Bed Furnishings in Early America, An Intimate Look


September 26, 2018–January 27, 2019

From birth to death, the bed played a significant role in life’s daily cycles. Almost a room within a room, the bed was a place for sleeping as well as intimate activities, such as sex, childbirth, nursing, convalescence, and even death. From the seventeenth to early nineteenth century there was a bed in almost every room of the home. The “best bed”—today we call it the master bed—was usually located in either the distinguished parlor or “best” bedchamber. These were public spaces, where guests were entertained and daily activities took place.

The fully-outfitted bedstead was one of the most expensive household items in Early America, regardless of one’s wealth. Bed hangings, counterpanes, coverlets, bed rugs, and quilts bear witness to the aspirations of their owners and makers. All are exceptional examples of handwork that reflect the skills of talented artisans, whether hired professional or homemaker, and mark the global intersections between people of various cultures. Bed Furnishings in Early America, An Intimate Look explores the evolution of privacy, intimacy, status, and global exchange through the bedstead, its textiles, and their placement within the home into the late nineteenth century. 

Public Programs

Sept. 26 | Gallery Talk: Early American Bed Furnishings
Dec. 5 | Gallery Talk: Early American Bed Furnishings
Jan. 12 | Second Saturdays for Families: Furnishing Finds
Jan. 24 | Gallery Talk: Early America, in Bed