Threads Through History

            Spanning over a century, the textile collection reflects the unique designs, fabrics, and techniques that evolved throughout the nineteenth century. These textiles are a testament to women's creativity and ingenuity even in the midst of hardship.


President's Bedroom

In 1850 Mrs. Varina H. Davis had this Elizabethan button bed made for her husband, Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis. Due to her husband being taller than most men, five foot nine, the bed is both wider and longer than beds from this period. In the 1850's this woven whole cloth was made and used by Davis until his death in 1889. Typicall, of the period, geometric designs were woven into the coverlet and fridge applied to the perimeter.   


President's Bedroom

In 1804 the Jacquard Loom was invented in France. Using punch cards, the mechanism simplified the weaving of complex designs and made ready made coverlets less expensive. 


Displayed at the foot of the bed is an example of an 1847 Jacquard coverlet that was commonly used in the home and during travel.  


Mrs. Davis' Bedroom

In 1816, carrying only what they could in covered wagons, eight families embarked on a 450-mile journey from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina into what would become Dallas county, Ala. 


Mrs. Eleanor Russell, traveling along with her husband, Major James Russell and two infant daughters used this Jacquard coverlet on their journey. It was made in 1810 using wool from their North Carolina farm.   


Mrs. Davis' Bedroom

Beginning in the 1840's, gros point became popular in both rugs and upholstery. Gros point is a large stich used in embroidery. 


The Rococo Revival 1850's side chair in front and the hearth rug are rare examples.  


Second Floor

In 1861, Southern women quickly began supporting Southern Independence using their sewing needles. Elaborate quilts were created and auctioned off to raise funds for medical supplies and gunboats. 

In 1861, Mrs. Martha Jane Dickson Hatter of Greensboro, Alabama made this quilt for a local auction. It raised $1,000.00 that was used for the Selma Hospital. Also, the one hanging in the Upstairs Hall she completed in 1862.




Guest Bedroom

Piece quilts quickly replaced wholecloths as fabric became more readily available. This Mariner's Star piece quilt is considered one of the earliest and most difficult to achieve. The pattern first appeared in the early eighteenth century in England.


In 1845, Mrs. Anne Mary White Akers of Hardin County, Kentucky finished this quilt using natural dyed fabrics.  


Guest Bedroom

Originating from Wales, wholecloths were made by weaving intricate designed fabric strips that were sewed together to create coverlets. These early examples were made on a homemade loom from either cotton, flax or wool. 

Displayed on the Bedroom bed (under the gunboat quilt) and Guest bed are Alabama wholecloths that feature intricately woven designs and elaborate borders.  




By the 1840's, printed fabrics became readily available and made quilt making less laborious. Spinning wheels and looms were replaced with sewing needles and store bought thread. 

This 1860's quilt top was made by Mrs. Lela Tate Hood of Talladega, Alabama from commercial fabrics popular at that time. 



New York Bedroom

During the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 women were inspired by elaborate English embroidery and the crazed glazing on Japanese pottery. Their inspiration gave birth to the crazy quilts that became popular in the late nineteenth century. 

Displayed on the bed is an 1890 crazy quilt made by Mrs. Adeline Oakley Lovejoy of Talladega County, Alabama. It features elaborate embroidery and  trapunto technique using mens cravats. 



New York Bedroom

In the 1860's Queen Victoria of England began purchasing crochet coverlets and clothing. This unfashionable technique quickly grew in popularity by the end of the nineteenth century.

Displayed on the bed is an 1890 star patterned coverlet with popcorn decoration made by Mrs. Narcissa Jane Davison of Pineville, Alabama.  


Copyright, 2021 by the White House Association of Alabama. Photography by David Robertson, Montgomery, Alabama. 

644 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 36130