This coverlet is woven with red and blue wool warps and red and blue wool wefts in two panels and seamed at the center. The field shows a menagerie of animals, including giraffes, leopards, monkeys, and birds. The borders have images of an alligator eating a snake alternating with a pouncing leopard. In contrast to the predominant jungle motifs, domesticated fowl are depicted on the corner blocks.
This intriguing Jacquard coverlet was probably woven in Ohio sometime around 1850. There are about eight other examples known at this time that are decorated with this charming pattern of exotic and domestic animals. Ohio was on the natural migration route west for Pennsylvania German weavers who were looking for new territories in which to sell their products, and it was also the destination of almost equal numbers of weavers from Great Britain and Germany who arrived in this country in the 1830s and 1840s. Because of this, Ohio coverlets often blend characteristics of both New York and Pennsylvania pieces. Our animal coverlet, which was originally fringed on three sides, has a pattern, color scheme, and corner trademark closely related to Pennsylvania coverlets, but it was woven using the same type of doublecloth technique found in New York examples. Interestingly enough, it is made completely of wool, like our coverlet (1982.366) from the New Jersey area.
The coverlet was purchased for the Museum's collection in 1956. Along with it, the vendor sent a letter that states: "It was given to me by Mrs. Bertha Ritter, who recently died at the age of 82. The coverlet was woven in Ohio by her grandmother—a Mrs. Hicks." The coverlet was probably made for Mrs. Hicks rather than by her. Professional women coverlet weavers are not totally unknown, but the more common role of women was in the preparation of the wool, spinning and dyeing it, for instance, before it was given to the professional weaver to be transformed into a coverlet. This may have led to the misconception held by many families that Grandma actually wove the finished product. Only one woman, Sarah LaTourette of Indiana, can be fully documented as a professional weaver of Jacquard coverlets.
[Peck 2015; adapted from Amelia Peck, "American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2007]