Come Along on a Magic Carpet Ride

by Pat Goodfriend, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator
August 3, 2021

Acorn Hall front parlor in 2021

Visitors to Acorn Hall are often surprised to learn that most of the furnishings they will see are original to the Schermerhorn and Crane-Hone families who once lived in the house, and most unexpectedly, one of the most significant can be found under their feet! Resplendent in style, an elaborate John Crossley and Sons’ Savonnerie-inspired carpet has graced the Hall’s front parlor since the mid-19th century. The printed velvet carpet was created using nearly 100 vegetable dyes. Not just any floor covering, it is a duplicate of a top-of-the-line carpet that the company displayed at the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851, an event originated by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.

Central medallion

At the time, John Crossley and Sons, Ltd. of Yorkshire, England, was one of the largest carpet companies in the world. The company’s steam-powered carpet manufacturing innovations during the Industrial Revolution included reproducing on a loom the shaded and three-dimensional effects of the popular hand-painted French Savonnerie-designs. Acorn Hall’s carpet possesses those features creating an ivory field with a central lobed medallion adorned with lilies and surrounded by a wide red border accented by scrolled cartouches and entwined flowers. The wall-to-wall carpet is woven in two halves and joined by a seam. Its most vibrant colors and thickest pile are today found beneath furniture or in corners hidden from the sun and centuries of foot traffic.

Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition

The Great Exhibition in London was the first international fair to feature culture, and advancements in science and industrial technology. Prince Albert was eager to show the best products from premier UK manufacturers, like John Crossley and Sons. The company most likely benefitted from their exposure: the exposition attracted over 6 million fairgoers in less than six months. In America, an emerging middle class was ready to purchase high-quality manufactured products like those shown by John Crossley and Sons at the Great Exhibition to decorate their homes, which fortunately for all of us included Acorn Hall.