Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design


Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Linda Welters


The subject of this study is American furnishing fabrics for seating furniture, primarily chairs, in rural New England, 1812-1840. It was a period when fabrics were being imported from England and France and also being woven in new American textile mills. It is the goal of this research to study textiles and motifs in museums in England and France of comparable periods and compare the influence these imported fabrics had on fabrics used on Empire chairs in rural New England between 1812 and 1840.

The objectives of the research were to determine:

1. What fabrics and designs were being used on household chairs and other seating furniture in New England between 1812 and 1840?

2. What if any stylistic changes occurred in upholstery during this period?

3. What influence French Empire upholstery fabrics and later English Regency fabric motifs had on textiles woven in New England for chair use?

4. What are the characteristics of typical New England upholstery fabrics?

Furniture fabrics from the Regency Period in two museums in England and from the Empire, Directoire and Restauration Periods in four museums in France were examined. Twenty museum collections were examined in New England. One hundred sixty-one fabric samples were studied in the three countries. Of these forty-three examples from New England were selected for consideration in this thesis. Thirteen types of fabrics were established as original to the new England Empire Period: 1) horsehair in satin and damask weaves; 2) stenciled, block and roller printed cotton; 3) printed linen; 4) corduroy; 4) wool damask; 6) wool frisé; 7) wool rep weave; 8) tapestry; 9) needlepoint; 10) moreen; 11) plain and roller impressed plush; 12) leather; and 13) French and Italian patterned silks.

Using this data combined with information from primary documents, it appeared that upholstered chairs were not as commonly used as were fancy wooden chairs. Upholstered sofas were more common. French and English upholstery did show influence on upholstery fabric used in rural New England, specifically in the use of needlepoint, leather, horsehair, wool damask, moreen, and Toile-de-Jovy like printed linens. There were no important stylistic changes in the period. Upholstery was subdued in color, of serviceable weight and inexpensive material. The countries of manufacture in many cases are unknown, but some fabrics could have been manufactured in New England.



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