In the late eighteenth century, a significant factor distinguishing the social status of a host was his ability to lay a table with clean linens, including individual napkins for each of his guests. George Washington described with disdain a ball he attended in 1760 in which "pocket handkerchiefs served the purposes of Tablecloths & Napkins." In his own home, Washington was careful to maintain an adequate supply of table linens. The laundry mark at the corner of this damask napkin - "1/ GW/ 48" - indicates that it was among a set of forty-eight owned by him. The neoclassical design, which features lacy swags, flower-filled urns, and florid vines, suggests it was made in the 1790s.


Five-end satin damask linen napkin; a central rectangular reserve features a variety of floral sprigs arranged in a pattern of six columns and twelve rows; the reserve is framed with a border of successive tassels and swags; this in turn is surrounded by a wide band which features flower-filled urns at each corner, floral vines of roses and passion flowers on the long sides, and vines with a variety of other flowers on the short sides; this is framed by a simple line border, a stylized tulip and laurel leaf border, and finally a checkered border on the outer edge of the napkin; one end of the napkin is finished in a .19" rolled hem, the other end has been left unfinished.







Overall: 30 3/8 in. x 41 5/8 in. (77.17 cm x 105.74 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Constance Lee Peterkin, Vice Regent for West Virginia, 1926


Marked in cross-stitch in blue linen thread near one corner: "1/ G W/ 48".

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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