May 24, 2002
“Made in America: Coverlets from the collection of Foster and Muriel McCarl” exhibition opens May 24
Colonial Williamsburg’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum will display a delightful exhibition of bed coverlets from the private collection of Foster and Muriel McCarl of Beaver Falls, Pa. Curated by Colonial Williamsburg textile curator Linda Baumgarten and associate textile curator Kimberly Ivey, the exhibition, “Made in America: Coverlets from the Collection of Foster and Muriel McCarl,” will run from May 24, 2002 through Sept. 1, 2003, and will feature more than 60 coverlets, many never before seen by the public.
Bed coverlets tell the stories of the people who made and used them. Figured and fancy coverlets also document the important 19th-century transition from handloom weaving to mechanized factory production. Trained weavers who immigrated to America often first worked in factories to save enough money to start their own businesses. Many of them lasted only a year or two before turning to farming as a more lucrative occupation.
“Coverlets help people today understand more fully the lives and culture of the mostly middle-class rural Americans who purchased them,” said Baumgarten. “Clients boldly proclaimed their patriotism, piety, interest in current events and design preferences through the colorful coverlets they chose to grace their bedchambers. The brilliant colors, complex designs and historical associations argue for the lasting importance of figured and fancy coverlets to the arts and history of early America.”
The McCarls were inspired by their mutual love of history to assemble the collection that bears their name. “Where else can you find an item that has the name of the weaver who created it by hand, the name of the person it was woven for, the date and the community where the work was completed?” said Foster McCarl. “When you have a coverlet with all of this information, you have found an indisputable piece of American history.”
Foster McCarl currently serves as chairman of the board of McCarl’s Inc., a plumbing and heating company he established in 1946. His wife, Muriel, has taught music in public school and, for more than 30 years, has directed her church choir. The McCarls have been married for 57 years and are active in a number of local Pennsylvania community activities.
Scholar Clarita Anderson has written a catalog that includes color photographs and descriptions of the exhibition’s coverlets plus background information about more than 700 coverlet weavers. Anderson’s previous works include “Weaving a Legacy: The Don and Jean Stuck Coverlet Collection (1995)” and “Figured and Fancy: Wayne County, New York Weavers (1996).”