“3 black Windsor chairs, $45”

“Solid wooden Windsor furniture was also in great demand. Shapely, strong, and comfortable, it have been popular since the middle of the eighteenth century.”

Rose Standish Nichols,“Some Good Specimens of Old-Fashioned Painted Furniture,” House Beautiful, 1909.

Some Good Specimens of Old-Fashioned Painted Furniture_1909-1
Image published in “Some Good Specimens of Old-Fashioned Painted Furniture”

The American Windsor chair has had a presence in homes and public buildings since the eighteenth century. These handcrafted chairs, often the work of the wheelwright rather than the carpenter, are characterized by spindle backs, turned legs, and steam-bent “hoops” that were socketed together without hardware. The solid wood seats were often carved or “saddled” to be more comfortable, and the turned spindles and steam-bent features were often a different type of wood than the carved seats, making painted Windsor chairs very common [1].

While Windsor chairs received their name from a leading market village in seventeenth century England, the style quickly spread to America and became iconic in the northeast. Nicknamed the “Philadelphia chair,” after the chair’s major manufacturing city in America, the Windsor chair claimed a prominent place in the political history of the United States when Thomas Jefferson sat in his Windsor writing chair and penned the Declaration of Independence[2][3].

Windsor writing chair [4]
As the style moved throughout the Northeast, several different styles emerged, from smaller children’s chairs, to settees, to early rocking chairs.[5] The chairs, in their many styles and forms, became common for for use private homes as well as public spaces including the Pennsylvania State House [6], and the Boston Public Library [7].

Marian Nichols’ bedroom showing a Windsor rocking chair, ca. 1920
Postcard from Rose Nichols’ collection showing Windsor arm chairs at the Boston Athenaeum

Rose Nichols’ interest in the Windsor style is well documented in her 1909 House Beautiful article, “Some Good Specimens of Old-Fashioned Painted Furniture.” While she suggests in her article that they may not be “fancy” enough for a formal parlor, she writes that they are “appropriate for the library.” She also notes that “for furnishing a piazza nothing surpasses Windsor chairs and settees.”[8] Several postcards from Rose’s collection also boast Windsor chairs in interior images, including scenes of libraries, bedrooms, entry halls, and even kitchens.

A postcard from Rose Nichols’s collection showing a Windsor chair in a study
A postcard from Rose Nichols’ collection showing three Windsor chairs in a kitchen

Rose’s collection includes four, black “bow-back” Windsor armchairs, a style that was common at the turn of the nineteenth century.

1961.119.4 -- 1
One of Rose’s four Windsor chairs

Despite her appreciation for Windsor chairs, it is unclear where Rose’s set of four chairs belonged. Throughout the years, the chairs were documented in three different places. In a photo from the early twentieth century, the four chairs were placed on the piazza at the Nichols family’s summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire. In Rose’s 1935 inventory of the furnishings at her 55 Mount Vernon Street home, “3 black Windsor chairs” are listed in the library. However, the oral histories from her caretaker, Mary King, from the late 1950s suggest that they were used in the kitchen. Although it is unknown where Rose would have permanently housed these four chairs, all three of the documented locations do align with her published advice regarding the use of painted furniture.

RSN Inventory-2
Rose Nichols’ 1935 inventory of her furnishings including “3 black Windsor Chairs $45”


EFN 1.121
Elizabeth Nichols (left) and friends, seated on the four chairs on the piazza of the family’s summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire.

These four “shapely, strong, and comfortable” chairs may have had a somewhat nomadic life with the Nichols family, however they represent Rose’s interest in interior design and furniture as well as American history. Though the Windsor chair was originally designed in England, its evolution through early America and associations with Philadelphia at the time of America’s founding, makes it an iconic example of American furniture. Rose Nichols understood this rich history and shared it, both through her written work and the preservation of her collection.


[1]Ormsbee, Thomas H. Field Guide to Early American Furniture. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. 91-95. Print.

[2]Butler, Joseph T., Kathleen Eagen. Johnson, and Ray Skibinski. Field Guide to American Antique Furniture. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1985. 44-45. Print.

[3]Nichols, Rose Standish. “Some Good Specimens of Old-Fashioned Painted Furniture.” House Beautiful. February, 1909. 54-56. Print.

[4]Ormsbee, Thomas H. Field Guide to Early American Furniture. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. 101. Print.

[5] Ibid. 91

[6]Osborne, Harold. The Oxford Companion to the Decorative Arts. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975. 830. Print.

[7]Nichols, Rose Standish. “Some Good Specimens of Old-Fashioned Painted Furniture.” House Beautiful. February, 1909. 54-56. Print.

[8]Ibid. 56.

By Emma Welty, Curatorial and Administrative Specialist


A Partridge and a Palm Tree

“Please have the door to Margaret’s room kept closed and the curtain down; as there are so many things on the bed there the sun should not shine on them and fade them.”–Elizabeth Nichols writing to her daughter, Rose, May 30, 1896 [1].

Elizabeth Nichols understood the effect of bright, sunny windows on textiles. Dyed and printed cloth are incredibly vulnerable to light damage, which is why many of the window dressings in the Nichols’ home have been taken down and archived in order to preserve their colors and patterns. One set of curtains in the museum’s collection, that previously furnished Rose Nichols’ guest bedroom windows, have now been in storage for over almost two decades. Research into this colorful pattern revealed that it is an iconic pattern in British and American furnishings of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The curtains on display in the guest bedroom, 1971.
Detail of the pattern on the curtains from Rose Nichols’ collection.

This printed cloth was designed and produced by Bannister Hall Printworks, a company that was active in Preston, Lancashire, England in the early 19th century [2]. The colorful pattern, featuring palm trees, game birds, and flowers, arranged in dense columns, is known as “Partridge,” although the birds featured are more often described as pheasants. The design is attributed to printer, Charles Swainson, who first produced it in 1815 [3]. Bannister Hall Printworks specialized in fabrics for interior decor and quilting and many of the fabrics manufactured there were chintzes, glazed cotton textiles usually printed with images of fruit, flowers, or birds. [4]

In the 1890s, Bannister Hall Printworks was acquired by their competitor Stead-McAlpin, who took ownership of their machinery, printing blocks and original designs [5]. Stead-McAlpin, still in business to this day, reprinted this pattern in 1907 and 1908 with the original block printing technique. In 1926 and 1937 they reproduced the pattern by copper roller, a much more efficient method of production [6]. Rose Nichols, who lived in her home from 1885-1960, most likely purchased a version of the pattern that had been printed during the early 20th century.


Two versions of the 1815 pattern. Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York.

Over the years, this patterned cloth became popular in England and the United States and was printed in many colors and used for interior furnishing purposes, including curtains and bedding. This pattern, among other prints from Bannister Hall Printworks, was frequently used in the 19th century for for quilting. The makers would either use the complete pattern to make “wholecloth” quilts, or delicately cut apart elements of the pattern for appliqué on a neutral background cloth [7].  Rose used this printed textile  for both curtains and bedding in her home. A coverlet in her collection boasts the same “Partridge” pattern but in a different color palette than the curtains.


Quilt, 1825-35, including the bird and palm tree from the pattern, seen in the bottom corners of the composition. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania.
Detail of the pattern on a coverlet from Rose Nichols’ collection.

These vibrant patterns align perfectly with Rose’s ideas about furnishing a room with curtains. In her 1910 House Beautiful article “Individuality in Interior Decoration” Rose advocates for this style of fabric when she writes,

“Curtains seem almost to form part of the walls, and their choice does much to make or mar a room. … Reproductions of old chintzes are valuable for giving a room distinctive curtains, and will harmonize with almost any color scheme.”[8]

A current project of the museum is the conservation and possible reproduction of these curtains to be installed in the guest bedroom.

The curtains on display in the guest bedroom, 1971.



[1]Nichols and Shurtleff Family Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

[2]Blum, Dilys, and Jack L. Lindsey. “Nineteenth-Century Applique Quilts.”Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 85.363/364 (1989): 12. Web.

[3]”Textile, Printed.” Winterthur Museum Collection. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

[4]Blum, Dilys, and Jack L. Lindsey. “Nineteenth-Century Applique Quilts.”Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 85.363/364 (1989): 12. Web.

[5]”Our History.” Stead McAlpin. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

[6]From East to West: Textiles from G.P. & J. Baker ; Victoria & Albert Museum, 9 May – 14 October 1984. Victoria & Albert Museum, 1984. 345. Print.

[7]Blum, Dilys, and Jack L. Lindsey. “Nineteenth-Century Applique Quilts.”Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 85.363/364 (1989): 12-14. Web.

[8]Nichols, Rose Standish, “Individuality in Interior Decoration.” House Beautiful. June, 1910. 9-10.

By Emma Welty, Curatorial and Administrative Specialist

“Unvegetative Ornaments”


In the late seventeenth century, garden statues, obelisks, dials, and other ‘unvegetative’ ornaments seemed to take the place of flowers. [1]

Illustrations from Rose Standish Nichols’ first book “English Pleasure Gardens”

Rose Standish Nichols was a landscape architect by trade. She designed dozens of gardens on large plots of land, including her parents’ estate in Cornish, New Hampshire, but she never had much of a garden at her home at 55 Mount Vernon Street.

The Nichols family garden in Cornish, New Hampshire

In her article, How to Make a Small Garden she classifies a “small” garden as one that “covers from about 1200 to 2500 square feet of ground.”[2] Since her Beacon Hill garden is little more than a stretch of grass that frames her brick walkway, she needed to be creative when bringing her passion for gardens home.  Her house is richly furnished with floral and horticultural imagery, from tapestries, to prints, to small needlework pictures. However, it is an object in the entrance of her home that references the style and scale of gardens she loved to visit and design.

1961.01 -- 2

A nearly life-size sandstone statue of a young woman adorned with an empire revival dress and a brimmed hat stands in the portico between the house’s two front doors. The statue is English and dates to the 19th century but Rose understood the history of outdoor sculpture dating back much further. In her first book, English Pleasure Gardens, published in 1902, she explores garden design dating back to the classic tradition of ancient Italy and Greece to modern English gardens (at this point “modern gardens” refers to late 19th century). Rose suggests that some of the most successful gardens are those that blend a range of styles.

In some of the best modern English gardens there is a combination of classic statuary, Renaissance fountains, French perspectives, Dutch topiary work and flowers from all over the world. But in such a garden, when there is breadth given to the masses of colour and a proper regard to scale and proportion, the effect is not always incongruous.[3]

While Rose was not displaying “classic statuary,” she placed her statue in the portico, which not only referenced the outdoors, but also connected it to classic architecture, as the entry hall is the only part of the Federal townhouse that was designed in the Greek Revival style.

The statue in the portico

Throughout her garden design and scholarship Rose suggested that outdoor sculpture was at its best in the Baroque period in Italy. She even utilized Baroque Italian figurative statues in one of her Illinois garden commissions.

Garden designed by Rose Nichols in Lake Forest, Illinois

In her 1925 article, Rhythm and Punctuation in Design, she argued that when the original foliage of Baroque gardens has faded, there is still beauty in the skeleton of the garden’s architecture and ornamentation,

Badly kept up as are many of these 17th and 18th century gardens they might have appealed to us less in their palmy days than in their present decadence. Still, however, walls, balustrades, fountains, and statuary of stone, mellowed by age, pattern an ancient pleasuance. And even if the former flowers have disappeared, clipped laurels, oleanders and potted orange trees accent the parapets and the parterre. Here poets will again and again find inspiration and garden-lovers delight. [4]

This sentiment suggests that even without a full, lush garden behind them, the sculptures that are associated with pleasure grounds can still inspire a “garden-lover” like Rose.

The walkway at 55 Mount Vernon Street in 1959, with the statue showing through the portico window


[1] Nichols, Rose Standish. “Gardens of the Stuarts.” English Pleasure Gardens. Boston: David R. Godine, 2003. 163.

[2] Nichols, Rose Standish. “How to Make a Small Garden.” House Beautiful 1912: 88.

[3] Nichols, Rose Standish. “Modern Gardens.” English Pleasure Gardens. Boston: David R. Godine, 2003. 252.

[4]Nichols, Rose Standish. “Rhythm and Punctuation in Design.” Horticulture Feb. 1925: 49.

By Emma Welty, Curatorial and Administrative Specialist

Steeped in History

At first glance, this small object appears to be a fairly simple silver teapot. On closer inspection, however, this little teapot reveals its place in a craft history that spans over a thousand years: lusterware pottery. This teapot is not shaped from sterling silver as it appears, but is instead a molded ceramic vessel that has been coated with a “lustre” glaze made from metal oxides to create a shiny silver finish. [1] The object was created in Staffordshire, England by the pottery company, Fieldings Crown Devon, in the early 20th century although the tradition of lustre glazing dates back much further.

The earliest known examples of lustre appear on ancient Egyptian glassware. The invention of lustre decoration offered an inexpensive alternative to gilded ornamentation [2]. While these early glass pieces date back to the third and fourth centuries, lustre fired earthenware did not make an appearance until the eleventh century in Egypt [3]. Early Egyptian lustreware was very opulent, with a range of colors and motifs including animals and scenes of daily life including fishing in the Nile and working in the fields [4].

The popularity of lustreware ceramics in Mesopotamia in the 13th century caused many to believe that the technique of lustre firing ceramics originated in Persia. Many of the pieces that survive today have designs and inscriptions that suggest Persian makers, even those objects that were discovered in Egypt [5]. Despite the presence of these apparently Persian ceramics, a traveler’s diary from the 11th century led ceramic scholars to the conclusion that the home of the ornate glazing technique was, in fact, Cairo. Nâsir-i-Khusrau was a well-known Persian traveler and writer visited Old Cairo (then known as Fustât) in 1047 A.D and described his first experience seeing lustre decoration on ceramics. He compared the appearance ornate decoration to a type of Egyptian silk fabric called bukalimun, or “chameleon fabric” which is called that because it “changes every hour of the day” [6]. The fact that a well-traveled Persian writer had never seen lustreware suggests that this technique was not yet practiced by Persian artisans. This account, combined with the presence of a ceramics school in Cairo led scholars to believe that Persian students later traveled the school in Cairo to learn the trade [7].

Small cup, terracotta, lustre decoration, opacified glaze, overglaze painted. Fatimid Egypt, 11-12th century. Louvre Museum. Paris, France

From Egypt and Persia, lustreware moved to Spain where it was adopted by the Moors, and Italy, where the technique was further developed by sixteenth century artisan, Maestro Giorgio Andreoli at Gubbio [8]. Giorgio mastered a technique called maiolica, also known as tin-glazed pottery, where he used an extra layer of glaze in order to enrich the colors of a detailed painted scene with red or gold metallic lustre [9].

Maiolica plate with Jupiter, Juno, and Io transformed into a cow, lustered in workshop of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli, Gubbio, or Vincenzo Andreoli, Urbino, c.1535-1540, National Gallery of Art, Washington

All of the potters that had utilized the technique up to this point had used it for ornamentation and not to glaze an object in its entirety. This changed somewhat when lustreware became popular in England during the late 18th century. While the tradition of using lustre techniques to embellish and combine multiple colors and patterns still existed, the British artisans also used it to create faux-silver pieces. Ceramic artisans began using traditional silversmith molds to create objects, specifically teapots and sugar bowls that could be lustre-fired completely to look like silver [10]. The teapot in the Nichols House Museum’s collection falls into that category, having been designed to look like a Georgian period silver teapot.


[1]Campbell, Gordon. “Lustre.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 4 Mar. 2016.

[2]Martin, F. R. “The Origin of Lustre Ware.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 53.305 (1928): 91-92. JSTOR. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

[3]Butler, A. J. “The Origin of Lustre Ware.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 16.79 (1909): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

[4]Martin, F. R. “Lustred Pottery in Egypt.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 17.85 (1910): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

[5]Butler, A. J. “The Origin of Lustre Ware.”

[6]Butler, A. J. “Egypt and the Ceramic Art of the Nearer East.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 11.52 (1907): 221-26. JSTOR. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

[7]Butler, A. J. “The Origin of Lustre Ware.

[8]”The Buckingham Collection of Old English Lustre.” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1907-1951) 16.1 (1922): 2-5. JSTOR. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

[9]”National Gallery of Art.” Andreoli of Gubbio, Giorgio, Maestro. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

[10]”The Buckingham Collection of Old English Lustre.”

By Emma Welty, Curatorial and Administrative Specialist



“Please return to R S Nichols”

In the 20th century, postcards had a fascinating role in the culture of travel, correspondence and personal record keeping. In the 2012 MFA publication, The Postcard Age, collector, Leonard A. Lauder writes, “Postcards did not just record or represent this dynamic era–they also participated actively in it.” [1] Postcards were simultaneously a popular means of communication, as well as an inexpensive and accessible type of image collecting. Before the invention of cellphones with cameras and the ease of communication and research created by the internet, postcards were a way of keeping visual records of things that you had seen in your travels and either sending them to your friends and family, or developing a collection of small, mass-produced artworks. The practice of collecting and sending postcards became very popular at the turn of the 20th century. In 1895 an estimated 314 million postcards were mailed, compared to the 880 million postcards sent in 1914. [2] 

Along with her house and furnishings, Rose Nichols left her collection of over 1,200 postcards to the Nichols House Museum. Some of the postcards were sent by friends and relatives, some were mailed home by Rose to keep in her own collection, and most of the cards acquired by Rose never saw a mail-box at all. The collection includes images of natural landscapes, architecture, interior design, and artworks including paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and tapestries. The variety of subjects offers some perspective into Rose’s interests and travel experience, ranging from Egypt to the American Southwest.

Left: Postcard, “The 2nd Pyramid of Cheefren, Cairo.”

These four-by-six inch images, some in color, some in black and white, gave Rose a way to keep a record of things she saw in museums, or gardens that would inspire her own work in the landscape architecture field.

Left: Postcard, “Hampton Court Garden Tudor Palace”
Right: Postcard showing a garden designed by Rose Standish Nichols, “E.L. Ryerson, Lake Forest, ILL.”

Her postcards even kept a record of some of her political activism. One example shows six members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom at the 1919 Peace Conference in Zurich, Switzerland. While Rose is not among the six photographed here, she was in attendance at the conference and was a long-time member of the WILPF.

PC150Above: Postcard, “Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Second Conference, Zurich, 1919”

While many of the postcards show elements of Rose’s life outside her house, they also give some insight into what is inside her residence at 55 Mount Vernon Street. Rose’s postcards that illustrate examples of objects create a fascinating parallel with her own collection of furniture and fine art. Some of the images show objects that are similar in style or almost identical to many or Rose’s belongings. Whether she collected them as a wish-list, as a way to remember home when she was far away, or as a record that her own home was furnished with objects of considerable status, there are dozens of examples on display at the Nichols House Museum that bring Rose’s postcard collection to life.

Left: Postcard, “MUSÉE DES ARTS DÉCORATIFS -Bergere, Tapsserie au point, fin du XVII siecle-ND”
Right: Hepplewhite armchair with modern upholstery in rose-colored silk damask,[probably New England, United States of America], 1790-1805

Left: Postcard, “NAPOLI – Museo Nazionale DIONISIO (Narciso)- Pompei”
Right: Cast bronze figure of Narcissus, [European], 19th century

Left: Postcard: “GARRISON HOUSE, Exeter, N.H. ‘Daniel Webster’ Desk”
Right: Queen Anne style maple corner chair, [probably New England, United States of America], ca. 1740

Left: Postcard, “American embroidery, 18th century”
Right: Framed needlepoint fragment, likely English, late 17th-18th century

Right: Mahogany tall case clock, made by Elnathan Taber, Roxbury, Massachusetts, United States of America and Birmingham, England, ca. 1790

Left: Postcard,”BED-CURTIN Cotton, embroidered with coloured wools, English; second half of the 17th century, VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM. Produced by W.F. Sedgwick, Limited”
Right: Crewelwork bed hangings made by Rose Standish Nichols,  ca. 1890

Left: Postcard: “ARM-CHAIR Walnut; said to have belonged to Neil Gwynn. English; Period of Charles II. H. 4ft. 3 in.; W. 2ft. Given by Sir George Donaldson. VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM.
Right: Reproduction Jacobean style armchairs with carved decoration by Rose Standish Nichols, made by Irving & Casson-A. H. Davenport Co. Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, 1910-1940

Left: Postcard: “Ivory Figure of a Gazelle Egyptian, About 1375 B.C. (XVIII Dynasty) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Collotype by Maz Jaffé, Vienna Austria.
Right: Standing animal figure, possibly an ibex, signed by artist Giorgio Sommer; Naples, Italy, late 19th to early 20th century

[1]Klich, Lynda, Leonard A. Lauder, and Benjamin Weiss. The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection. Boston, MA: MFA Publications, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2012. Print.

[2]Elliott, Brent. “A Brief Guide to the Use of Picture Postcards in Garden History”. Garden History 31.2 (2003): 218–224. Web.

By Emma Welty, Curatorial and Administrative Specialist

“Our Greatest Victory” – An Emblem of the Women’s Pacifist Movement

In the drawer of a marquetry dressing box in Rose Nichols’ bedroom, a little metal pin was found during a cataloging project completed by the Nichols House Museum in 2007. The pin was removed, examined, described and safely tucked into a box in the museum’s archives along with pen nibs, sewing tools and other odds and ends found in small drawers throughout the house. Unlike some of the buttons, buckles and sharpened ends of pencils that occupy the same storage box, this tiny object, measuring just over an inch, is anything but small in its significance in Progressive Era history.

The crest-shaped pin shows the winged goddess of Victory standing atop a globe that is inscribed with the words “NOBIS MAXIMA VICTORIA,” Latin for “our greatest victory.” The reverse of the pin reads “UNION MONDIALE DE LA FEMME” which translates from French as, “The World Union of Women.” This organization, also known as the Universal Union of Women for International Harmony, was founded on February 9, 1915, in Geneva, Switzerland. The group calls for widespread peace, the expansion of education, and global communication between the many women’s peace organizations that had been established during the Great War.[1] Their founding document, adorned with the same icon seen on the pin, was signed by their thirty-six charter members beginning with their founder, Clara Guthrie Cocke. Their founding statement reads:

We have established upon the common basis of womanly compassion which we shall endeavor to manifest justly: in rational thought and act. We shall battle in love for a permanent peace. We shall strive for the mutual education of women and for the consequential advancement of humanity. On the belief that women are created to love and not to hate we engage to devote ourselves to increase this love throughout the world to expel the evil born of hatred to extend this love to our sisters of every nation in life and every country and to spread internationalism by the establishment of a means of communication between the women of the entire world.[2]

The World Union of Women Act of Foundation, February 9, 1915

Clara Guthrie Cocke, an American woman, established the organization’s headquarters in Geneva as it was a location that would enable many pacifist organizations to converge. Members of both conservative and progressive opinions could therefore work together toward a common goal—spreading peace and compassion across the globe.

In an article printed in the October 1915 edition of Jus Suffragii, the monthly journal published by the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, Cocke issues a call for membership. In just a few months, the organization expanded from thirty-six members to over 5000 throughout Europe. The World Union of Women had grown this membership to promote a four-pronged mission: “to work for permanent peace based on justice and right; to forward goodwill to the world; to sow love instead of hatred; and to take as active a part as possible in forwarding the work, and gaining for it members and supporters.”[3]

Photograph of Clara Guthrie Cocke (d’Arcis) by François Frédéric Boissonnas, 1920

Clara Guthrie Cocke’s 1915 article, which begins under a line drawing of the organization’s crest, describes the membership’s illustrative pin. “The assembly adopted as an emblem the badge which is now worn high and low. This was taken for the statue of Victory of Olympia, and symbolizes the force and beauty of united womanhood traversing the world, over which she holds the mantle of pity and compassion.” While there is no known record of membership, the presence of this pin in Rose Nichols bedroom dressing box suggests her involvement with the World Union of Women.

Rose Nichols was no stranger to the pacifist platform in the early twentieth century. It is known through photographs and correspondence that Rose was a founding and active member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. This organization was established at The Hague Congress, also known as the Women’s Peace Congress, in the spring of 1915.[4] The World Union of Women was also represented at The Hague Congress, which creates a link between these organizations beyond their aligning missions and common membership.  Whether the World Union of Women was ultimately dissolved into the still-active Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is unclear but what is undeniable is that thousands of women, in the early twentieth century, including our own Rose Nichols, were determined to spread peace, education and compassion across the globe.

[1]Hämmerle, Christa, Oswald Überegger, and Birgitta Zaar. Gender and the First World War. N.p.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 180. Web.

[2] World Union of Women, Act of Founding. 9 February 1915: Geneva, Switzerland. Wikimedia Commons. Web.

[3]Cocke, Clara Guthrie. “The World Union of Women.” Editorial. Jus Suffragii: Monthly Organ of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance 1 Oct. 1915: 10-11. Web.

[4]“History.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2016. <http://wilpf.org/wilpf/history/&gt;.

By Emma Welty, Curatorial and Administrative Specialist



Rose Nichols’s Masterful Needlework

Bed Hangings
Materials: Wool thread on linen
Artist: Rose Standish Nichols
Date: Circa 1890

To see this object in the Nichols House Museum online collection, search for 1961.505.1a here: http://nicholshouse.pastperfect-online.com/36637cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks

Rose Nichols never stayed idle long. In addition to her professional work in garden design, she had several favorite leisure activities to fill her time. July’s post detailed Rose’s skill at woodworking, a hobby which may surprise some visitors, but Rose also excelled at needlework, which was a more “traditional” pursuit for young women in the nineteenth century. Rose studied needlework on her own as a young adult, but during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, many girls of the middle and upper classes in America learned stitching and embroidery as part of their early education and as an introduction to household work.[1]

They displayed their talents through embroidering their clothing[2] and in the decorative pieces they made, which could be used to ornament their homes. In the colonial period and into the 1800s, many young girls stitched samplers to demonstrate their literacy and moral education. Samplers commonly featured the alphabet, numbers (1-10), and/or a Bible verse and the maker’s name cross-stitched on canvas with silk thread.[3]

These crewel stitches, illustrated in a twentieth-century guide to crewel-work, show that Rose must have had keen eyes and nimble hands. This backstitch is a simple beginner stitch.
cretan leafcrop
Cretan Stitch, Leaf

As these young girls learned more complicated stitching, they moved on to crewelwork.[4] Crewel is a form of embroidery which typically uses wool thread on linen.[5] Many of the typical crewel stitches and design motifs were developed in England just after the reign of James I in the seventeenth century.[6] After the basic stitches, crewel stitches can be quite complicated, using the weight of the wool thread to create elaborate textured designs.[7] Crewelwork went in and out of fashion with decorative needleworkers over the next two hundred years, until the Victorians revived crewel stitching in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.[8] Bed hangings were a common household textile women embellished with crewelwork.[9]

Weaving Stitch

full viewAs a young woman, Rose Nichols hand-stitched the crewelwork on the bed hangings pictured here (right). These hangings decorate the four-poster bed in Rose’s room at the museum. As a professional garden designer and lifelong gardener, Rose loved to decorate with floral designs. The pattern she used for these hangings was inspired by a Queen Anne-period textile Rose saw at the Museum of Fine Art here in Boston.

flower detail
Detail of Rose’s crewelwork

samplercropLater in her life, Rose also stitched this sampler (left), on display in the parents’ bedroom at the museum. While one hundred years previously samplers were created by young girls to illustrate their education and status, by 1911 they had become sought after decorative items. This change was influenced by the Colonial Revival, an American decorative arts and cultural movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which shaped Rose’s taste in interior design.

As its name suggests, the Colonial Revival emphasized a return to the cultural values and design features associated with the American colonial era. During the age of booming industry in the United States, supporters of the Colonial Revival believed in the value of the pre-industrial lifestyle, including making things by hand, like embroidery pieces.[10] Original colonial samplers became collectibles, and in the early 1900s, sampler stitching became a leisure activity for middle-class women. Popular women’s magazines printed many pages of patterns for women to replicate.[11] Rose based her 1911 sampler on a Spanish sampler made by Rosalia Escolar in 1842. The 1842 original is in the textile collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

To see Rose’s bed hangings and sampler, and many more examples of her needlework, please visit us at the Nichols House! To participate in our Community Embroidery Project based on Rose’s work, visit the museum after September 20.

Crewel stitch examples from Pleasures of Crewel: A book of elementary-to-elegant stitches & new embroidery designs by Jo Springer (New York: Golden Press, 1972).

By Collins Warren, Summer 2015 Intern

[1] Candace Wheeler, The Development of Embroidery in America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1921), 53; Beverly Gordon, “Spinning Wheels, Samplers, and the Modern Priscilla: The Images and Paradoxes of Colonial Revival Needlework,” Winterthur Portfolio 33, no. 2/3 (1998): 165.
[2] Ibid., 45.
[3] Ibid., 53-54.
[4] Ibid., 48.
[5] Jo Springer, Pleasures of Crewel: A Book of Elementary-to-Elegant Stitches & New Embroidery Designs (New York: Golden Press, 1972), 1-2.
[6] Ibid., 7.
[7] Ibid., 30.
[8] Ibid., 9.
[9] Gordon, “Spinning Wheels,” 165.
[10] Ibid., 170.
[11] Ibid., 175-176.