The American home
Part III: The bedchamber
BY ELISABETH DONAGHY GARRETT
When we spent the night at Grandmother's we
were tucked into great softly pillowed beds, in
rooms which, like the Christmas closet, were
redolent of refreshing odors. Whether it was
from the fragrant sheets-perhaps a suggestion
of lavender-or the pungent, stimulating cam-
phor in which the blankets had been laid
away, or the fine Castile soap, or the delicate
faintly perceptible aroma of old polished ma-
hogany, or possibly a little vase on the bureau
with a sprig of rose geranium or lemon ver-
bena offsetting a few flowers, I would not ven-
ture to say. Probably all those perfumes had
mingled and stayed in the air for years, re-
newed from season to season. Sea air blew in
at the windows, and an old chair with high
back and flowered Chintz hangings seemed to
guard over the dreamers.'
THROUGHOUT THE EIGHTEENTH and much of the nine-
teenth century these "great softly pillowed beds"
figured prominently in household inventories in
both number and value. As part of the eighteenth-
century domestic trend toward greater specializa-
tion in room use and a heightened regard for pri-
vacy, the best bed was gradually moved to an
upstairs bedroom from its seventeenth- and early
eighteenth-century setting in the ground-floor hall
or parlor. An Indian warrior visiting General Hora-
tio Gates at his New York home, Rose Hill Farm, in
the late eighteenth century "remarked on the want
of good judgment among the white people, in having
their bed-rooms piled on the top of the others: walk-
ing upwards is so unnatural; especially where there
was so much room on the ground."2 Although the
best bed might reign supreme upstairs, a bed some-
times remained in the parlor well into the nine-
teenth century, particularly in rural houses. Edward
Foster's "Best Bed & furniture" was "in yf Cham-
ber," but there was also "'A Bed & furniture in y.
Parlour" of his Dorchester, Massachusetts, house in
1761, while a neighbor, William Robinson, arranged
the "Best Bed in the West Chamber & Furniture,"
and "a bed & furniture in the Parlour."3 The bed
furniture comprised the bed hangings, coverlet, and
linen. Harriet Beecher Stowe penned a picture of
Pl. I. Story of Golden Locks, by Seymour J. G~i
(1824-1910), c. 1870. Signed at lower left, S. J. Gu
Oil on canvas, 34 by 28 s inches. "Being naturally
excellent mimic, my presence gave mirthfulness
many a scene. I often crept out of bed; went to tH
foot of the stairs leading to the sleeping apartment
of my aunts, who were very prone to reading lat
o'nights, and, imitating the tone of my grandmother
said: 'Blow out your lights, this minute!' then stol
laughingly back again, as I instantly heard the obe
ent puff!" ([Mrs. A. M. Richards], Memories of
Grandmother, by a Lady of Massachusetts [Bosto'
1854], p. 43). Collection of Jo Ann and Julian Ganzlr
her aunt Esther's parlor in Litchfield, Connecticu
where "a bed was turned up against the wall, an
concealed in the day time by a decorous fall o
chintz drapery."4 In enumerating the niceties of th
Grangerfords' parlor Huckleberry Finn applauded
the conspicuous absence of the customary bed:
"There warn't no bed in the parlor, not a sign of
bed, but heaps of parlors in towns has beds i
them."s At Ellen Rollins' grandfather's house i
Hampton, New Hampshire, in the 1830's, "The door'
on the other side of the front entry opened into the'
east room. This was the 'best room,' or, as my
grandfather called it, the 'fore' room. Most notice-
able of its furnishings was the bed,-more for show
than use. It was a tall structure, built up of corn-
husks and feathers, not to be leaned against or care-
lessly indented."6 Ellen Rollins also noted that from
this farmhouse kitchen "Two doors led into the bed-
rooms in which were chests of drawers full of
homespun linen."7 Because of the convenience it af-
forded, a downstairs bedroom endured in many
houses through the nineteenth century (see Fig. 1).8
In Joseph Weld's Roxbury, Massachusetts, house
in 1766 there was "In the Bedroom below, One Bed
&F with one Chest."' The 1769 inventory of Jona-
than Bird Jr.'s Dorchester house listed a bed each in
the "Westerly Chamber," the "Easterly Chamber,"
and the "Westerly Room below," and two in the
"Bed Room below."'0 In 1937 Winifred Welles ob-
served that in an earlier time "Almost all New Eng-
land houses had a bedroom on the first floor, some-
times called the parlor bedroom, or the downstairs
bedroom. Often, in addition, it was the spare room,
used only for guests.""
In the spare chamber, whether upstairs or down,
the atmosphere was hushed, unhurried, reverential.
And in the final year of the nineteenth century an
anonymous author in Atlantic Monthly bemoaned its
demise: "The decadence of the spare chamber
strikes deep. It is the concrete difference between
past and present. The spare chamber meant a room
in the house set apart from common life, dedicated
to the higher nature .... The stimulus to the imagi-
nation was worth three times the amount of cubic
space the spare chamber occupied. You tiptoed in.""
In Salem, Massachusetts, "Every house had its
'Spare Chamber,' a room dedicated to the guests of
the family (the 'staying company' as it was called)
and also dedicated to prim formal discomfort, an
arctic horror in winter, and even in summer a place
of such stiff ceremonious propriety that children
dreaded to enter it.""3 Because it was seldom used,
; : i
: .. I
;, u i
Y i' .r.
E 'i 'i '~
Fig. 1. Lunchtime, by Eastman Johnson
(1824-1906), 1865. Signed and dated at
lower right, E. Johnson 65. Oil on wood
panel, 21 by 19 inches. The homely down-
stairs bedroom visible in the shadows has a
nicely turned low-post bed with a bedside
carpet and a simple table with a looking
glass suspended above it. Colby College Art
Museum, Waterville, Maine, gift of Mr. and
Mrs. Ellerton M. Jett&.
Fig. 2. Detail of a certificate of member-
ship in the Associated Body of House Car-
penters, New York, 1796. 23V by 18/16
inches over all. The Journeymen Cabinet
and Chair-makers Philadelphia Book of
Prices published in 1795 lists "A Field Bed-
stead of Poplar, the roof sloped each way"
(quoted in William Macpherson Hornor Jr.,
Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture [Philadel-
phia, 1935], p. 164). A certificate of mem-
bership in the Pike Beneficial Society of
Philadelphia in 1817 depicted a similarly
stylish arched-tester bed (illustrated in
Florence M. Montgomery, Printed Textiles
[New York, 1970], p. 63). Both views
clearly depict the use of bolsters and the
voluminous bed hangings designed to en-
tirely enclose the bedstead. A small round
table or light stand was often found in bed-
rooms (see P1. III and Figs. 4, 11; see also
ANTIQUES for February 1983, pp. 416-417,
n. 24). Museum of the City of New York;
photograph by Helga Photo Studio.
the spare chamber sometimes also served as a store-
room. "Mother's best bonnet lay on the middle of
the bed. Sometimes a huge loaf of fruit cake sat ele-
gantly in one of the chairs," wrote a contributor to
Atlantic Monthly." Commenting on this article, Caro-
line King of Salem wrote, "Now I have often seen
my mother's best bonnet, carefully covered with
one of my father's large bandanna silk handker-
chiefs, perched on the summit of the high piled
feather bed in our spare chamber, and from the
manners and customs of our family I am sure that
the elegant presence of the loaf of fruit cake was
more than a possibility there also!"" And she de-
scribed how before the dinner parties her father
gave once or twice a year the great damask table-
cloth would be ironed and was "never allowed to be
folded. No crease must dim its brilliant smoothness,
so it was hung over chairs in the spare-room until
the day of the dinner party arrived."16
"Of course," Caroline King went on to observe,
"the bedstead with its heaped-up feather beds and
down pillows, its fine linen, fragrant with lavender,
and its gorgeous or delicate bed-trappings, was the
chief feature in these old time rooms."'7 Beds were
concealed by hangings into the second half of the
nineteenth century, when machine carving and ve-
neering brought into fashion towering headboards
intended to be seen, not swathed in cloth, and de-
bates on the hygenic implications of hangings
raged." Low-post beds might be shrouded in hang-
ings suspended from hooks in the ceiling. Tempera-
ture control, privacy, fashion, and tradition all
played their roles in this desire for bed hangings.
Wool and occasionally silk were superseded by
more easily maintained cotton as the eighteenth cen-
tury progressed, although even in 1840 Eliza Leslie,
advocating the use of the curtained bed, wrote that
* ., .,
Fig. 3. "Why, Miss Anne," said Lucy, "isn't it any
darker than this?" Engraving, 3 by 4Y2 inches; oppo-
site p. 71 of [Jacob Abbott], Cousin Lucy's Conversa-
tions (Boston, 1842). When the doctor and Lucy's
parents had left nurse Anne's room, where they
were treating Lucy for the croup, "Miss Anne then
set the chairs back in their places, and carried out
all the things which had been used; and after she
had got the room arranged and in order, she came to
Lucy's [trundle] bedside, to see if she was asleep. 'Do
you think you could just carry me to the window,
and let me look out, and see how the midnight looks?
-or am I too heavy?" Lucy asked. ". .. Lucy sepa-
rated the two curtains with her hands and Miss
Anne carried her in between them" (pp. 67-71). Two
years earlier Eliza Leslie had observed, "The small
movable looking-glasses, standing on feet, are much
out of favour for dressing tables, as they scarcely
show more than your head, and are easily upset. In-
stead of those, it is now customary to fix a large
glass upon the wall at the back of the table or bu-
reau; suspending it by a double ribbon to a strong
hook, and making the string long enough to allow
the glass to incline considerably forward, so as to
give the persons that look into it a better view of
their figures" (The House Book or, A Manual of Do-
mestic Economy [Philadelphia, 1840], p. 300). Helga
Fig. 4. New England Woman or A Lady from
Connecticut, by Cecilia Beaux (1855-1952). Signed at
lower left, Cecilia Beaux. Oil on canvas, 43 by 24
inches. The sitter is Julia Leavitt Richards. The
painting was illustrated in color in ANTIQUES for Jan-
uary 1974, p. 162, P1. I. Like the bedroom shown in
P1. III, this is a wonderful portrayal of the old style
lingering. The light stand and scarf, the prim side
chair, and the draped bed are of an earlier era. Bed-
chambers in which everything was white became
popular at the end of the eighteenth century. Caro-
line King recalled visiting her aunt's house in New-
buryport, Massachusetts, where "The room was fur-
nished with white painted furniture, the dimity
drapery of windows and bed were white, the straw
matting on the floor was white.... The great white
bed stood like a snowdrift, crowned with a thick
white 'comforter' or 'blessing' as we called the
'down puff' of those days" (When I Lived in Salem
[Brattleboro, Vermont, 1937], p. 192). Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
P1. II. Walter Chandler, AE 21
months. Painted by his father
in the year 1850, by William
Chandler (b. c. 1818). Water-
color on paper, 3V4 by 2"/16
inches. Inscribed on a piece of
paper glued to the back of the
painting, "To my dear wife.
This little sketch of our first
born, a tribute of fondest love
and affection, was painted in
Elizabethtown, N. Jersey; the
room being the same, in which
his dear sister 'Maggie' was,
soon after, born, and dear
died." The 1850 census for
Elizabeth Township, New Jer-
sey, lists William Chandler as a
thirty-two-year-old naval offi-
cer born in Virginia and mar-
ried to Catharine, age twenty-
five. Walter is recorded as
their only child in that year.
Collection of Olenka and
Charles Santore; Helga photo-
the hangings "may be of chintz, damask, rich silk, or
broad-striped dimity.""' The richness and expense of
some of these hangings are startling to us today, yet
the best bed was, as Anne Grant noted in 1808, fre-
quently "considered the family Zeraphim, secretly
Plunket Fleeson's 1770 bill of 48/16 to John Cad-
walader was for a resplendent bed. The price in-
cluded making "a phestoon bed full trim'd, with
plumes, laces, & head board, fringed," making two
"Venetian" window curtains, and supplying fifty-six
yards of "fine red & white copper plate cotton," six-
teen yards of linen for lining the valances, 118 yards
of fringe for bed and window curtains, fifty-seven
tassels, twenty-five yards of silk lace, and thirty-two
yards of white twilled lace.2'
Caroline King wrote:
Some one describes one of these beds as 'a room in itself,
with four carved posts, flowered curtains for walls, a
chintz tester for ceiling, and steps conducting one into an
acre of billowy bolstered bliss'.... The bedstead in our
own spare room was a very beautiful mahogany one, with
richly carved posts and legs, and hung with a canopy and
curtains of lovely soft India cotton, with counterpane and
valances to match. The ground was a deep cream color
with small bunches of bright flowers scattered over it, but
its glory was the border. This represented baskets filled
with pineapples, lemons, oranges, and many strange kinds
of tropical fruits glowing in their natural colors. The edge
was woven in deep scallops, with pretty shaped open work
baskets of fruit fitted into each scallop.2
The vibrant colors and exotic imagery of these
printed cottons had an intense impact on the imagi-
nation of many youthful republicans. Together with
scenic wallpaper23 they were the picture books of
the period, offering a fantastical world of vibrant
color to children whose books were scantily illus-
trated with small, staid, black and white engravings.
With obvious emotion the then elderly Caroline King
avowed, "A shadow of the childish awe with which
I used to tiptoe into that sacred apartment, and gaze
at the Eastern splendor of fruit and flowers, comes
over me now as I write. I remember putting out a
timid little finger to touch those forbidden fruits,
and then quickly drawing it back as if I had commit-
ted a sacrilege."24
In an uprooting typical of the extended family,
Harriet Beecher Stowe went to live with her aunt
Harriet Foote at Nutplains in Guilford, Connecticut,
following the premature death of her mother. There
beds were curtained with a printed India linen, which had
been brought home by my seafaring uncle; and I recollect
now the almost awe-struck delight with which I gazed on
the strange mammoth plants, with great roots and endless
convolutions of branches, in whose hollows appeared Chi-
nese summer houses, adorned with countless bells, and
perched jauntily aloft, with sleepy-looking mandarins
smoking, and a Chinaman attendant just in the act of ring-
ing some of the bells with a hammer. Also here and there
were birds bigger than the mandarins, with wide-open
beaks just about to seize strange-looking insects; and a con-
stant wonder to my mind was why the man never struck
the bells, nor the bird ever caught the insect.25
The best bed usually rose in unchallenged domi-
nance, accompanied by the lowly presence of a
trundle bed.26 But at a time when constant fluctua-
tions in numbers characterized the extended family
and a community openness characterized the home,
other chambers might contain two or three beds.2
Many of these would be of simpler design, some-
times with low posts, and would frequently be occu-
pied by two or more people. Arriving at Nutplains,
Harriet Beecher Stowe remembered "being put to
bed by my aunt in the large room, on one side of
which stood the bed appropriated to her and me,
and on the other that of my grandmother.""2
Furniture check, often blue or red, was much
used for bed hangings. The bedroom off the parlor
in Mrs. Charles Worthy's fictitious home "was much
in the same stile of the parlour, with the addition of
a bed of furniture check."29 "The sun was already
making great red streaks across the checkered hang-
ings in the east chamber when Benny's tap at my
door and the patter of his little feet across the
sanded floor, startled me from an uneasy slumber,"
reminisced Ellen Rollins.30 From Georgia in 1828
Mrs. Basil Hall wrote, "As to the sheets being of
check, blue cotton we have got quite used to that,
and are not to be daunted by such trifles.""3 And in
1794 Henry Wansey commented on the check win-
dow curtains and bed furniture in a Northford,
"The bed-curtains and window curtains should of
course be of the same material, and corresponding
in form," Eliza Leslie counseled in 1840.33 However,
before the American Revolution, and in some re-
gions long afterwards, there were few window cur-
tains in proportion to bed hangings.34 When window
curtains are listed in early inventories they are most
often in the room with the best bed, underscoring
the supremacy of this room. Sarah Anna Emery de-
scribed Mrs. Bartlett's best chamber in Newburyport
as "elegant with gay patch [chintz] hangings to the
square post bedstead, and curtains of the same
draped the windows."3" Other upholstered furniture
should contribute to this chromatic accord.36 Thus,
"in the front Chamber up one pair of Stairs" of
Pl. III. East chamber in the Peter Cushing house,
Hingham, Massachusetts, by Ella Emery, c. 1878. Oil
on canvas, 15 V2 by 27 inches. Another beautifully
rendered version of this painting includes a Queen
Anne side chair to the right of the bed (Abbott Low-
ell Cummings, Rural Household Inventories [Boston,
1961], Fig. 24). The copperplate-printed bed hang-
ings and coverlet in this late nineteenth-century view
confirm that furnishings were not always up-to-date
in the American home, particularly on the upper
floors. Bed hangings were taken down for the sum-
mer and rehung in the fall-an often challenging
task. In 1888 Emily Barnes reminisced, "As I look
into this lofty, airy chamber, how vividly I recall my
first experience, sixty odd years ago, in visiting my
aunt to hang on this high-post bedstead, still here,
the dimity curtains, trimmed with broad, netted
fringe, while we found it still more difficult to ar-
range the blue silk canopy overhead" (Narratives,
Traditions and Personal Reminiscences [Boston,
1888], p. 268). The Workwoman's Guide (London,
1840), p. 192, counseled that "all best beds and drap-
ery for sitting-rooms should be put up by regular up-
holsterers, as it requires much correctness of eye,
added to taste and knowledge of the prevailing fash-
ion." Wool and chintz bed furniture was often
glazed to keep it bright and clean (Leslie, The House
Book, p. 49). An easy chair, straw matting, a bedside
rug, and brilliantly polished brass andirons are all
included in Caroline King's description of her fam-
ily's bedrooms: "The floor was usually covered with
a straw matting, a rug or a piece of carpet being
spread by the side of the bed, another smaller piece
being put in one corner, upon which the visitor's
trunk was to be set. By the side of the bed was
placed a high-backed so-called easy chair, with
wings at the sides to protect the occupant from
draughts, covered with a gay colored chintz ('patch'
it was called then) where very long tailed birds sat
upon impossible trees surrounded by gorgeous flow-
ers, never dreamed of in our philosophy or botany.
... They usually had open fireplaces, furnished with
brilliant brass andirons which were replaced in sum-
mer by green blinds or wooden fireboards decorated
with gay pictures" (When I Lived in Salem, pp. 185,
188). New York State Historical Association, Coopers-
Samuel Neave's handsome Philadelphia house was a
"green painted Bedstead & Cornish" covered by "a
large stamped Cotton Counterpane" and draped
with green damask, the same material that hung at
the four windows, upholstered an easy chair, and
slip covered six walnut chairs." From Williamsburg,
Virginia, on May 1, 1759, George Washington sent an
order for "Sundry Goods" to
Robert Cary & Co., Merchants London: 1 Tester Bedstead
7/2 feet pitch, with fashionable bleu or bleu and white Cur-
tains to suit a Room lind w't the Ireld. paper-Window Cur-
tains of the same for two Windows; with either Papier Ma-
ch6 Cornish to them, or Cornish cover'd with the Cloth. 1
fine Bed Coverlid to match the Curtains. 4 Chair bottoms
of the same; that is, as much Covring suited to the above
furniture as will go over the seats of 4 chairs (which I have
by me) in order to make the whole furniture of this Room
uniformly handsome and genteel.3
Benjamin Franklin envisioned a similarly genteel
bedchamber for his Philadelphia house when he
sent his wife from London in 1758 "56 Yards of Cot-
ton printed curiously from Copper Plates, a new In-
vention, to make Bed and Window Curtains... and
7 Yards Chair Bottoms printed in the same Way,
very neat; these were my Fancy; but Mrs. Stevenson
tells me I did wrong not to buy both of the same
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
an easy chair is frequently found in a bedroom, up-
holstered to blend with the rest of the furniture in
the room (see Pl. III and Fig. 11). With wings to de-
flect drafts, ample proportions, and a soft, cush-
ioned seat, the easy chair proved well designed for
the elderly and infirm (see Figs. 5 -7).40 While recov-
ering from boils, Anna Green Winslow noted in her
Fig. 5. Mrs. John Powell (nee Anna Susan Dummer;
1684-1764), by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815),
1764. Oil on canvas, 492 by 392 inches. A replica of
this painting, done c. 1764, is in the Yale University
Art Gallery. The eighty-year-old widow is familiarly
portrayed in her easy chair. Note the light-reflecting
upholstery and the piping (see ANTIQUES for January
1983, p. 220). Lucy Larcom fondly recalled "my
mother's easy-chair-I should have felt as if I had
lost her, had that been left behind. The earliest ambi-
tion of my infancy had been to grow up and wear a
cap, and sit in an easy-chair knitting, and look com-
fortable, just as my mother did" (A New England
Girlhood [Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1977], p.
149). Collection of Ellery Sedgwick Jr.
Fig. 6. Dr. William Beekman (1684-1770), by Abra-
ham Delanoy (1742-1795), c. 1767. Oil on canvas, 36
by 30 inches. Although the easy chair was most com-
monly found in the bedchamber in the eighteenth
and early nineteenth centuries, it might also be
found in a parlor or sitting room. Returning to her
aunt and uncle's Walpole, New Hampshire, house
some sixty years after she had stayed there, Emily
Barnes wrote: "As I enter the hall, my heart takes
me at once to the sitting-room door, which I find
open, and one glance within assures me that nothing
is changed, but every article kept in its place....
There stands the vacant chair beside her pretty
worktable, with its crimson bag, sufficiently deep to
hold the work upon which she had busied herself.
Directly over this table hangs the clock, that for
more than half a century measured the hours of her
precious life. At a window near by stands my uncle's
easy chair, where, in dreamy meditation, or in
contemplation of the lovely scenery, of which he
could never tire, he sat for hours in the day, fully
conscious of the presence he always liked to have at
his side" (Narratives, Traditions and Personal Remi-
niscences, p. 267). New-York Historical Society, New
York City, gift of the Beekman Family Association.
Boston diary on February 13, 1772, "Everybody says
that this is a bitter cold day, but I know nothing
about it but hearsay for I am in aunt's chamber
(which is very warm always) with a nice fire, a
[foot] stove, sitting in Aunt's easy chair, with a tall
three leav'd screen at my back, & I am very com-
fortable."41 In the nineteenth century the easy chair
was sometimes in the parlor.42 There it continued to
be the favored chair of the elderly, and was fre-
quently pulled up to a window to afford better light
for work or reading and the entertainment of a
changing scene. Yet in 1840 Eliza Leslie was still ad-
vocating "a stuffed easy chair" in the bedchamber.43
She also inclined toward "large, deep sofas," which
are only infrequently found in eighteenth- and early
nineteenth-century chambers but became a standard
bedroom fixture as the nineteenth century .pro-
gressed.44 Maria Trumbull had one in her room
while she was visiting Lady Kitty Duer in New York
in December 1800: "and our chamber is a very
pleasant one-it is in the front of the house-and
the furniture a large clever carpet, a bed with cur-
tains (and very nice sheets) a sofa, some green
chairs-a table, a washstand, a large looking glass-
and a picture-and there are three nice large clos-
Ranged against the walls of the bedchamber there
were often a considerable number of side chairs,
frequently old-fashioned ones and thus relegated to
the bedroom (see Pls. I, II, IV, V and Figs. 3, 8). In
the middle chamber of Benjamin Prat's Boston
house in 1763 were "a Green Harrateen Bed, a 4
post Bedstead & furniture, Green d? Easy Chair & 8
compass bottom Chairs d?, Two pf Green Harrateen
Window Curtains."46 And in the sunny yellow bed-
room of what is now the Moffatt-Ladd house in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1768 were "1 Yel-
low Damask Bed & Curtains & fluted Black Walnut
Bedstead... 6 Yellow Damsk Cover'd Chairs ... 1
Yellow Damask Cover'd Easy Chair," and "3 Win-
dow Curtains Yellow Damask."47
A supplementary harmony was bestowed on ele-
gant bedrooms by the furniture being carved en
suite. William Macpherson Hornor Jr. refers to com-
panionate groups of high chest, dressing table, and
chairs."4 Chests of drawers, high chests of drawers,
dressing tables, and chests-on-chest figure promi-
nently in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century bed-
chamber inventories.49 The household linens were
frequently stored in the room with the best bed-in
the seventeenth century often the parlor and in the
eighteenth century usually the bedroom.50 The deli-
cate smell of linens and the snowy whiteness of the
sheets were cherished memories of many nine-
A looking glass was either suspended over the
dressing table or placed upon it. Sarah Anna Em-
ery's grandmother's front room with its green mo-
reen bed furniture had "a handsome dressing table,
a fine specimen of the sculptured frames of the pe-
riod, with several drawers and compartments. Over
this hung a glass, the plate surrounded by an orna-
mental wreath, and a frame of colored glass, set in
mahogany moulding."52 Bureaus with attached
dressing mirrors replaced the dressing table in popu-
larity53 (see Pls. IV, V and Fig. 10), but throughout
Fig. 7. Mrs. Nicholas Salisbury (1704-1792), by
Christian Gullager (1759-1826), 1789. Oil on canvas,
351 %6 by 28% inches. Piping defines the capacious
contours of Mrs. Salisbury's easy chair. The dramati-
cally patterned damask upholstery, the highly pol-
ished round stand, and the glossy dress fabric would
all have been enhanced by candle and fire light. As a
child of eight in Albany in 1762, Anne Grant first
met the distinguished Catherine Van Rensselaer
Schuyler (1734-1803). "I think I have not been on
any occasion more astonished, than when, with no
little awe and agitation, I came into the presence of
Madame. She was sitting; and filled a great chair,
from which she seldom moved" (Memoirs of an
American Lady, vol. 2 [London, 1808], p. 145).
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, gift
of Stephen Salisbury III.
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries both forms
had damask, diaper, calico, or dimity scarves to pro-
tect their surfaces4 (see Pls. III, IV and Figs. 8, 10).
Eliza Leslie noted in 1840 that "Unless the top of the
bureau is of marble, it is usual to cover it with a
white cloth, either of damask linen, or of dimity,
fringed."ss She added that "Dressing tables of plain,
unpainted wood, with white covers, and valances of
muslin made full and deep, and descending to the
floor, are not yet quite out of use"'6 (see Pls. VI, VII
and Figs. 3, 9). In 1783 Tom Shippen described his
modish bedchamber at Westover, the Byrd estate in
Virginia, where in addition to handsome family por-
traits there was "a rich scotch carpet, and... the
curtains and chair covers are of the finest crimson
silk damask, my bottle and bason of thick and beau-
tiful china, and my toilet which stands under a gilt
framed looking glass, is covered with a finely
worked muslin."57 Mrs. Royall Tyler sketched her
far simpler home in Brattleboro, Vermont, where
"There was no carpet on any room but the parlor;
carpets were rarities in Vermont at that time; but
we had curtains to the bed and windows, two white
dressed toilet tables, and a few very common
chairs."58 In a best chamber in Newburyport Sarah
Anna Emery found "A toilet table tastily covered
with white muslin, and ornamented by blue ribbon
bows" which "stood between the front windows...
and there was a novelty, the first wash-stand I ever
saw, a pretty triangular one of mahogany, a light
graceful pattern to fit into a corner of the room.""9
White. With the Adjoining Cham-
ber in Which He Died at His Resi-
dence in Walnut St. Philadelphia,
by John Sartain (1808-1897).
Mezzotint, 3 by 4 inches; oppo-
site p. 267 in Wilson Bird, Memoir
Sof the Life of the Right Rev. Wil-
liam White (Philadelphia, 1839).
The painting by Sartain after
which he made the print was il-
lustrated in color in ANTIQUES for
January 1978, p. 150. Beyond the
study is a bedchamber with Chip-
pendale chairs primly ranged
around the walls, a scarf on the
S bureau, curtainless but shuttered
windows, and straw carpeting.
Anna Parsons, helping Elizabeth
Margaret Carter prepare her new
home on Pitt Street, Boston, noted
S on April 7, 1821: "Decided on car-
pets. Straw for two chambers,
green & white Kidderminster for
another" ("A Newburyport Wed-
ding One Hundred and Thirty
Years Ago the Bride, Elizabeth
Margaret Carter," Essex Institute
Historical Collections, vol. 87
, p. 313). New York Public
Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden
By the end of the eighteenth century a washstand
had become a characteristic piece of bedroom furni-
ture, more and more often accompanied by a stand-
ing towel rack. Eliza Leslie advised that "In front of
the washing-stand, and some distance beneath, it is
well to have a breadth of oil-cloth nailed down upon
Fig. 9. The Riddle: Now Guess
What My Disease Can Be! For,
Both, the Cause, and Cure, You
See, by Henry R. Robinson (w.
1843-1851), 1843. Colored litho-
graph, 7V2 by 10V2 inches. Here
again is the fashionably draped
toilet table. Eliza Leslie noted in
1840 that "Large, deep sofas, with
square pillows, are now consid-
ered essential articles of furniture
in bed-rooms. These sofas are gen-
erally covered with furniture
chintz, or dimity, or damasked
brown linen; and are very useful
in case of illness, or to recline on
for an afternoon nap" (The House
Book, p. 296). National Museum of
American History, Washington,
D. C., Harry T. Peters' "America on
the carpet, which will thus be saved from much in-
jury by splashing of water in emptying pitchers and
basins."60 When Polly Bennett took stock of her
household furnishings in Bridport, Vermont, in 1849
she noted in the large chamber "1 Wash Stand-
bowl and Pitcher/2 Bits Oil Cloth."61
Eliza Leslie also suggested that "The carpet on a
chamber will last and look well longer if there are
extra pieces to lay round the bed, taking them up
and shaking them every day."62 Although against the
use of extensive carpeting in summer, she advised
the continued use of the bedside carpet (see P1. III
and Fig. 1). In the back chamber at Governor John
Penn's Chestnut Street house in Philadelphia in 1788
were "a Scotch carpet and 2 bed-[side] ditto, new,"
and in the front chamber, "2 beautiful Wilton, be-
side carpets perfectly new," while the 1795 inven-
tory of his country estate, Lansdowne, lists bedside
carpets in two bedrooms and a "carpet round the
bed" in a third.63 Although extensive carpets in eight-
eenth- and nineteenth-century bedchambers were
reserved for the homes of the wealthy, they became
increasingly common as the nineteenth century ad-
vanced (see Pls. II, V, VI and Figs. 3, 9-11). Caroline
King referred to the use of straw matting in bed-
rooms64 (see P1. III and Fig. 8). Samuel Goodrich re-
called that in Massachusetts in the nineteenth cen-
tury "The chambers were all without carpets."65
Ellen Rollins remembered that the bedroom floors
at her grandfather's farm "were kept strewn with
sand,-a cheap, changeful covering which at night I
used to scrawl over with skeleton pictures, to be
scattered in the morning."66
The best bedchambers of the rich might be orna-
mented with large carpets, handsome paintings,
looking glasses, polished case pieces, sumptuous
easy chairs, side chairs in profusion, and resplen-
dent beds-perhaps like the one Sarah Anna Emery
described that had a silk canopy "gathered around
an oval mirror set in the centre of the arched top."67
However, simple low-post beds, curtainless win-
dows, bare floors, a table, and a small looking glass
might constitute the furnishings in the chamber of
his less fortunate neighbor. Some of these bedrooms
evoked a serene, changeless atmosphere; others re-
sounded with lively high jinks such as Lucinda Lee's
at Bushfield, Corbin Washington's Virginia house, in
I must tell you of our frolic after we went to our room. We
took it into our heads to want to eat; well, we had a large
dish of bacon and beaf; after that, a bowl of Sago cream;
and after that, an apple pye. While we were eating the ap-
ple pye in bed-God bless you! making a great noise-in
came Mr. Washington, dressed in Hannah's [his wife, Han-
nah Lee] short gown and petticoat, and seized me and
'kissed me twenty times, in spite of all the resistance I
could make; and then Cousin Molly. Hannah soon fol-
lowed, dress'd in his Coat. They joined us in eating the ap-
ple pye, and then went out. After this we took it into our
heads to want to eat oysters. We got up, put on our rap-
pers, and went down in the Seller to get them: do you
think Mr. Washington did not follow us and scear us just
to death. We went up tho, and eat our oysters."68
But all these chambers "showed that sleep was a
luxury, well understood and duly cherished by all
Fig. 10. City Bedroom, by A. Mayor (w. in Brooklyn
1850-1867), 1867. Inscribed in ink on the back, pour
une chere Julia le 21 mars 1867. Watercolor on paper,
5 2 by 6 2 inches. Note the dressing bureau with
mirror, the silhouette, bureau with scarf, and wash-
stand. Caroline King remarked, "Sometimes these
forlorn apartments would be lighted up by rich old
Canton china toilet sets, blue and white, or finer still
the light green India covered with colored flowers,
with stately long-necked ewers, and basins so large
that a baby might be drowned in their gor-
geous depths. But the beauty and value of these
Eastern treasures was very little appreciated then.
Some seafaring friend had brought them home, and
being large and heavy they were relegated to the
spare chamber, which was the general receptacle
for all the doubtful or useless things in the house"
(When I Lived in Salem, p. 185). Della Lutes revealed
a particular instance of Victorian prudery in Michi-
gan when she recalled "the china washbowl and
pitcher in the spare bedroom with soap dish and
other accessories sacred to the use of company and
the travelling schoolma'am. These stood on a piece
of furniture known as a commode, inside the lower
compartment of which was another of the same pat-
tern not mentioned in polite society. This, and the ac-
companying jar which stood on the floor at the side
of the commode, had a crocheted hood, not so much
for the purpose of decoration as a contribution to
the accepted rules of modesty. For the schoolma'am
or a visiting girl to have made a clatter, however
mild, with either device would have brought the
blush of shame to her cheek" (Home Grown [Boston,
1937], p. 95). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, M. and M.
SRuth Huntington Sessions, Sixty-Odd (Brattleboro, Vermont, 1936), p. 25.
The author was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 3, 1859.
Her grandmother Mrs. Epes Sargent (nee Mary Otis Lincoln; 1795-1870)
had moved with her husband to the Sessions' house, Cedar Square, in Rox-
bury about 1840 (see Emma Worcester Sargent, Epes Sargent of Gloucester
and His Descendants [Boston, 1923], pp. 28-29, 41).
2 David John Jeremy, ed., Henry Wansey and his American Journal 1794,
(Philadelphia, 1970), pp. 80-81.
'Quoted in Abbott Lowell Cummings, Rural Household Inventories (Bos-
ton, 1964), pp. 180, 183.
4 Quoted in Autobiography, Correspondence, etc. Lyman Beecher, D. D., ed.
Charles Beecher (New York, 1865), vol. 1, p. 527.
5 Mark Twain, Mississippi Writings, ed. Guy Cardwell (New York, 1982), p.
Fig. 11. Bed Chamber of Judge Lemuel Shaw [1781-
1861], c. 1916. When this photograph was published
in the Bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of
New England Antiquities in December 1916 the cap-
tion read in part, "long occupied by his mother,
who, after the death of her husband, Reverend
Oakes Shaw, left Barnstable and spent the rest of
her life with her son [at 49 Mount Vernon Street] in
Boston. She brought the furniture with her, and also
the pictures over the mantel. In Chief Justice Shaw's
last illness he used the room, and died in the white-
covered arm-chair. The Chief Justice's second wife
was Hope Savage whose mother was a Doane, and
on the wall at the right of the bed is the Doane coat
of arms. The fire screen was worked by Mrs. Savage
and the rocking-chair and little table belonged to her
and came from Barnstable" (pp. 15-17). Fire
screens are occasionally mentioned in bedroom in-
ventories, and corner chairs (this one is not period)
were properly bedroom furnishings. Joshua Crosby
had "Two corner half Moon Chairs Walnut" in the
back chamber of his Philadelphia house in 1775
(quoted in Hornor, Blue Book, p. 200). Some of these
were fitted with a commode, like the "three-corner'd
Close Chair" in Mary Standley's back chamber
(quoted in ibid.). In Judge Lemuel Shaw's chamber
the rocking chair appears to have been the commode
chair. The dozen antique views are indicative of the
large numbers of prints and paintings found in lux-
urious bedchambers. Their grouping over the mantel
reminds one of the "6 Views of the River S'
Lawrince of [over] the fireplace" in Joshua Loring's
Massachusetts house (quoted in Cummings, Rural
Household Inventories, p. xxxvi). Caroline King de-
scribed the use of bed steps: "Of course the bedstead
... was the chief feature in these old time rooms. No
pillow or sheet shams, or indeed any kind of sham,
ever desecrated the solid reality of those monumen-
tal structures. Sometimes they stood so high in their
carven and.decorated dignity that a short flight of
steps was necessary, in order to enter their downy
recesses.... But I remember when I was a child,
staying in a house in a country village, where night
and morning were made fearful to me by the pros-
pect of having to climb up and down these 'bed
steps,' as they were called. The fear was emphasized
by the fact that the bed was piled up very high in the
middle, so that unless I landed exactly in the centre
of the mountainous island, on my first entrance, I
passed my night in rolling down hill, or in vain ef-
forts to scramble up to the top, to avoid falling out
on the floor" (When I Lived in Salem, p. 186). Boston
6 E. H. Arr [Ellen Hobbs Rollins], New England Bygones (Philadelphia,
1883), pp. 70-71. Ellen Hobbs was born in Wakefeld, New Hampshire, on
April 30, 1831.
7 Ibid., p. 66.
8 See ANTIOUES for January 1983, p. 215, PI. I, and p. 224, Fig. 6; and Feb-
ruary 1974, p. 378, Fig. 4.
9 Quoted in Cummings, Rural Household Inventories, p. 213.
I0 Quoted in ibid., pp. 230 -231.
" "The Downstairs Bedroom," Atlantic Monthly, vol. 160, no. I (July 1937),
12 "The Passing of the Spare Chamber," Atlantic Monthly, vol. 83, no. 495
(January 1899), p. 140.
13 Caroline Howard King, When I Lived in Salem 1822-1866 (Brattleboro,
Vermont, 1937), p. 184.
14 "The Passing of the Spare Chamber," p. 140.
15 When I Lived in Salem, p. 189.
16 Ibid., p. 23.
17 Ibid., pp. 185 -186.
'8 For an excellent discussion of the nineteenth-century bedroom see Rus-
sell Lynes, The Domesticated Americans (New York, 1963), pp. 204 -218.
" The House Book or, A Manual of Domestic Economy (Philadelphia, 1840),
20 Memoirs of an American Lady (London, 1808), vol. 1, p. 165. For a dis-
cussion of bed hangings see ANTIQUES for December 1973, pp. 1068-1075;
and Florence M. Montgomery, Printed Textiles (New York, 1970), pp. 49-
21 Quoted in Nicholas B. Wainwright, Colonial Grandeur in Philadelphia:
The House and Furniture of General John Cadwalader (Philadelphia, 1964),
pp. 40, 42-43.
22 lWhen I Lived in Salem, p. 186.
23 See ibid., pp. 118-119.
24 Ibid., pp. 186-187.
25 Quoted in Autobiography, Correspondence, etc. Lyman Beecher, pp. 310-
312. For a chintz that displays all the imagery here described see Mont-
gomery, Printed Textiles, p. 266, Fig. 275 (inner border of quilt).
26 Cicely Cawthon, a former Georgia slave interviewed on July 15, 1937,
reminisced: "Everything inside of Marster's house was mahogany. They
had curtains around the beds, tall beds, with them high posts. That's all
the kind of beds they had, except little trundle beds you could slip up un-
der the big bed in the daytime, pull it out at night and put the chillun to
sleep" (Slavery Time When I was Chillun Down on Marster's Plantation, ed.
Ronald Killion and Charles Waller [Savannah, Georgia, 1973], p. 35).
27 Cummings, Rural Household Inventories, p. 192.
28 Quoted in Autobiography, Correspondence, etc. Lyman Beecher, p. 310.
29 Enos Hitchcock, The Farmer's Friend, or the History of Mr. Charles Wor-
thy (Boston, 1793), p. 101.
30 New England Bygones, pp. 107 -108.
31 Una Pope-Hennessy, ed., The Aristocratic Journey (New York, 1931), p.
32 Henry Wansey and His American Journal 1794, p. 71.
33 The House Book, p. 307.
4 See ANTIQUES for March 1974, pp. 522-531; and Montgomery, Printed
Textiles, p. 66.
35 Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian (Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1879),
36 The following description is of a fictional bedchamber in Abraham Spif-
fard's Boston house near the summit of Fort-hill: "Zeb.... saw and felt, as
soon as he entered, that the Chamber had been prepared with a view to
his permanent residence and future comfort.... A narrow bed, much
longer than necessary, with quilted calico coverlet well stuffed with cotton
wool, surrounded by calico curtains, on which were depicted Lord Anson,
his ship, his sailors, and the groves and fountains of the isles of those de-
lightful climes.... Below this pictured enclosure was a resting place of
down (or goose feathers) covered by sheets and pillowcase white as the
driven snow. A table (over which hung a mahogany framed looking-glass;
and, on which stood a neat writing desk completely furnished) was placed
on the side of the room opposite the bed. Two mahogany chairs, solid and
heavy, with calico covered bottoms were deemed sufficient for the boy-
and here again Lord Anson, his ship, and his sailors, appeared in undimin-
ished beauty" (William Dunlap, Thirty Years Ago; or the Memoirs of a Wa-
ter Drinker [New York, 1836], vol. 1, p. 70).
37 Quoted in William Macpherson Hornor Jr., Blue Book Philadelphia Fur-
niture (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 158.
38 John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, vol. 2
(Washington, D. C., 1931), pp. 319-320.
Leonard W. Labaree, ed., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 7 (New
Haven, 1963), p. 382.
41 Sarah Anna Emery recalled being sent to watch her aunt Susy Dole,
who "was a confirmed invalid....I returned to the bedroom and sinking
into aunt Susy's easy chair, unintentionally dropped asleep" (Reminis-
cences of a Nonagenarian, pp. 83-84). See also ANTIQUES for December
1971, pp. 886-893; Morrison H. Heckscher, In Quest of Comfort (Metropoli-
tan Museum of Art, 1971); and Wendy A. Cooper, In Praise of America
(New York, 1980), p. 66.
41 Diary of a Boston School Girl Written by Anna Green Winslow 1771, ed.
Alice Morse Earle (Boston, 1894), p. 23.
42 "My grandmother, after her afternoon nap, usually joined her daugh-
ters, with a pretence of knitting, but she was not an industrious old lady.
There was no necessity for work; and if idle hours are a sin, I fear the
good woman had much to answer for. Leaning back in her easy-chair, she
beguiled the time with watching the splendid prospect, with its ever-vary-
ing lights and shades, or joined in the harmless gossip of some neighbor-
ing woman, who had run in with her sewing, for an hour's chat" (Emery,
Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, p. 8). At a wedding levee on April 24,
1821, in the parlor of a house on State Street, Newburyport, "Doctor Pres-
cott next harangued the audience from the easy chair (which, by the way,
he occupied all the evening to the annoyance of those who, selfishly
wished it for themselves) and eloquently decided the cake was beautiful"
("A Newburyport Wedding One Hundred and Thirty Years Ago the Bride,
Elizabeth Margaret Carter," Essex Institute Historical Collections, vol. 87
, p. 326).
43 The House Book, p. 296.
44 Ibid. "Here was my parents' bedroom with its huge, massive furniture,
carved and decorated with intricate designs of flowers and fruit. The
wide, high-backed bed was covered by an enormous eiderdown quilt
which they had brought with them from Germany. The marble topped bu-
reau with its high mirror reached almost to the ceiling. There were a few
straight chairs with upholstered seats and wooden frames, a rather stiff
and prim-looking couch, a large, intricate bentwood rocking chair, and my
own little bed. A marble mantelpiece on which stood a marble clock, some
figurines (one of them concealing a match box), and two vases inscribed
with my mother's name and mine, completed the picture" (Meta Lilien-
thal, Dear Remembered World [New York, 1947], p. 12). "The parents'
room [in the 1890's] would be an upstairs sitting room also, with a desk
somewhere spilling with small change and account books, and at the fur-
ther end a vast walnut bed whose back rose to the ceiling, a cliff of pol-
ished veneer topped by a meaningless escutcheon. Other monumental
pieces of black walnut flanked it at either side, and at the foot was a crib
for the smallest child, or a green plush sofa for naps" (quoted in Samuel
Rapport and Patricia Schartle, eds., America Remembers [New York,
1956], p. 17).
P1. IV. Detail of Mr. J. S. Russell's Room at Mrs.
Smith's Broad Street 1853, by Joseph Shoemaker Rus-
sell (1795-1860), 1853. Watercolor on paper. (An ar-
ticle about this and other views by Russell appeared
in ANTIQUES for January 1951, pp. 52-53). Caroline
King, describing a similar bedroom, wrote: "And
here I must not forget to make honorable mention of
a form of art omnipresent in these old time rooms. I
mean the silhouettes cut from black paper, of the
prim and proper profiles of a stately old gentleman
with a queue and prominent shirt ruffles, and a still
more stately old lady in a two storied cap and many
lace frills about her throat, holding a bag with a
clasp in her hand. These-can we call them decora-
tions-modestly framed in narrow black and gold
frames, were very often to be seen hanging on each
side of the bureau" (When I Lived in Salem, p. 188).
Ellen Rollins pictured a New Hampshire spare bed-
room in this way, with "a low bedstead hung with
checked brown and white linen. Between the two
front windows was a looking-glass in a queer little
frame, with a silhouette picture of my grandfather
and grandmother on either side of it" (New England
Bygones [Philadelphia, 1883], p. 77). Private collec-
tion; Helga photograph.
ILI' Jw'-:u~ 'J I. ~ i
PI. V. Front Chamber of House No. 42 South 8'h
Street. Residence of J. S. Russell in 1835, by Russell,
1835. Watercolor on paper. The sparseness of the
furnishings suggests that this was the spare room.
"We have no spare chamber. I have been troubled
about it for a long while. Yesterday it occurred to me
that the Browns have no spare chamber, either, nor
the Robinsons, nor the Stuyvesants, and I am more
troubled than ever.... the family might have only
three chambers: one of these was sacred. The
feather bed rose plump and impregnable in its re-
cesses. The green paper shades shut out all but a
chink of light, the caneseat chairs stood stiff against
the wall, and clean straw rustled under the taut
'store carpet'.... We had a spare chamber at first.
When the baby came, we turned it into a nursery.
We cleaned out a store-room for the nurse, and used
the little backroom for a drying-room. Grandmother,
when her first baby came, took it into her own bed.
When another baby came to crowd it out, there was
the trundle-bed that stood under the big bed all day,
and rolled out at night with a sleepy rumble. And
when more babies still came to crowd the trundle-
bed, the first baby, a big boy, six years old now, had
a bed made for him at the head of the back stairs, or
up garret, under the sloping eaves. The rain lulled
him to sleep, and the snow drifted in sometimes. In
the spare chamber the big bed loomed untouched. It
hovered in his dreams, a presence not to be put by.
The snow, the rain, the stars, and the spare chamber
made a poet of him. We have no poets now" ("The
Passing of the Spare Chamber," Atlantic Monthly,
vol. 83, no. 495 [January 1899], pp. 140-141). Private
collection; Helga photograph.
45 Helen M. Morgan, ed., A Season in New York 1801; Letters of Harriet and
Maria Trumbull (Pittsburgh, 1969), p. 52.
46 Quoted in Cummings, Rural Household Inventories, p. 201.
47 Quoted in ibid., p. xxvii.
48 Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture, p. 112.
4 Sarah Anna Emery observed, "A high case of drawers was the chief or-
nament to the best bedroom, the others boasting of only a chest of draw-
ers" (Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, p. 6).
50 Although bedchambers were not used for dining after the early eight-
eenth century, the table linens were stored in them along with the other
household linens. In Benjamin Prat's middle chamber were stored, per-
haps in a closet, "Nine Table Cloths large and small, Six coarse Napkins,
Six damask hand Napkins, Four d? Table Cloths, Four p' Holland Sheets,
Five p' coarse Sheets and one odd one, Five p' Pillowcases new & old, One
p' Cotton Sheets" (quoted in Cummings, Rural Household Inventories, p.
201). Robert Oliver kept his linen in the "Marble Chamber" (quoted in
ibid., p. 192). In the front room of Ellen Rollins' grandfather's house, to-
gether with the showy bed, was a bureau "always crammed with fine
twined linens, white as snow, and scented with lavender and roseleaves"
(New England Bygones, p. 73).
5 "I was given a good bed, snow-white sheets, and a fine counterpane" (J.
P. Brissot de Warville, New Travels in the United States of America 1788, ed.
Durand Echeverria [Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964], p. 163). "The furni-
ture was old-timey and plain; mahogany and rosewood bedsteads and
dressers black with age, and polished till they shone like mirrors, hung
with draperies white as snow" (Thomas Nelson Page, The Old South
[Chautauquta, New York, 1919]. p. 145). "Of my peculiar fancies, I cannot
recall the time when agreeable odors, faint and sweet, but not strong, and
the sight of pure white linen and white wax candles, were not delightful to
me" ([Mrs. A. M. Richards], Memories of a Grandmother, by a Lad), of
Massachusetts [Boston, 1854], p. 33).
52 Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, p. 6.
53 As Sarah Anna Emery reminisced, "The chambers were still furnished
with hangings to the bedsteads but bureaus had supplanted the case of
drawers" ibidd., p. 244).
54 In nineteenth-century rural houses the bureau with mirror was some-
times located in a downstairs sitting room. In 1849 Polly Bennett of Brid-
port, Vermont, had in her sitting room "1 Mahogany Dressing Beauro
with L. Glass attached," and "1 small R[ocking] chair and beauro and
glass (Lucy's)" (quoted in ANTIQUES for August 1969, p. 232).
55 The House Book, p. 299.
56 Ibid., p. 300. See also Lady With Plumed Headdress, in the National Gal-
lery of Art, Washington, D. C., Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Gar-
P1. VI. Portrait of a Lady of the Cuyler Family, artist
unknown, c. 1790. Oil on canvas, 26 a by 20% inches.
Long believed to portray Anna Wendell Cuyler
(1736-1775), of Albany County, New York, in whose
family the painting descended, the sitter is more
likely to be her daughter Catharine (b. 1764). (See
Tammis Kane Groft, The Folk Spirit of Albany [Al-
bany Institute of History and Art, 1978], p. 6.) The
sitter was obviously a fashionable lady, for the por-
trait was painted when toilet tables hung with white
were just becoming popular. In 1840 Eliza Leslie di-
rected, "On the toilet table keep always your dress-
ing-case, your bottles of cologne, Florida water, etc.,
and a large pincushion, filled with pins of different
sizes, including some that are very long and stout,
for the purpose of pinning shawls" (The House Book,
p. 301). Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany,
New York; Helga photograph.
P1. VII. Mrs. John Moale [1740-1825] and Her
Granddaughter Ellen North Moale [1794-1803], by
Joshua Johnston (or Johnson; w. in Baltimore 1796-
1824), c. 1803. Oil on canvas, 402 by 35% inches. In
this painting the toilet table may symbolize the femi-
nine bond between grandmother and granddaughter
and a snow-white innocence, yet the toilet table
sometimes symbolized profligate vanity. Describing
Mrs. Worthy's estimable parlor chamber, Enos
Hitchcock wrote in 1793, "There was no toilet at
which our ladies spend so much of their time, but a
little white table covered with a napkin" (The Farm-
er's Friend, or the History of Mr. Charles Worthy [Bos-
ton, 1793], p. 101). In the first American edition of
his Hints on Household Taste (Boston, 1872), Charles
Locke Eastlake protested "humbly but emphatically
against the practice which exists of encircling toilet-
tables with a sort of muslin petticoat generally stiff-
ened by a crinoline of pink or blue calico. Something
of the same kind may be occasionally seen twisted
round the frame of the toilet-glass. They just repre-
sent a milliner's notion of the 'pretty,' and nothing
more" (pp. 217-218). Yet Nathalie Dana recalled
that in the corner of her mother's bedroom on Park
Avenue in New York City in the 1890's "stood a
washstand draped in box-pleated, dotted muslin over
blue" (Young in New York [New York, 1963], p. 14).
Photograph by courtesy of Christie's.
57 Anne Home Shippen Livingston, Nancy Shippen Her Journal Book, ed.
Ethel Armes (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 305.
58 Grandmother Tyler's Book: The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler 1775-
1866, ed. Frederick Tupper and Helen Tyler Brown (New York, 1925), p.
59 Reminiscences of a Nonagenerian, p. 32.
6o The House Book, p. 178.
6' Quoted in ANTIQUES for August 1969, p. 232.
62 The House Book, p. 178.
6 Quoted in ANTIQUES for May 1931, p. 378; and June 1931, p. 455.
64 When I Lived in Salem, p. 185.
65 Quoted in Barrows Mussey, ed., We Were New England Yankee Life, by
Those Who Lived It (New York, 1937), p. 141.
" New England Bygones, p. 66.
67 Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, p. 243.
'8 [Lucinda Lee Orr], Journal of a Young Lady of Virginia 1782 (Baltimore,
1871), p. 41.
69 Quoted in Mussey, We Were New England, p. 141.