisite household textiles.

A rare period description of a towel is found in a newspaper advertisement placed by Alexandria Sheriff, William Ramsay in 1764 which listed confiscated goods believed to have been stolen. Among the goods listed was “a Diaper Towell with 3 wrought Holes at the hanging End, 2 Rows of open Work near the Bottom, and fring'd below.”(80) Despite the amount of work which must have gone into making such towels, very little information about their production and ownership survives. Like bed linens such as sheets, towels appear to have been made at home. Thus far, no references to the sale or purchase of premade towels are known. Occasional mentions are made in period lists of textiles to “towelling.” For example, among the various household linens purchased by Charles Carroll, Barrister in 1767, was “1 piece of Towelling Diaper or Huckaback.”(81) Similar references are also found in the papers of Henry Fitzhugh, who in 1770 ordered “1 ps of Huckaback for Table Cloaths & Towels” and of Robert Carter who, in 1792 wanted “1 ps diaper for towels 20 yards supe a 2” sent to him from Liverpool.(82)

Examples of late eighteenth-century towels survive in the Copp Family collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. These are made from linen in several different weaves and are identified, as was typical of the period, with the embroidered initials of the owner.(83)

Towels are found in 88% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI) with an average of 16 and a median of 12. Of the towels recorded in REI, 47.5% are listed by material. All are various types of linen. Of the types listed, diaper is the most common weave (24%), followed fairly closely by oznabrig (20.8%), and huckaback (18.8%). Brown towels (19.4%), an indication of the grade of linen, occur in similar numbers.

Among the family inventories, all five (100%) include towels. The family average is 18.6 and the median is 17. MASON63 includes 7 coarse dowlas towels and 3 “linen.” The listing in MASON86 is for 10 diaper towels and in MASON00 the only description is “white.” ELBCK65 includes twenty towels, evenly divided between dowlas and brown linen examples.

Dressing Table Covers

Aside from inventory listings, period references to dressing or toilet table covers appear to be almost nonexistent. A combination of factors may be at work here. Unlike other types of household linens such as sheets, towels, and tablecloths, which were most often made from specially woven textiles, toilet table covers could be made from many sorts of textiles. They were also usually the work of the home seamstress. The rare professionally produced dressing table cover does occasionally leave a record. Dressing “Toylet” tables was among the work billed to the estate of Virginia's royal governor Lord Botetourt by upholsterer Joseph Kidd.(84) Even here, there is no hint as to the appearance of the cover.

A rare description is found in a chatty letter written by Thomas Shippen during a visit to Westover Plantation in 1783. In giving details about the bed chamber in which he was staying, he noted that “my toilet which stands under a gilt framed looking glass, is covered with a finely worked muslin.”(85) Clearly, toilet table covers provided opportunities for women and girls to exercise their needlework skills. Early 19th-century quilted and embroidered examples are found among the Copp Family textiles.(86) Fortunately, examples of “dressed” dressing tables can be found in a variety of eighteenth-century prints and paintings. A particularly elaborate lace example is shown in the painting of “Queen Charlotte with her two eldest sons” painted by Zoffany in 1764.(87) American examples are portrayed in the “Portrait of Mrs. Catherine Culyer” and “Mrs. John Moale and Her Granddaughter” which are illustrated in Elisabeth Garrett's At Home: The American Family, 1750-1870.(88)

The statistics for such covers were tabulated both from inventories which specifically identify these textile forms as well as those which list covers clearly associated with dressing tables. Toilet table covers occur in only 17% of REI with an average of 2.8 and a median of 2.5 in those households having the form. These numbers may be slightly low, as a few examples of tables with covers for which no context could be determined were not included. However, even with this caveat, the total percentage seems low, suggesting perhaps that some may have been uncounted among textiles stored in trunks, cupboards, and drawers.

Among the family inventories, all five (100%) have this form. The family average is 3 and the median is 2. ELBCK65 lists one in use with a dressing table, and another “much worn” with other textile items. MASON63 includes “2 small worked Toiletts;” MASON86 lists “1 Toilet Cloth;” the entry in MASON97 is for “Three dressing tables with cotton Cloth covers;” and among the textiles enumerated in MASON00 are “7 Dressing Table Covers.” Since MASON00 includes only two dressing tables, the large number of covers raises the question as to whether such covers may have been changed from time to time. The recommendation for this form must take into account the multi-generational household which existed at Gunston Hall between 1780-1788.

RECOMMENDATIONS:
Specialized Form / Requires Additional Research (SF/RAR)

Towels: 17-19
Origin: Textiles: Britain, Europe, or local
Construction: made locally / Gunston Hall
Date: 1750-1788
Style: SF/RAR
Material: Linen, mix of weaves and grades

Toilet Table Covers: 3-4
Date: 1750-1788
Style: Determined by date
Material: SF/RAR

______________

TABLE LINEN

Table linens, i.e., table cloths and napkins, were an important part of a genteel table in the Chesapeake.(89) A telling description of their lack at a ball in Alexandria speaks to the importance of these textile items. George Washington, in writing a description of the event in his diary, noted “Be it remembered that pocket handkerchiefs served the purposes of Table Cloths & Napkins and that no apologies were made for either.”(90) Another glimpse into the importance and value of these textiles is found in the advertisement placed by Marylander Phillip Hammond in 1776. In a notice in the Maryland Gazette, Hammond reported that among the goods stolen from him were not only “5 large silver spoons, marked PBH on their handles” but also “8 napkins marked the same as the spoons” and a “fringed table cloth.”(91)

Table cloths and napkins, could be purchased ready made or produced at home. This diversity of approach is evident in the advertisement of Annapolis merchant Thomas Rutland, who in July of 1784 advertised that among the goods he had just received from London were diaper table cloths in three sizes and “7-4, 8-4 and 10-4 damask tabling linen.”(92)

Table linens were among the goods advertised and sold by regional merchants.(93) These items were also sometimes ordered through agents abroad. Daniel Parke Custis included “half a Dozen large Handsome Damask table Cloths and one Dozen large Napkins of the Same” among the goods sent for in his invoice of 1754.(94) In 1760, Charles Carroll, Barrister, of Annapolis, ordered, through his London agent, table cloths of three different sizes including:

3 fine Damask Table Cloths for a Table 10 feet Long 5 feet wide
6 Ditto for a Table 5 feet Long and 4 feet wide
6 Ditto smaller sort

Six years later, he again ordered table cloths, this time being more specific as to size. He requested that he be sent, “4 very fine Damask Table Cloths 9/4 by 10/4" together with “4 very fine 8/4 Damask Table Cloths.” The following year, table linens again figured in his order, suggesting perhaps that the previous order was not filled. Two changes occur in the 1767 order. The four smaller table cloths are wanted in diaper weave linen rather than in damask and “1 Dozen fine Diaper Napkins are added to the mix.(95)

Some individuals chose a different approach to table linens, choosing to produce them at home. On at least three occasions over the course of twenty years, Robert Beverley ordered linen yard goods specifically intended for making table cloths and napkins. In 1771, he wanted “40 yds of diaper Table linnen 6 Feet 6 Inches wide,” sometime after 1789, he placed an order for a piece of “diaper for napkins,” and in 1790, he requested that he be sent “25 yards diaper for tablecloths 7 feet wide.”(96)

As the Carroll orders indicate, table cloths and napkins could be had in a variety of sizes and weaves of linen. Damask indicated a smooth fabric with decorative pattern occurring as part of the weave. Just how elaborate these patterns could be is evidenced by goods sold by New York merchants in 1804. One offered “a beautiful assortment of table cloths with and without eagle pattern” while the other sold table cloths in multiple patterns including one which had the image of a basket of fruit in the middle.(97) The decorative quality of diaper was achieved from woven lines which formed a diamond pattern. Sometimes the diamonds were filled with additional woven motifs. These seem to have been the most commonly mentioned linen weaves. References are occasionally found to huckaback tablecloths, although, this coarser weave was more generally associated with towels.(98)

Weave was not the only way in which table linens introduced a decorative element to the dinner table. Contrary to the modern idea of presenting a smooth, crease-free cloth, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the ideal was a cloth with sharply pressed creases. Just how often this look was achieved is unknown, but period illustrations sometimes show neat creases dividing the table cloth into even squares.(99) A suggestion that this practice was followed in at least some Chesapeake homes is hinted at in a 1775 diary entry of Landon Carter's. He wrote that in trying to detail the work he wanted accomplished regarding a dam being built he called the project manager in and “explained by the creases in my tableCloth what I would have

done. . . .”(100)

Table linens occur in a very high percentages of Rural Elite Inventories (REI). Table cloths are found in 98% and napkins in 80%.

The average number of table cloths in REI is 16.4 and the median number is 13. Diaper is the most commonly occurring fabric description, followed by damask. Huckaback follows at a distant third. All five of the family inventories list table cloths, with an average number of 11.8 and a median number of 11. Among those family inventory entries citing material, diaper accounts for 31.2% followed closely by damask at 28.1%. The rest of the described examples appear to be of linen undifferentiated as to weave.

Napkins occur 80% of REI. The smaller percentage, as compared to table cloths, undoubtedly reflects both actual usage patterns and also some instances of under counting of these smaller items. The average number is 22.5 with a median of 17.5. Of those which cite material, diaper out numbers damask examples roughly two to one. Among the family inventories, all but MASON86 show ownership of this form. It is possible that such items might have been found among an entry for “Coarse Linen Bed &c” which was valued at 18. The family average is 21.5 with a median of 20.5. Among the family examples described by textile type, 88% are listed as damask with the other 12% noted as diaper.

Among the goods included in the 1780 De Neufville order sent to George Mason was “2 Diaper Table Linnen.”(101) It is unclear whether this entry refers to linen yard goods or to finished items; however, it does establish Mason ownership of such table linens.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Table Cloths: 11-12
Date: 1750-1788


Style: Specialized Form / Requires Additional Research (SF/RAR); Sizes to vary
Material: Diaper 4-5; Damask 3-4; Plain Linen 3-4

Napkins: 21-22
Date: 1750-1788
Style: SF/RAR
Material: Mixed damask and diaper; majority damask.

______________

WINDOW CURTAINS(102)

In the eighteenth century, window curtains, as noted in the section on bed upholstery, were often found in bed chambers, frequently being en suite with the bed curtains. Some individuals also hung them in the public rooms of their houses. Wherever they were used, window curtains made an important statement about the owners desire to display both the wealth implied by a lavish use of textiles and a genteel knowledge of fashionable taste.

Charles Carroll, Barrister, placed a very detailed order with his London agent in 1764 which dealt with his desired window curtains in great detail. The first entries in the invoice were for :

58 yards of Substantial Silk and worsted Crimson Damask for window Curtains for a Dining Room @ about 8 P yard and one hundred and Sixty Eight yards of Proper Binding of same Colour
29 yards of Green worsted Damask for Curtains for a Common Parlour
84 yards of Proper Binding of the same Colour

However, by the time he completed the invoice he had rethought his needs and concluded that having the curtains made in England would be better. With this thought in mind, he ordered:

4 pair of Crimson Silk and worsted Damask window Curtains for 4 Large windows two Curtains to a window Each Curtain two Breadths wide and 2 yards and three Inches in Length.
2 pair of Ditto Curtains for two End windows of the same Length with only a Breadth and Half in Each all Lined with thin Durants or Tammy of the same Colour as my be necessary as our suns may spoil them.
2 pair of green worsted Damask window Curtains for two Large Parlour windows Each Curtain two breadths wide and two yards and a Half and three Inches Long.
one Single Ditto Curtain two breadths wide and same Length with former for an End window these Green worsted I think need not be Laced all the Curtains to be Properly bound Round with Binding of same Colour and to be Quilted at Top
These Articles wrote for instead of the Stuff and materials for window Curtains mentioned in the beginning of this Invoice.(103)

By asking for the red curtains to be made “two Curtains to a window,” he was probably indicating that he wanted these made in the drapery style which split into two parts when raised. It is less clear what he intended for the green curtains, although the description of the curtain for the “End window” as a “Single” may suggest that he envisioned a festoon treatment which pulled up as a single unit when raised.(104)

Robert Beverley included window curtains in what was probably an en suite decorative scheme for one of the public rooms in his home. Following detailed descriptions of two sets of matching bed and window curtains he wanted, he then requested “3 yellow Damask window Curtains of Stuff worstit with Pullies to draw up to the Top of the Window.” The size of these windows, 11 feet high and 4 and a half feet wide, would certainly suggest that these were found in an imposing public room, probably the parlor. Beverley then went on to note that the color was to be “the same as the ground of the rich yellow Paper” which was in the same order. Additionally, a dozen “neat plain mahogany Chairs” were also ordered with “yellow worstit stuff Damask Bottoms like the Curtains.” To be sent with these were “spare loose cases of yellow & white check to tie over them.”(105)

In compiling the statistical information about window curtains from the Rural Elite Inventories (REI) component of the Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database, all references to curtains which were not directly designated as bed curtains or not listed in conjunction with a bedstead or bed “furniture” were considered to be window curtains. In tallying the total number of curtains per household, each inventory reference was counted as a single occurrence, no matter how many parts or pairs the specific entry included.(106) In doing so, the hope was to determine how many rooms may have had curtains, rather than how many windows were hung with textiles.

Window curtains appear in 62% of REI with an average of 2.4 and a mean of 2. Materials are listed for 40% of the curtains which occur in REI. While no one type of cloth predominates, calico is the most commonly noted fabric, accounting for 19% of those entries which mention a specific fabric. Fabrics presumed to be linen or cotton account for twice as many examples (16) as those examples made from wool (8).

Among the family inventories, all five (100%) list window curtains. Those in ELBCK65 are described as “1 Set of old Calico Curtains.” These were included among a group of clothing and textiles, possibly all kept in the “1 small Box & 3 old Leather Trunks” which appear just prior to these items in the inventory. MASON97 records a set of chintz window curtains. They appear to be en suite with a set of chintz bed curtains. Indeed, all of the Mason inventories include window curtains which are listed in ways that imply bed chambers use. The listings in MASON63, MASON97, and MASON00 occur immediately following bed curtains, as do two of those found in MASON86. It is difficult to know how to interpret the third set of curtains in MASON86, as a reference to “7 Window Curtains omitted” appears near the end of the household furnishings in the inventory.

No documentary evidence concerning the use of curtains is found among George Mason's surviving papers. Fortunately, physical evidence clearly supports the use of window curtains in the first floor bed chamber. Indeed, the overlay of evidence here suggests two different, sequential sets of curtains. The presence of a second set of curtains, apparently installed when the room was repainted verdigris, suggests that the entire room may have been redecorated at that time, probably with a new set of en suite bed and window curtains.

The only other room at Gunston Hall for which physical evidence hints at the possibility of window curtains is the Little Parlor. However, here the evidence is less clear. Any recommendation for curtains for this room must await further research.

RECOMMENDATION:

Window Curtains: 1 set

First Floor Chamber to match bed curtains, circa 1780-1785.


decorative element

1. A bed, in 18th-century terms, was a large sack of some type of textile filled with feathers, straw, or other materials to provide a layer of softness and warmth. They were used with or without mattresses.

2. Mr. James Wardrope, Probate Inventory, Prince George's Country Maryland, recorded 4 December 1760, Inventories 1758-1763, fol. 68-9, (microfilm, Maryland State Archives).

3. For a discussion of bedsteads, see Furniture-Sleeping.

4. Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1857 edition, as quoted in Gretchen Sorin and Ellen Donald, “Gadsby's Tavern Museum Historic Furnishing Plan,” (Alexandria, VA: City of Alexandria, 1980), 96.

5. See this report, “Furniture-Sleeping” for a discussion of sleeping units.

6. Scheme of Goods for the Occoquan Store 1759, Letter Book of Alexander Henderson 1760-1764, Box 20, Local History, Special Collections, Alexandria Public Library, Alexandria Virginia, in Charles Hamrick & Virginia Hamrick, trans. & eds., Virginia Merchants, Alexander Henderson Factor for John Glassford at his Colchester Store (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Company, 1999), 120.

7. Hamrick & Hamrick, eds. Virginia Merchants, 50.

8. Order-Linen, 25 April 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson Order Book 1771-1774, Chancery Papers Exhibits 1773-1776, MSA no. 528-27, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Md., 12.

9. Order-Manchestry, 25 April 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 28.

10. Order, 20 March 1772, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 81.

11. Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1857 ed., as quoted in Sorin and Donald, 96.

12. Account of Mrs. Thomas Jones with T.I.Kennedy, 19 May 1761, Container 13, Papers of the Jones Family, Northumberland County, Virginia, 1749-1810, Roger Jones Family Papers, 1649-1896, MssD, LC, 2522 v.

13. “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister” Maryland Historical Magazine, 37 (March 1942): 65.

14. See Elisabeth Donaghy Garrett, At Home The American Family 1750-1870 (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1990), 111-112, for a discussion of mattress usage.

15. Invoice, 8 October 1771 & Invoice E4R 21 Sept. 1772, Charles Carroll Letter-Book 1771-1733, Arents Tobacco Collection, No. S0767, Rare Book Collection, New York Public Library, (microfilm, Maryland Historical Society).

16. Charles Wallace p Letter 26 November 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 47.

17. Order, 20 March 1772, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 81.

18. Container 16, Jones Family, item no. 3134.

19. Accounts and Financial Records of Mt. Vernon, Series 5, Financial Papers 1750-96, George Washington papers, MssD, LC. (Presidential Papers microfilm series no 115 & 116), p. 10; Invoice Palmer & Company, May 1785, Vol. 19, Galloway-Maxey-Markoe Family Papers, 1654-1888, MssD., LC, no. 11370. Note: orders for pillows are rare, were they being made at home with locally produced feathers and then placed in imported ticking.

20. George Mason, Sen. DR., Account of Sale Belvoir, 15 August 1774, Fairfax Family Papers, Mss1F1615b4, Virginia Historical Society.

21. Invoice Shipped, [between 22 July-28 August 1780], John De Neufville & Son Factor Book, MssD, LC, no. 265, in Robert Rutland, ed., The Papers of George Mason, 1725-1792, 3 vols. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970), 2:668.

22. 15 August 1774, Belvoir Sale, Fairfax Family Papers.

23. See: Furniture-Sleeping in this report for a discussion of “sleeping units.”.

24. 15 August 1774, Belvoir Sale, Fairfax Family Papers.

25. See Judith Reiter Weissman and Wendy Lavitt, Labors of Love: America's Textiles and Needlework, 1650-1930 (New York: Knopf, 1987), 101-104, for a discussion of bed linens.

26. Hamrick & Hamrick, ed., Virginia Merchants, 12.

27. Order-Linen, 25 April 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 11.

28. A few examples are listed as “cotton;” however, the meaning of the term “cotton” is open to debate. It was originally used to describe a type of woolen fabric before coming to refer to cloth woven from the fibers of the “cotton” plant. See Florence M. Montgomery, Textiles in America 1650-1870 (New York: Norton, 1984), 206.

29. It is interesting to speculate whether the use of country of origin in the description of linen carried some type of universally understood connotation about quality, much the way certain brand names can carry unspoken messages to modern consumers.

30. De Neufville, no. 265, in Papers of George Mason, 2:68.

31. Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (Dublin: Printed for Thomas Ewing, in Chapel Street, 2775), no pagination.

32. Invoice on board the Jenny, John Glassford & Company Records, 1753-1844, MssD, LC, 18v; Inventory 1 January 1772, ibid, 97.

33. Account [of/with?] John Suter, 21 December 1789, Ledger B, Papers of Samuel Davidson 1780-1810, MssD, LC.

34. Letter Mr. Samuel Athawes, Letterbook, 1761-1775, Robert Beverley Papers, MssD, LC, ts. p. 35.

35. The sale of blankets in pairs was perhaps a factor of the weaving process or the thickness of the wool cloth from which they were made. Modern scholars have, as yet, only a sketch understanding of the production processes and appearances of such utilitarian textiles.

36. Colo. George Mason, 5 August 1767, R9, C25, Piscataway Maryland Ledger 1767, Glassford, 38; 15 August 1774, Belvoir Sale, Fairfax Family Papers; George Mason to William Lee, 8 October 1778, Papers of George Mason, 1:441.

37. Invoice E4R, 21 September 1772, Charles Carroll.

38. Samuel Johnson, Dictionary, 1: not paginated.

39. Invoice of Goods ship'd on board the Jenny, Container 36, Glassford, no. 18v; 1769, ibid., 35; “on board the Russhia Merchant, London, 6 February 1769, ibid, no. 26v.

40. Tappahannock Dec 17th 1784, bot. of John Kean, Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society.

41. Philip Bell-Upholstry, Invoice of August 1759, George Washington Papers.

42. 5 August 1767, Glassford; 15 August 1774, Belvoir Sale, Fairfax Family Papers.

43. This example has been included here based on terminology; however, it is probable that MASON00's “coverlids” were, in fact, whole cloth “counterpanes” rather than some type of woven bed covering.

44. 17 December 1766, Piscataway, Maryland Ledger, Glassford.

45. Rug, Samuel Johnson Dictionary, not paginated.

46. See for example Weissman and Lavitt, Labors of Love, 34, and Amelia Peck, American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Dutton Studio Books for Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990), 164.

47. The historic trades division of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reproduced a Virginia made example of such a rug in its weavers shop in the early 1980s. For a detailed description of the construction of this type of bed rug see “Making the Knotted Bed Rug” by Max Hamrick in The Colonial Williamsburg Historic Trades Annual, 2 (1990), The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

48. Textile scholars can provide no insight into the appearance of a “silk rug.” The examples recorded as part of the Gunston Hall Room Use Study raise the issue of a regional preference but as the entire topic of bed rugs is so poorly understood, it is far to early to draw such conclusions.

49. Hamrick and Hamrick, eds., Virginia Merchants, trans. p. 4, 6, 42, 44, 64, 90, 120. Note: these orders appear under the headings of Scheme of Goods for the year following the date of the letter in which the order is sent.

50. Thos. Ringgold, Jr. to “Johnny”, Vol. 11, Galloway, no. 9823.

51. 1769, Piscataway Inventory, Container 36, Glassford, 11.

52. Order-Ruggs & Blanketts, 25 April 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 24.

53. Col. George Mason, Dr. 26 August 1766, Piscataway, Maryland Ledger 1766, Glassford.

54. Invoice . . . Shipd by Richd. Washington, August 1757, Series 5, George Washington Papers; Invoice Philip Bell-Upholstry, August 1759, ibid.

55. “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 36 (September 1941): 339-340.

56. Invoice to Samuel Athawes, 16 July 1771, Beverley.

57. Order-Cutlery, 25 April 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 4; Order-Linen, ibid, 13; Order-Manchestry, 20 March 1772, ibid, 95.

58. “List of Sundries to be shiped from London . . . on the proper Acct. & Risque of Robt. Hart” 7 March 1771, Ph 23- Folder 37, Account & Letter Book, John Norton & Sons, Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

59. Invoice of Goods shiped Jean, Invoice & Letterbook 1771-74, 1792-3, Port Tobacco, Container 61, Glassford, 16v.

60. Inventory of Landon Carter, 17 February 1779, Carter Papers, Sabine Hall Collection, Alderman Library, University of Virginia.

61. Advertisement of John Fendall, Maryland Gazette, 26 June 1760.

62. For a full discussion of types of carpets available in the 18th century, see Christopher Bilber, James Lomax, and Anthony Wells-Cole, Country House Floors (Leeds, England: Leeds City Art Galleries, 1987); Rodris Roth, Floorcoverings in 18th-century America, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Press, 1967); and Sarah B. Sherrill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, (New York: Abbeville Press, 1996).

63. Numbers reflect total of inventories in database September, 1999.

64. Advertisement of James Dick, Md. Gaz., 19 January 1764. Similarly, floor carpets were arriving at smaller Maryland sites such as Benedict and Nottingham, Maryland. Thomas Campbell, advertised on 7 August 1760 in the Md. Gaz. that he had for sale Kilmarnock Floor Carpets from 5 to 21 square yards.

65. Inventory of Goods . . . belonging to Piscattaway Store, 1 January 1773, Inventory, 1769-1774, Piscataway, Maryland, Container 36, Glassford, no. 11, 37, 130v.

66. Consigned to Mr. James Glassford for sale, March 1761, Neil Jamison Papers, 1757,1789, MssD, LC; Scheme of Goods for Dumfries Stores for fall 1789, Letter Book December 25,1788-April 7, 1791, Box 3, Huie, Reid & Co. Dumphries, Va., Business Papers 1784-1795, MssD, LC, no. 7. (microfilm John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation).

67. M. Burwell to Huie, Reed & Co., File 1787, Folder 1784-1788 & undated, Huie, Reid, no. 118.

68. — —.

69. Invoice to Harrison Ansley & Co, 26 May 1794, Stephen Collins Letter book 1794-1801, Volume 64, Stephen Collins & Son, MssD, LC.

70. Advertisement of Alexander Stenhouse, Md. Gaz., 13 September 1764.

71. Advertisement of Robert Couden, Md. Gaz., 31 July 1760.

72. Invoice to Mr. William Anderson, 24 February 1767, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 37 (March, 1942): 61.

73. Robert Beverley to John Bland, 27 December 1762, Beverley, 13; Robert Beverley to William Hunter & Co., 5 March 1764, ibid., 22.

74. Invoice from Philip Bell-Upholstry, August 1759, Series 5, Financial Papers, George Washington Papers.

75. Advertisement of Alexander Stenhouse, Md. Gaz., 13 September 1764.

76. Invoice C4C, 25 October 1771 and “To Messrs West & Hobson by C.Nicholson” 19 November 1771, Charles Carroll.

77. 1779 February-October 8, William Lee Letter Book, Mss1 L51f 418, Virginia Historical Society.

78. Bed chamber designation is determined by either room by room placement, the description of “bedside,” or in three instances being cited as “upstairs” which is presumed to be for bed chambers.

79. For a discussion of the history of bathing, see Françoise de Bonneville, The Book of Fine Linen (Paris: Flammarion, 1994), 111-116; see also, Garrett, At Home, 130-134.

80. Notice placed by Alexandria Sheriff William Ramsay, Md. Gaz., 23 August 1764.

81. “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 37 (March 1942): 65.

82. “Octr 9th 1770 Invoyce of Goods to J & Campbell” Henry Fitzhugh Letter Book, 1746-1774, Special Collections Department, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University; “A list of Goods & Merchantdize, wch R. Carter forwarded to Mr. James Gildart merchant Liverpool,” 28 January 1772, Vol. 1, Letter Book 1772-1774, Robert Carter Letter Book, Special Collections Department, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University.

83. Grace Rogers Cooper, The Copp Family Textiles (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1971), 30-34.

84. Robert Carter Nicholas Papers, TR74, Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (original at Library of Congress); see for a discussion of the history of Joseph Kidd and his relationship to Governor Botetourt, Graham Hood, The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg: a Cultural Study (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1991), 244.

85. Thomas Lee Shippen to Dr. William Shippen, Jr., 30 December 1783, Thomas Lee Shippen Papers, MssD., LC.

86. Cooper, Copp Family Textiles, 8-10.

87. For other examples see: Charles Saumarez Smith, Eighteenth-Century Decoration, Design and the Domestic Interior in England (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1993), plates 104, 162, 252, and 270.

88. Garrett, At Home, 128, 133.

89. For discussions of the possible differing use of napkins in 18th-century England and America, see Louise Conway Belden, The Festive Tradition, Table Decoration and Desserts in America, 1650-1900 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983), 10-14 and Sara Paston-Williams, The Art of Dining, A History of Cooking and Eating (London: National Trust, 1993), 249.

90. 15 February 1760, Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., Diaries of George Washington, 6 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 19761979), 1:238.

91. Notice of Phillip Hammond, Md. Gaz., 15 February 1776.

92. Advertisement of Thomas Rutland, Md. Gaz., 22 July 1784.

93. See for example, Advertisement of Stephen West, Md. Gaz., 10 June 1756; Advertisements of John Dundas & Company and William Hartshorne and Company, Virginia Journal & Alexandria Advertiser, 19 August 1784. See also, the 1780-1786 account book of Maryland merchant John Davidson Ledger 17801787, MssD., LC, entries for customers John Shaw, Alexander Roxburgh, William Sefton, Benjamin Ogle, John Wright, and Elizabeth Sprigg.

94. “Invoice of Goods Set for to [ ] Cary in 1754,” Invoice Book of Daniel Parke Custis, privately owned, (copy PH 02 16, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation).

95. “Invoice to William Anderson,” September 1760, MHM, 3 (June 1938): 188; “Invoice to Mr. Wm. Anderson, London,” 29 October 1766, ibid., 36 (September 1941): 338; “Invoice to Mr. William Anderson, London” 20 July 1767, ibid., 37 (March 1942): 65.

96. Invoice of June 1771 Robert Beverley; Messers Backhouse & Rutson, [after 1789], ibid., no. 97v; “An Invoice of goods to be sent to Robert Beverley in the spring of 1790,” ibid., no 88-89.

97. Belden, Festive Tradition, 13.

98. See Montgomery, Textiles in America, under the headings for damask, diaper, huckaback, and linen for a more detailed discussion.

99. For examples, see Belden, Festive Tradition, 8 and 51, as well as Paston-Williams, Art of Dining, 195 and 237.

100. 23, Saturday, September 1775, Landon Carter, The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1752-1778, Jack P. Greene, ed., 2, vol. (Richmond: The Virginia Historical Society, 1987), 2:950.

101. “Invoice of Sundries Shipped on board the Ship General Washington” Papers of George Mason, 2:674.

102. See Volume One, Chapter Two in this report for a discussion of the physical evidence for window curtains at Gunston Hall; see the discussion of bed upholstery in this category section for examples of matching bed and window curtains.

103. “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM 34 (June 1939): 181-182.

104. For a detailed description of these two styles of window curtains, see Linda Baumgarten, “Window Curtains in the Eighteen Century,” in Williamsburg, The Finest Reproductions of Eighteenth-Century Furnishings (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1989), 139-143.

105. “Invoice sent to Mr. Athawes,” 16 July 1771, Beverley.

106. This approach is mandated in part by a confusion in the language used to describe these items. Does an entry for two curtains mean curtains for two windows or simply refer to the two parts of a curtain for a single window? The problems of a lack of knowledge about the architecture of most of the houses in the inventory study is also mitigated by this approach.




© Gunston Hall Plantation 2002