Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Embroidered whitework coverlet

Maker:
Mary Walker Stith Jones (1802–1884)
Date:
1815–18
Geography:
Possibly made in Hardin County, Kentucky, United States; Possibly made in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, United States
Culture:
American
Medium:
Cotton embroidered with cotton thread
Dimensions:
100 1/2 x 87 1/4 in. (255.3 x 221.6 cm)
Classification:
Textiles
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1939
Accession Number:
39.111
Not on view
Made of three lengths of cotton seamed together, this whitework coverlet is embroidered with heavy cotton thread in many different stitches. Some areas are decorated with drawnwork. The central design is a basket of flowers within a diamond-shaped medallion. The remaining ground is decorated with meandering floral vines. There is a woven fringe on three sides.
Whitework bed covers in all techniques—stuffed (1971.180.124), embroidered, and tufted—were popular throughout the United States during the first decades of the nineteenth century. This embroidered coverlet is one of a number of similar whitework pieces with drawnwork panels that hail from Kentucky (see 1998.391). The all-cotton coverlet is particularly interesting because it is actually a large-scale sampler of needlework techniques.
The coverlet's maker is Mary Walker Stith Jones, born June 30, 1802, in Bedford County, Virginia, the oldest child of Benjamin and Phoebe Cooke Stith. The family moved to Breckinridge County Kentucky, when she was still a small child. The only formal schooling she received was one session at a Catholic school in Bethlehem, Henry County, Kentucky, where, among other skills, she was taught needlework. On March 27, 1817, at not quite fifteen years of age, she married her cousin William Bolling Jones. They had twelve children altogether, the first born in about 1818 and the last born in May of 1844, when Mary Stith Jones was almost forty-two. In 1865, the family moved to Nodaway County, Missouri. She died on December 20, 1884, at the home of her youngest son, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and was buried in Miriam Cemetery Maryville, Nodaway County, Missouri. This coverlet descended to her granddaughter Bertie, the daughter of her youngest son.
According to her descendants, Mary Stith Jones began the coverlet in 1815 when she was thirteen years old and completed it in 1818 when she was already a married woman, signing it with a delicate "J" for Jones in the lower left corner. The cotton base fabric on which she embroidered was supposedly woven at the Stith family farm. Mary’s father, Benjamin, owned slaves, and among them was a man named Morley, an expert weaver. The Stith's farm grew cotton and flax. According to family history, the cotton for the cloth, thread, and fringe was grown at home, where Morley wove the cotton into cloth for Mary to embroider with homespun thread.
[Peck 2015; adapted from Amelia Peck, "American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2007]
 
 
Inscription: embroidered in lower left corner: J
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