The First White House of the Confederacy
Threads through History
1850 Woven Wholecloth
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. Upon the completion of this bed, the woven wholecloth was made and used by Davis until his death in 1889. Typical of the period, geometric designs were woven into the coverlet and fridge applied to the perimeter.
1840's Pieced Quilt
By the early 1830’s commercially produced fabric became more readily available throughout the South and quilts replaced the earlier woven coverlets.
At the foot of the bed is a pieced quilt made by Mrs. Susannah Bell Weissinger of Dallas County, Alabama. In 1819 Mrs. Susannah at the age of 2 along with her family made a 300-mile journey from Twiggs County, Georgia to Dallas County. They were part of the first wave of settlers into what would become Alabama. This quilt was completed before the birth of her twin sons in January 1848. It is constructed using popular fabrics that were available. There are 150 small diamond shapes that form each six pointed star.
Mrs. Davis' Bedroom
with trapunto work
From 1824-1825, the last surviving General from the Revolutionary War, Marquis de Lafayette returned to America to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Lafayette, traveled through Massachusetts in 1825 and stayed at the Worthington Tavern. This bed was used by Lafayette while staying in the Star Bedchamber at the tavern.
Displayed on the bed is a 1819 flax Bride's counterpane that has elaborate vine motifs embroidered throughout. It is a rare Southern example of early trapunto technique where the embroidered area is stuffed with batting to create a raised effect. Both coverlets displayed were commonly used in 1825 during Lafayette's trip.
1814 Flax Wholecloth
Major James Russell of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina was a veteran of both the Revolutionary War and in 1815 served under General Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans. After Major Russell returned home in the summer of 1815 he gathered six other families to join him in moving to territory that would become the State of Alabama. Carrying only what they could in covered wagons, these seven families made the 450-mile journey until arriving on Christmas morning to Fort Jackson (now known as Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Park, Wetumpka, Alabama). Staying only a few days, they continued to journey south until settling in what they called Pleasant Valley, Dallas County, Alabama. In the Spring of 1815, living in tents and wagons, the first building erected became the first Presbyterian Church to be built in Alabama.
Major Russell's wife, Eleanor brought with her two coverlets that were used by her family on the journey to their new home. Currently, one of them is displayed at the foot of the Lafayette bed. Made in 1814, Eleanor grew in her North Carolina garden the flax and indigo that was used in the making of this coverlet. Because of their durability, flax coverlets would remain popular throughout the early nineteenth century. Remarkably, this coverlet is older than the state of Alabama.