Reproducing an historic carpet from a photograph

i was contacted by the National Park Service (with whom I've collaborated many times) about reproducing the carpet in the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. This room was essentially the first recording studio, and we had a very high resolution photograph from c. 1900 but nothing more. As I examined the photograph, I could see that the carpet pattern dated from the 1880s, that the carpets were heavily worn, and that one had no border while the other did, meaning that they had come from somewhere else. Interestingly, Edison's home is right up the street, and dates from the early 1880s.

i visited the house, and noticed that the woodwork in some of the rooms was painted a light green with metallic gold accents. I was informed that this was the original finish. Most 1880s carpets either have red or green as the dominant color (very few are blue, and while gold, tan and brown do exist, they are rarer). On top of this, the combination of red and green was a very popular interior palette, and thus we worked on the assumption that the carpet was most likely in the red family, with burgundies or rusts be a likely choice instead of the jewel red tones that were popular in the mid and late 19th century. I went deep into my archive of 1880s carpet patterns and selected turkey patterns (ones that emulate oriental rugs, just like the pattern to be reproduced) and "plugged in" the appropriate colors.

recreating the pattern itself wasn't terrible difficult; since we had the original floorboards, each measuring three inches or so, and thus we created a grid by combining this known dimension along with using the standard 27" wide strips of the carpet (The border under the piano is what is known as a 5/8 or 22" wide border). The carpet designer was able to flip the pattern flat and create the precise array of carpet tufts, indicating where the colors should fall.

i submitted full-scale artwork to the curatorial staff, and then a hand-trial (a small sample), and then approved it. The goods were shipped to a carpet mechanic who sewed the pieces together and cut a pad for each room. I then visited the site on the day of delivery and helped arrange the original furnishings on the carpet, exactly as they once stood!

Reproducing an historic carpet from:

Existing Document
Original Point Paper

Notable Projects

This is a partial list of projects on which Dan Cooper has consulted for historic carpet pattern selection, grade specification and installation:

    north carolina capitol
    Raleigh, NC

    iowa capitol building
    Des Moines, IA

    massachusetts state house
    Boston, MA

    virginia capitol building
    Richmond, VA

    terrace hill, iowa governor's mansion
    Des Moines, IA

    old governor's mansion
    Milledgeville, GA

    owen thomas house
    Savannah, GA

    t.r.r. cobb house
    Athens, GA

    fauntleroy house
    New Harmony, IN

    hunter dawson state historic site
    New Madrid, MO

    hickory hill museum
    Thomson, GA

    thomas edison laboratory, national historic site
    West Orange, NJ

    historic madison
    Madison, IN

    unitarian universalist church
    Gloucester, MA

    granger homestead, granger homestead museum
    Canandaigua, NY

    hedge house, plymouth antiquarian society
    Plymouth, MA

    king caesar house, duxbury rural & historical society
    Duxbury, MA

    phelps-hatheway house, connecticut landmarks
    Suffield, CT

    peirce nichols house, peabody essex museum (pem)
    Salem, MA

    bowen house, historic new england/spnea
    Woodstock, CT

    my old kentucky home, kentucky state parks
    Bardstown, KY

    Lexington, KY

    wheatland, president james buchanan foundation
    Lancaster, PA

    wills house, gettysburg nhs, national park service
    Gettysburg, PA

    kelton house museum, junior league of columbus
    Columbus, Ohio

    tower grove, missouri botanical garden
    St. Louis, MO

    glenview, hudson river museum
    Yonkers, NY (parlor)

    international tennis hall of fame (newport casino)
    Newport, RI

    mark twain house, mark twain house and museum
    Hartford, CT

    mohonk mountain house
    New Paltz, NY

    olana state historic site, new york parks & recreation dept.
    Hudson, NY

    wyandotte historical society
    Wyandotte, MI

    florence griswold house, florence griswold museum
    Old Lyme, CT

    bayou bend, museum of fine arts
    Houston, TX

    tempe historical society
    Tempe, AZ

    new bedford whaling museum, visitors center
    New Bedford, MA

    isabella stewart gardner museum
    Boston, MA

    maine maritime museum
    Bath, ME

    brown university
    Providence, RI

    duxbury rural & historical society
    Duxbury, MA

    ross bay villa
    Vancouver, Canada

    private residences
    throughout the United States

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