Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Coverlet

Date:
ca. 1850
Geography:
Possibly made in Maryland, United States; Probably made in West Virginia, United States; Possibly made in Virginia, United States; Possibly made in Ohio, United States
Culture:
American
Medium:
Wool, cotton, woven
Dimensions:
89 x 81 in. (226.1 x 205.7 cm)
Classification:
Textiles
Credit Line:
Margaret and Richard Parrish in memory of their paternal grandparents, Rebecca and Festus Parrish, 1984
Accession Number:
1984.330.2
Not on view
This double cloth coverlet is woven with undyed cotton and red and blue wool in two panels and seamed at the center. It is patterned with rows of floral clusters alternating with rows of single flowers, each within a cartouche. The piece is hemmed along the top border and has a natural fringe on the left and right sides and along the bottom edge.
This coverlet, woven in about 1850, is a good illustration of the close relationship between doublecloth coverlets and carpets. Many coverlet weavers also made carpeting, since both items could be woven on the same type of loom. Our coverlet looks as though it was woven on a loom equipped with Jacquard cards punched for a patterned carpet. Mid-nineteenth-century flat-woven strip, or "ingrain," carpeting (see 1980.511.8) was often decorated with repeating lozenge-shaped figures such as the ones found on this work. The fringes, however, are proof that the piece was clearly meant to be a coverlet.
This coverlet was the property of Rebecca Cunningham Parrish (1846-1938) and her husband, Festus Parrish (1840-1938), lifelong residents of Marion County, West Virginia. Festus’s family had settled in West Virginia in the 1780s, and Rebecca’s family seem to have been early West Virginians as well. (Actually, the Parrishes’ forebears were residents of Virginia—West Virginia did not become a separate state until 1863.) Festus was a schoolteacher and a farmer, and the couple and their son lived in a house Festus built for them. Festus and Rebecca were happily married for more than seventy-two years and died within a few months of each other. According to their grandson, one of the coverlet's donors, the only time the couple traveled was in 1865, when they went to Wheeling, West Virginia, for their honeymoon. Family history holds that the coverlets belonged to either Rebecca's or Festus's parents.
Due to the lack of published information about West Virginia coverlets and some similarities with Indiana examples, this coverlet was originally attributed to an Indiana weaver. In 1992, however, an independent researcher was able to document that there were professional coverlet weavers in northern West Virginia about the time this coverlet was woven. Several professional weavers worked in Marion County, where the Parishes lived, and in neighboring Monongalia County. As early as 1831, the local newspaper, "The Monongalian", ran advertisements for weavers John Lawlis and Michael Courtney. The heading of Courtney’s ad read: "Double & Single Coverlet Weaving," and he stated that he could weave "a variety of Coverlet and Diaper figures, never exhibited in this country before. Coverlets wove in the best manner and on the shortest notice at three dollars per pair." Although we can’t know with certainty if the professionally woven coverlets being advertised in 1831 were "figured" like this one from almost twenty years later, the ads do prove the existence of professional weavers in northern West Virginia, and that this coverlet could have been woven close to the Parrishes’ home.
[Peck 2015; adapted from Amelia Peck, "American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2007]
 
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