James Van Ness or Auburn State Prison Loomhouse; coverlet, Jacquard; double-cloth; c. 1845; New York

New York weaver, James Van Ness, Jr. (1811-1872) or possibly the prisoners working at the loomhouse of Auburn State Prison in Cayuga County, New York wove this blue and white, double-cloth, Figured and Fancy coverlet. The centerfield pattern is composed of horizontal rows of scalloped carpet medallions. Around those can be found the “Birds of Paradise” pattern. The side borders feature foliate and floral motifs within cartouches. The lower border continues this arrangement in a slightly different variation. The cornerblocks name the overall pattern, “Birds of Paradise” and feature a trademark similar to the ones used by Van Ness and Auburn State Prison’s loom house. There is fringe along the bottom border. The coverlet was construced of two panels seamed down the middle. Each section is 41 inches wide. The coverlet measures 85 inches by 82 inches. Emailine Rich Hammond, an ancestor of the donors, originally owned this coverlet circa 1845. Van Ness was the son of another professional weaver of the same name. Van Ness wove in Columbia and Wayne Counties, New York. He is often cited as possibly being one of the weavers hired to train the prisoners and set up the looms at Auburn State Prison, but more research is needed to confirm this. In 1862, Van Ness and his family moved to Michigan. Van Ness was tragically killed by a falling limb in Michigan while helping a neighbor fight a forest fire.
Currently not on view
date made
c. 1835-1850
c. 1845
Hammond, Emeline Rice
place made
United States: New York
Physical Description
cotton, wool (overall material)
Jacquard (overall material)
double cloth (overall production method/technique)
"Birds of Paradise" (overall pattern)
overall: 85 in x 82 in; 215.9 cm x 208.28 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Lina H. Strong, Emaline Rich Hammond, and Anne Marie Hammond Hickey
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Are all Bird of Paradise coverlets this design and color? I have seen other coverlets with other patterns and colors that are called Bird of Paradise.

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