NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
The Most Splendid Carpet
1. Jules David Prown, "Style in American Art
1750-1800;" in American Art, 1750-1800; Towards
Independence (Boston, 1976), p. 32.
2. Ibid., p. 39.
CHAPTER I: A Masterpiece for the Senate
1. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of
the United States (1789), comp. Joseph Gales (Washington: 1834), p.
2. William Maclay, Journal of William Maclay,
United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789-1791, ed. Edgar
S. Maclay (New York: 1890), pp. 293, 311.
3. George Washington to Oliver Wolcott, Sr., July 4,
1790, quoted in Oliver Wolcott, Memoirs of the Administrations of
Washington and John Adams, ed. George Gibbs (New York: 1846), p.
4. "Amount of Disbursements paid by the Commissioners
of the City and County of Philadelphia, for fitting the New County Court
House, for the accommodation of Congress (1791)," MS, the Pennsylvania
Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, hereinafter cited as
5. "Extracts from the Diary of Jacob Hiltzheimer,
1768-1798," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography,
XVI (1892), 414, hereinafter cited as PMHB. Entry for Dec. 3, 1790.
6. "Voucher #180, Vouchers, Jan. 1793 #175#199,
Congress Hall, Phila. 1790's," MS, PHMC.
7. Because the iron mordant used to dye wool black
was caustic, it is possible, even probable, that the brown-black
background of the carpet's central medallion simply disintegrated. The
side panels were more likely to survive, since green was a color which
did not damage wool fibers.
CHAPTER II: Floorcoverings in America to 1800
1. Tobias Lear to Clement Biddle, Feb. 10, 1790, in Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Source, ed. John C.
Fitzpatrick (Washington: 1931-34), Vol. 31, 8-9
2. John Fanning Watson, Annals of Philadelphia, ed. Willis P.
Hazard (rev. ed. Philadelphia: 1898), I, 205.
3. Information on Thomas Moore from Wendy Hefford, "Thomas Moore of
Moorfields," Burlington Magazine, no. 897, CXIX (December,
4. Thomas Whitty, "A retrospective view of the origin and progress of
the Axminster Carpet Manufactory, written in the year 1790," quoted in
Bertram Jacobs, Axminster Carpets (Leigh-on-Sea, England: 1970),
5. Hefford, p. 848.
6. "Tow" refers to short, broken and ravelled fibers selected out of the
finer, longer threads destined for the manufacture of fine linen. They
were used to make rough yarns.
7. Rev. Edward D. Clarke, A Tour through the South
of England, Wales and part of Ireland made during the summer of 1791
(London: 1793), pp. 48-49.
8. New York advertisements quoted in Rita Gottesman,
comp., The Arts and Crafts in New York 1726-1776 (New York:
1970), pp. 125-6, and The Arts and Crafts in New York
1777-1799 (New York: 1954), p. 132.
9. Margaret L. Brown, "Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham,
Rulers of the Republican Court," PMHB, LXI (1937),
10. Henry Wansey, Henry Wansey and his American
Journal, ed. David J. Jeremy (Philadelphia: 1970), p. 105, entry for
Sunday, June 8, 1794. This passage implies that Moorfields and Axminster
carpets could be identified on the basis of design or pattern. Indeed,
documents at Uppark, Sussex, show that its Moorfields carpet was a
"stock" pattern, and suggests that other patterns may have been produced
in numbers as well.
CHAPTER III: English Influences in Design
1. Robert Adam and James Adam, Works in
Architecture (London: 1773), I, Preface.
2. Clifford Musgrave, "Architecture," in The Late
Georgian Period, 1760-1810 (London: 1961), p. 19.
3. Robert Adam quoted in Musgrave, p. 20.
4. James Wyatt to George III, quoted in Musgrave, p.
5. It is interesting to compare three Axminster
products designed for Devonshire House in London, built in the 1730's by
William Kent, with the neoclassical carpets of a later fashion.
Thoroughly baroque in design, the Devonshire House carpets, now at
Chatsworth, are worlds apart from the Adam designed carpets for Saltram
House with their geometric compartments, balanced rosettes and precise
rinceaux. Nor were they designed to reflect a ceiling or to fit into a
closely knit overall scheme; Devonshire House (demolished earlier in
this century), had restrained baroque moldings and deep vaulted ceilings
with unusually simple medallions. Here the carpets were the most ornate
part of the overall scheme.
CHAPTER IV: William Peter Sprague, Carpet Manufacturer
1. Jacobs, p. 35.
2. Clipping of obituary of Mary W. Strickland, April
22, 1848, Pittsburgh, exact source unidentified.
4. Description of house at 422 North Third, and pew
information, from "Campington Pew Acct, (1793-1794)," MS,
Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.
5. No will could be located in Philadelphia records,
indicating that he probably died intestate.
6. Pardoe Yates, President of the Wilton Company in
England, who had bought the Axminster looms in 1836 and moved the
business to Wilton, founded an American branch in Elizabethport, New
Jersey in 1891. Hand-knotted carpets were made there for a short time,
but the factory lost money and closed after only a few years. Jacobs, p.
7. Much of the following material is taken from John
C. Milley, "Furnishings Plan for the Second Floor of Congress Hall,"
(Part D), Oct. 1965, Report, Independence National Historical Park,
8. A new inspection in 1977 by the present author
confirmed this report.
9. See Frank H. Sommer, "Emblem and Device: The
Origin of the Great Seal of the United States," The Art
Quarterly, Vol. 24 (Spring, 1961), 56-76.
10. Neither Mt. Vernon nor the Smithsonian
Institution attribute the carpet to Sprague, as stated by Rodris Roth in
Floor Coverings in 18th Century America, Paper 59, U.S.
National Museum Bulletin, 250 (Washington: 1967), p. 43.
CHAPTER V: Elements of Design in the Senate's Carpet
1. The locations of the six "Lansdowne design"
carpets which survive are: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The
Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Philadelphia Museum of Art;
Boscobel, Garrison, New York; Rockbeare Manor, Devonshire, England;
Stourhead, Wiltshire, England. These carpets will be referred to
generally as "the Lansdowne carpets" for the sake of simplicity.
2. Thomas Fitzsimons to Miers Fisher, Esqr. New York,
July 16, 1790, Miers Fisher Papers, Historical Society of
4. Charles Avery, "Antwerp, August 1577,"
Connoisseur, Vol. 195, no. 786 (August, 1977), 252.
5. Cited in Alfred Coxe Prime, The Arts and Crafts
in Philadelphia, Maryland and South Carolina, 1721-1785
(Topsfield, Mass.: 1929), p. 193.
6. Ibid., pp. 16, 31.
7. William Barton, "Report, June 19, 1782," quoted in
Gaillard Hunt, The History of the Seal of the United States
(Washington: 1909), p. 37.
8. Charles Thomson, "Report to Congress, June 20,
1782," quoted in Hunt, p. 42.
9. The symbol in heraldry which resembled the
five-pointed star familiar to us today was really not a star, but a
"mullet." The mullet, although frequently seen in family crests,
including that of the Washington family, was inappropriate for the seal
envisaged by Thomson and Barton. Instead of indicating the rising star
of a new nation, it could be interpreted as a falling star, according to
Edmondson, and thus might be charged with a connotation most unfavorable
to the United States.
10. Sommer, "Emblem and Device:...," pp. 58, 68.
11. Not everyone agreed, however. Benjamin Franklin
for one, was horrified:
"... I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative
of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get
his living honestly; you may have seen him perched on some dead tree,
where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the
fishing-hawk; and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a
fish, and is bearing it to his nest... the bald eagle pursues him and
takes it from him.... Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird,
not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the
district. ... / I am, on this account, not displeased that the
figure is not known as a bald eagle, but looks more like a turkey." Benjamin
Franklin, The Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin, ed. John
Bigelow (New York: 1888), VIII, 444-45.
12. Philip M. Isaacson, The American Eagle (Boston: 1975), p.
13. At Osterley Park a whole sequence of rooms is
tied together by means of this motif used first in woodwork, then as a plaster
decoration for a cornice, in an embroidered fire screen, and finally
as the main motif of a luxurious bedside carpet made by Thomas Moore.
14. B. J. Cigrand, Story of the Great Seal
(Chicago: 1903), p. 156.
15. Hunt, p. 14. On all representations of the chain
of states which name or abbreviate the states, they are, in order from
top center, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This was a traditional
arrangement based on the north to south order in which the States'
representatives had been arranged during the Continental Congress, and
the order in which they signed the Declaration of Independence.
16. Barton, as quoted in Hunt, p. 26.
17. For a lengthy discussion of the development of
the liberty pole and cap, and of their use with "Britannia," see Bobbye
Burke, "The Liberty Cap in America and France" (Master's Thesis,
University of Pennsylvania, 1971), and Frank H. Sommer, "The
Metamorphoses of Britannia," in American Art: 1750-1800,
Towards Independence, Charles F. Montgomery and Patricia E. Kane,
general eds. (Boston: 1976), pp. 40-49.
18. Joseph Richardson, Iconology (London:
1779), p. 39.
19. Ibid., p. 39.
20. Inigo Jones used crossed cornucopias as early as
1640. Isaac Ware, giving directions in 1767 for designing ceilings,
declared that "in the corners there will very properly stand so many
cornucopias," which, he thought, "answer very well to this space." Isaac
Ware, A Complete Body of Architecture (London: 1767), p. 544.
21. George Washington, Diaries, ed. John C.
Fitzpatrick (Boston: 1925), Vol. 4, 34.
22. Francois Blondel, Cours d'Architecture
(Paris: 1698, Seconde Partie), p. 175. Translation by Susan Anderson.
23. Edgar A. Werner, Civil List and Constitutional
History of the Colony and State of New York (Albany: 1884), p.
24. Catherine Lynn Frangiamore, "Landscape Wallpaper
in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion," Antiques, CXII, 6 (December, 1977),
25. Hefford, p. 848.
CHAPTER VI: The Senate and Republican Respectability
1. Maclay, p. 22.
2. Thomas Jefferson, "Preamble to the Bill for
General Diffusion of Knowledge. Revised Laws of the State of Virginia,
1779," Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. P. L. Ford (New York:
1892), II, 220.
3. Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Selected
Writings of Thomas Jefferson, eds. Adrienne Koch and William H.
Peden (New York: 1944), p. 39.
4. Quoted in Charles Warren, The Making of the
Constitution (Cambridge, Mass.: 1947), pp. 194-195.
5. Ibid., p. 195.
6. James Madison, The Debates in the Federal
Convention of 1787, eds. Gaillard Hunt and James B. Scott
(Washington: 1920), p. 33.
7. James Campbell to John Adams, July 4, 1787, quoted
in Warren, p. 268.
8. Thomas Jefferson, Papers, ed. J. P. Boyd
(Princeton: 1950), Vol. 4, 286.
9. Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, January 26,
1799, in Life and Selected Writings, p. 545.
10. John Adams, Defence of the Constitutions of
Government of the United States of America (1788), III, in The
Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: 1851), Vol.
11. Thomas Jefferson, "Inaugural Address, March 4,
1801," in Life and Selected Writings, p. 321.
12. Joseph Hopkinson, "Annual Discourse, Delivered
Before the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1810," reprinted in
Gordon S. Wood, The Rising Glory of America (New York: 1971), pp.
318-334, quotations pp. 320, 321.
13. Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, September 20, 1785, in Life
and Selected Writings, p. 381.
15. For an explanation of George Washington as an embodiment of
classical virtues, see Marcus Cunliffe, George Washington, Man and
Monument (Boston: 1958), p. 92, from which this list of virtues has
16. James Madison, The Federalist, ed. Benjamin F. Wright
(Cambridge, Mass.: 1961), No. 63, 415-416.
17. Richard M. Gummere, The American Colonial Mind and the Classical
Tradition (Cambridge, Mass.: 1963), p. ix.
18. Neil Harris, The Artist in American Society (New York: 1966),
19. From the report of the Commissioners of the City of Washington to
the Municipality of Bordeaux. Washington, D.C., January 4, 1793, quoted
in Harris, p. 42.
Last Updated: 30-Nov-2007