Old-Fashioned Bedsteads Part 3

I have found lists where the bed was specified as part chicken feathers and part cattail.

Till quite recently in our history the feather-bed has played a part, and in New York State where many comforts found their way, these were not lacking. At Canandaigua, which was not settled till near the end of the eighteenth century, I find many records like these.

Isaac Colvin estate, settled 1796, had three beds valued at £10 each, and they consisted of bed, under-bed, bolsters, and pillows.

Israel Chap in, inventory filed 1800. Among other things were three pink blankets valued at £3, feather bed, bolsters, and pillows, £5, copper kettle, £l 16s., and brass kettles, £3.

In 1809 was filed the inventory of Daniel Curtis. His " best bedstead and poorest underbed " were val ued at $1.5, while "one old featherbed" was set down at $4, and one " turkey and hens featherbed" was worth $5.

The inventory of W. H. Cuyler of the same place, filed in 1813, is interesting as it gives the value of so many household articles about a century ago. Among his wearing apparel was a plaid coat, and " Cherry valleys," whatever those were, valued at $2. His sword and belt were worth $25. Six pair of flannel sheets were $30, eight linen sheets, $30. One set of bed curtains, $7, one bed, bolster, pillows, straw bed, and bedstead were put at $27. Another bed, with rope to lace it, two feather-beds, two bolsters, and four pillows were valued at $42.37. One trundle bed and rope, also bolster, $8.50. One clock, $16, and one buffalo skin, $12. In a number of the inventories given, sheets of different kinds have been mentioned, and really, a chapter might be devoted to this part of the bed alone.

Silk, fine and soft, linen of the choicest Holland make were none too good for sheets and " as the cases used to be called. In the MSS. of the Countess of Pembroke there is this passage for the year 1676, in which she died.

I saw George Goodgeon paid for 249 yards of linen cloth that he bought for me at Penrith, designed for twenty pair of sheets and pillow-veres [this isher spelling] for the use of my house. And after dinner I gave away several old sheets which divided among my servants. And this afternoon did Margaret Montgomery, from Penrith, the sempstress, come hither, so Ihad her into my chamber, and kissed her, and talked with her; and she came to make up the twenty pairs of sheets and pillow-veres."

Fig. 206 General washington s Bed. Fig. 207 Joseph Bulkley s Stretcher.

Fig. 1 Oak Table and Joint Stool.Mr Fig. 1 1 Liquor Case and Glasses m m. Fig. 2 Cavalier Table. Fig. 2 5 Stump Bedstead. Fig. 3 Balustkk Table.Fig. 3 Salts and Jug tm.Fig. 3 7 Plates and Platters V.

Nor was it only customary to have the sheets and pillow-cases of fine materials. For centuries they were richly trimmed, so that their cost was enormous. Lace, embroidery, even of gold thread, was not considered out of place, and the household accounts of royalty in France and England are full of the amounts spent for bed furniture. In the "Creevy Papers," which consist of the Diary and Correspondence of Thomas Creevy, M.P., and which extends over the years from 1768 to 1838, he makes a mention of lace-trimmed sheets as late as 1827. This is the way it reads:

"Lord Charles Somerset complains that he could not sleep either of the three nights at Wynyard, never before having slept in cambrick sheets, and that the Brussels lace with which they and the pillows were trimmed, tickled his face so that he had not a moments peace."

Wynyard was the seat of Lord and Lady London derry, and the latter was fond of declaring that she could not use handkerchiefs which cost less than fifty guineas the dozen.

The amount of linen which was to be found in this country at an early date is rather surprising, till we take into account that the splendid Dutch housewives who came here soon grew flax and wove linen, not only the coarser kinds, but sheer and fine, suitable for their caps and kerchiefs. Holland furnished to the world many kinds of linen fabrics which have strange and unfamiliar names, and were used for various purposes, bed curtains and coverlets, window curtains and cushions, for it was the mode for many years to have all these match. In fact, all the world, or at least those ports at which trading vessels touched, contributed their quota of goods, which were not only to be found in the cities, but at the country stores as well. These stores, particularly in the Southern States, were most important institutions. They were attached to a plantation, or in some cases the plantation grew to be an attachment to the store. An iiiventory of the Hubbard store, in York County, Virginia, in 1667, shows what a vast stock " of valuable goods could be found in one. There were, lockrams, canvass, dowlas, Scotch cloths, blue linen, osnaburg, cotton, Holland serge, Kersey, flannel in bales, full suits for adults and youths, bodices and bonnets, laces for women, shoes, gloves, hose, cloaks, cravats, handkerchiefs, nails, hatchets, chisels, augers, locks, staples, sickles, bellows, froes, saws, axes, files, bed cords, dishes, knives, flesh-forks, porringers, sauce-pans, frying-pans, gridirons, tongs, shoATels, hoes, iron posts, beds, tables, physic, wool-cards, gimlets, compasses, needles, stirrups, looking-glasses and candle sticks, candles, funnels, twenty-five pounds of raisins, one hundred gallons of brandy, twenty gallons of wadne, and ten gallons of aqua These goods were valued at £614 sterling (equal to about $3,000 of our money).

The earliest four-post bedsteads that were brought here were, no doubt, more or less carved, and made with valance and curtains. Often two sets of curtains were used, — an outer and an inner, the latter to be drawn so that unpleasant draughts of wind could be kept out.

The materials of which these bed curtains were made might be perpetuana, kitterminster, serge, darnie, silk darnic, camblet, mohair, fustian, seersucker, camac, bancour, paly, printed calico, checked and striped linen, India and Patma chintz, corded dimities, harrateen, lute string, moreen, French and pompadour chintz, " fine lay lock and fancy callicoes," and muslins. A full-dress bed with " petticoat valance " and window curtains to match, trimmed with fringes and tied back with cords, was costly and handsome.

In addition to all these goods there were scores of others brought from the East Indies, with unfamiliar names and high prices. None of these materials were by any means cheap. Harrateen, a favourite stuff, cost, as late as 1750, four dollars a yard, and a set of curtains all made was worth two hundred dollars.

Camblet was another popular material, and as early as 1678 Colonel Francis Epes, of Henrico County, Virginia, inventoried " One large new feather-bed with camblett curtains and double vallins lined with yellow silke, boulster, pillows, counterpane, rodds and hooks, tops and stands, one curtaine and some fringe damnified — twenty- four pounds, five

But such curtains lasted years, and were passed down with the bed from one generation to another.

The well-knowm Peter Faneuil, of Boston, Massa chusetts, died in 1742. He never married, but lived with his sister in great comfort and luxury. The list of belongings in his house and stables showed that he looked well after his oaati ease, and letters of which he left copies prove that his sister's appearance was a matter of moment to him also, for he ordered all her clothes from London, and was much annoyed because they"sent six pairs of worsted stockings for her instead of three prs. thread hose, one pair of Galons hose, and two pr. of thread ditto." The worsted stockings went back to London by return ship. Mr. Faneuil was dark, no doubt, for he chose yellow as the colour of his room, "arms," and beside silver small bottles, and a looking-glass tipt with he had a yellow mohair bed counter pane, feather bed, bolster, 2 false pillows, false curtains, 6 chairs, 1 great chair, 2 stools, window curtains, etc." Excluding the small arms, the furnishings of this room were valued at £245 (about $1,225 of our money) . Many a house is furnished nowadays very prettily for about half that amount.

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Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

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