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Floor Coverings

A variety of materials were used as floor coverings at Monticello and at the President's House, including grass matting, painted floor cloths, and various types of carpeting.


Primary Source References[1]

1769. "Send for...Scotch carpet 17 f. 3 I. sq."[2]

1769 October 2. "Send by James Ogilvie for...--a Scotch carpet 17 f. 3 sq."[3]

1784 October 9. (Paris) "Pd for carpet for ding. room & do. for bedside 234f."[4]

1796 November 26. "Gave D. Watson ord. on Snelson for a rug &c. £1-9."[5]

1805 May 22. (Thomas Claxton to Jefferson). "Inclosed you will find a pattern of India Matting. The width is yd and half. Price one dollar. I have thought that it will be a cheap covering for the passage up stairs, and have been informed that it will last several years. If you should approve of it, please to inform me...Brussels carpeting, when I last purchased here was from two dollars to two dollars 25 cents. It has now risen to two and 75 and I can get but 12 cents abated. It is exceedingly elegant."[6]

1805 May 26. (Jefferson to Thomas Claxton). "I join you in prefering India matting for the passage above stairs [at President's House]. I have desired Mr. Smilie (the person whom I was told you employed) to provide floorcloth for the hall and passage below only."[7]

1805 June 8. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). "After writing to you yesterday, I was at the painting room of Mr. Stewart [the celebrated portrait painter][8] who had first suggested to me the painting a floor green, which he had himself tried with fine effect. He observed that care should be taken to hit the true grass-green, and as he had his pallet and colours in his hand, I asked him to give me a specimen of the colour, which he instantly mixed up to his mind, and I spread it with a knife on the inclosed paper. Be so good there fore as to give it to Mr. Barry as the model of the colour I wish to have the hall floor painted of. The painters here talk of putting a japan varnish over the painted floor and floor-cloth after the paint is dry, which they say will prevent its being sticky and will bear washing. As I have not seen it I cannot say what it is. Mr. Barry is probably the best judge of it...P.S. the floor should be painted the instant you have it ready, and all other work should give way to getting that ready."[9]

1805 June 9. (Jefferson to Thomas Claxton). "The floor cloth for the hall is prepared and will be painted immediately in the Capitol."[10]

1806 October 6. "Gave Joseph Daugherty ord. on bk. US. for 109.D. to wit...Geo. Taylor. Alexa. a silk rug 6."[11]

Floor Coverings in the President's House[12]

Northwest Corner-Lady's Dressing Room: Brussells carpet on the floor[13]

President's Dressing Room: Common carpet on the floor

Passage Adjoining the President's Bedroom: Brussells carpet on the floor

President's Bedroom: Brussells carpet on the floor

Lady's Drawing Room: Brussells carpet

Large Bed Room-South Front: Brussells carpet

Small Bed Room-South Front:' an elegant Brussells carpet

Dressing Room Adjoining the Above: Common carpet

Bed Chamber-South East Corner: Common carpet

Great Passage on the Second Floor: Common carpet covering the whole

Principal Stairs: Carpet covering the whole

Private Stairs and Passage: Common carpet

Bed Chamber-North Front: Brussells carpet

Dressing Room Attached to the Above: Common carpet

President's Cabinet: [No floor covering listed]

President's Sitting Room: 1 elegant Brussells carpet and fire rug

President's Drawing-Room: an elegant Brussells carpet

Small Dining Room-South Front: A canvass floor cloth, painted green

Secretary's Bedroom: a common carpet

Secretary's Office: 1 Common carpet, fire rug

The Great Hall of Entrance: the whole floor covered with Canvas painted green

Large Dining Room-Northwest Corner: an elegant Brussells carpet

Small Room-North Side: painted floor cloth


  1. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  2. MB, 1:28.
  3. MB, 1:29.
  4. MB, 1:568.
  5. MB, 2:949.
  6. Massachusetts Historical Society
  7. Ibid.
  8. Gilbert Stuart
  9. Huntington Library.
  10. Massachusetts Historical Society
  11. MB, 2:1192. Jefferson purchased this rug to use in his experiments on the heat-conducting properties of cloth.
  12. This list is from the 1809 inventory found at the Library of Congress.
  13. "Brussels carpet" was a type of machine-made wool carpet with a sturdy linen warp that first became popular in the early 19th century.

Further Sources

  • Sherrill, Sarah B. Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America. New York: Abbeville Press, 1996.
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