1883 Sarah Henderson's Parlor Throw

Sarah Elizabeth Smedley Henderson carefully crafted this silk parlor throw with a date of 1883. It was donated to the Collection in 1939 by her sister, Blanche Smedley-von Daur. Along with a third sister, Matilda Smedley, Sarah and Blanche were active in establishing the American National Institute in Paris.
While living in Paris in the early 1890s, Matilda organized a successful program to assist young American women who were studying in France. She returned from France in the mid-1890s to expand this work. From modest beginnings, an Institute was established to aid struggling American art students in Paris. It was estimated in 1895 that over 3000 young women were studying in Paris. Matilda was the resident director of the Institute, which helped with living accomodations and provided a meeting place for the students. In 1908 bill was introduced in Congress to convert the New York-incorporated American National Institute to a Federal corporation, although the bill never became law.
Plain-, pattern-woven, ribbed, watered and printed silks as well as velvet and plush fabrics, are found on this parlor throw. The crazy-patchwork frames a center square of pansies printed on velvet. Typical embroidered motifs, mainly floral, some painted motifs, and a Kate Greenaway printed vignette decorate the patches. The date, 1883, and a few initials are embroidered on the throw. Feather, straight, buttonhole, French knot, satin, stem, detached chain, chain, and herringbone stitches embellish the crazy-patchwork. It is lined with a printed wool fabric of plumed leaves and flowers in an imitation of a warp-print fabric. A dark red velvet 4-inch border completes the throw.
Sarah born about 1866, and her sisters Blanche and Matilda were from Ireland. Sarah, according to the 1920 census, immigrated to the United States in 1886. Blanche and Matilda are shown on the passenger list of the ship Etruria that arrived in New York from England and Ireland in October 1886. Sarah married William Henderson about 1890. The couple had three children, William, James and Sarah Evelyn. It is not clear whether the date, 1883, that is found on the parlor throw is necessarily the date it was made, or a date significant for some other reason, as is sometimes the case.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Henderson, Sarah Elizabeth Smedley
Physical Description
fabric, silk, wool, cotton (overall material)
thread, silk, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 60 in x 58 in; 152 cm x 147 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Family & Social Life
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of MMe. Blanch Smedley-von Daur
Additional Media

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