Bed Rug

Wool, linen, sewn, cut pile
Overall: 92 x 87 in. (2 m 33.68 cm x 2 m 20.98 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
Not On View
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Addison L. Gardner, Jr. in memory of Richard W. and Anna L. Sears and of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg in memory of Mr. and Mrs. I. G. Bromberg by exchange
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

American carpeting was not produced in significant quantity until the 1830s. Prior to that time the American textile industry was small. Most homes had bare floors, and textiles were generally considered too valuable to be walked on. Before the middle of the eighteenth century, wealthy families who could afford carpets imported from Europe or Asia typically displayed these expensive textiles draped on chests and tables. Even woven straw mats and painted canvas floorcloths were imported and affordable only by the wealthy. Sand, which absorbed grease and dirt, was often used as a floor covering. It was spread evenly over the floor and sometimes brushed into designs with a broom. Before approximately 1820, the work "rugg" referred to a type of coarse woolen cloth used as a bedcover. Most of the rugs made in America before the early 1800s were intended for beds. The bed (with its furnishings) was one of the most valuable pieces of household furniture, and its coverings often provided an important indication of a woman's sewing skills. Abundant written evidence survives for the use of bed rugs in America, from the first settlements, yet only about forty are known today. Most bed rugs were made on a woolen base (this one is on linen) with thick, home-dyed, woolen yarns of multiple plies that were sewn with a running stitch to create the design. Most of the surviving bed rugs come from Connecticut, and virtually all were made in New England. The earliest one known dates from 1724. This bed rug is typical in design; most have exotic floral decorations in the style of English and East Indian textiles. The formal symmetry of the small decorated urn (bottom center) with its towering bouquet suggests the elegance of very genteel surroundings. "Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection," page 221