In the early 1800s, silk-embroidered pictures became a popular form of needlework in America, and young women could learn this challenging needlework technique at specialized academies. (In this case, needlework can be defined as embellishing cloth with designs stitched with a needle and thread.) In addition to patriotic scenes, subjects included classical, biblical, historical, and the ever-popular mourning pictures.
The death of George Washington gave impetus to a new fad, the mourning picture. It included an assortment of plinth, urn, mourners, and willow trees in a garden setting. They often show relatives or friends grieving before a monument dedicated to a lost loved one.
Canvas work, which today is known as needlepoint, was a form of embroidery that was also used to create pictures. It was done by young women in specialized academies as well as by adults. The earliest piece in the Textile Collection was done by Mary Williams in 1744 and the latest in 1935 by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt II.
There are approximately 50 embroidered pictures in the Textile Collection.