The Yellow Room housed the finest, most valuable bedstead and equipage at Mount Vernon, appraised at $85.00 on the 1800 probate inventory. (The draped bedsteads in each of the other bedchambers were appraised between $70 and $77.50.)
The high valuation of the bed equipage, taken together with the fact that yellow was the dominant colorway for the room, indicated that the yellow silk and worsted damask bedchamber suite, originally acquired by George Washington from London in 1758, most likely occupied this room by 1799.
The yellow damask-draped bedstead, as well as the accompanying furniture for a bedchamber, are detailed in the 20 August 1757 shipping invoice from merchant Richard Washington of London to George Washington.
This document guided curators in the recreation of the suite for the Yellow Room, together with the surviving material evidence. The original bedstead (on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History) survives in part: 2 carved mahogany footposts and a side rail.
In addition, small fragments of the yellow silk and wool damask, incorporated into a valentine in the early twentieth century, suggested the brilliance and quality of the original upholstery.
Notably, George Washington acquired not simply a bedstead, but an entire coordinated suite of furniture. The original set included the draped bedstead, three matching window curtains, an easy chair, six mahogany side chairs and a mahogany armchair, a mahogany serpentine dressing table, a Wilton carpet, and crimson and yellow wallpaper.
The shipping invoice notes that the bedstead, curtains, and chairs had been acquired at auction, an indication that they had already been designed for and possibly used in a fashionable interior. The style and quality of the carving on the surviving posts suggest that the bedstead and furnishings were very much of the moment. In the 1750s, yellow damask was a popular choice for better and best bedchambers among the upper classes, connoting splendor and exoticism.
In one shipment then, Washington received everything he needed for a fashionable interior equivalent to those in the empire’s metropolis.