Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Embroidered whitework coverlet

Mary Walker Stith Jones (1802–1884)
Possibly made in Hardin County, Kentucky, United States; Possibly made in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, United States
Cotton embroidered with cotton thread
100 1/2 x 87 1/4 in. (255.3 x 221.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1939
Accession Number:
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
Related Objects

Embroidered whitework coverlet

Date: ca. 1820 Medium: Cotton embroidered with cotton thread Accession: 27.242 On view in:Not on view

Phebe Warner Coverlet

Artist: Probably Sarah Furman Warner Williams (born 1764) Date: ca. 1803 Medium: Linen and cotton Accession: 38.59 On view in:Not on view

Embroidered coverlet (Colcha)

Date: 1786 Medium: Cotton embroidered with silk Accession: 1971.20 On view in:Not on view

Figured flask

Artist: Louisville Glass Works (1855–73) Date: 1855–73 Medium: Free-blown molded glass Accession: 40.150.87 On view in:Gallery 706


Artist: Possibly Kentucky Glass Works (ca. 1850–55) Date: 1840–60 Medium: Free-blown molded aquamarine glass Accession: 40.150.42 On view in:Gallery 774