Monday, January 31, 2022

February — Love is in the Air…

February is known for being a month dedicated to and all about LOVE. It’s a month filled with acts of romance. A time for Valentines and sweethearts, lavish dinners and heart shaped boxes of chocolates, engagements and diamond rings.

Who in the fiber art world captures love & romance at it’s best…. 

And yes, sometimes at it’s worst….. 

The Hutchinsons!

If you've read our book, most likely you're familiar with these 1st two LOVE STORIES, so here's just a quick refresher...

Love Story # 1:  James Hutchinson had his own tales of love & romance. First there was Clara Britton, his childhood sweetheart, they eloped in 1899. 

James & Clara

The couple took a quick journey via sailboat from Shelter Island to Greenport, Long Island. Once there, they were secretly married by Rev McKnight. Now isn’t that romantic? Well, maybe not so much, because they eventually divorced.

Above isn't the yacht they eloped on, it is the Cynosure - a yacht that James owned in the 1920s. He used this yacht for pleasure, racing and also to pick up and transport hooked rugs - that he purchased along the Canadian and New England coastline.
James Hutchinson "collected" more than 1,320 hooked rugs, many by yacht, above is one example. These rugs were typically floral or geometric. For another example, see "designed & commissioned" below." 

Love Story # 2: James’ second marriage was in 1920. Family stories confirm it was different this time - James & Mercedes Clifton were very much in love! Plus they made a great business team - both entrepreneurs & loaded with talent!


 What was this couple's claim to fame? --- They designed & commissioned the largest collection of hooked rugs documented to date in the U.S.A. 

This collection was quite different from the "collected" rugs (mentioned above). What made these Hutchinson's rugs so desirable by everyone from the Rockefellers to Movie Stars? There were more than 870 pictorial & humorous rugs & nothing else on the market like it! Not even close! THEY WERE WAY AHEAD OF THEIR TIME! 

Always Save the Women First! A great example of a designed & commissioned Hutchinson rug, and one that can be seen hanging upstairs in Linda Bean's Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern in Freeport, Maine. She has a number of very nice hooked rugs there, including the Hutchinson rug: He Drinks Whiskey, I Drink Tea, Now is That Fair to He or Me? Most Any Job, Tis Me That Do It, The Day Will Come, When He Will Rue It. 

 There is much more info about Hutchinson hooked rugs in our book:

  Rug Hooking Traditions with James & Mercedes Hutchinson. 

(Many of which focus on the virtues & foibles of love.) 

The following 2 Hutchinson hooked rugs feature — Love at it’s best.

Love Story # 3: The couple featured in the Hutchinson rug below is obviously in love. The rug was originally sold at a 1947 Parke-Bernet auction in New York City. The catalogue described it as:  Engagement Rug - Figure of an astonished brown-haired maiden seated before her ardent suitor, who is slipping a ring on her finger.

The inscription tells you that it’s a memorable event, and one that will not soon be forgotten—and not just for the obvious reason of an engagement. So, one can only wonder... What was that special cologne or perfume she was wearing?

It's a private moment for this couple, unlike today's splashy, public proposals, no stadium billboards or live postings on social media - shared with a billion of their closest friends. I think the Hutchinsons had it right, private proposals are much more romantic!

At the time our book was published, we didn’t have a photo of the rug, not even a black & white photo. Isn’t it simply charming? 

While Hutchinson hooked rugs may “seem” simple, they are filled with movement, sentiment, and so many details! They make you think, they make you laugh, they make you ask questions......

They deserve a second & third look! 

Love Story # 4: I just love the charming couple in this next rug! Didn’t the Hutchinsons do a great job of capturing romance with design & motifs? The gent is holding her so close as they ice skate - cheek to cheek, hand in hand, with his arm tightly around her waist. 

This is another instance where we only had a black & white photo of this rug, when the book went to print. So the color photo is a recent find. Aren’t the colors marvelous? Don’t you just love her velvety purple coat - with the fur collar, cuffs, & borders?

An interesting aspect of this rug is how the Hutchinsons captured 2 seasons so well, in both the inscription & the design. The design seamlessly blends winter clothing & ice skates with a background of summer flowers! Well Done... James & Mercedes!

We’re not quite done telling LOVE STORIES. The next stories come from the "OWNERof the previous 2 Hutchinson rugs - a glamorous American & one of the most prestigious figures in New York Society.

When researching the Hutchinsons for the book, it was captivating, because their lives & families were so fascinating & quirky. But I have to say, this amazing lady, Betsey, proves that you can have your cake....

Betsey Marie Cushing Roosevelt Whitney


Love Story # 5:  Betsey's parents were quite a pair. They were childhood friends, who married after a long courtship, and had 5 children. 

Her father was Dr Harvey Cushing, a neurosurgeon & a pioneer of brain surgeryHe was widely regarded as the greatest neurosurgeon of the 20th century & often called the “father of modern neurosurgery.” (Don’t forget Betsey was born in 1908.) He also discovered Cushing's DiseaseHer mother was Katharine Stone Crowell, known as Kate. She hailed from a socially prominent family in Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout her life, she was busy raising her 5 children, one of which was lost in a tragic auto accident, & made her own contributions to society.
Betsey's parents: Kate & Dr. Harvey

Love Story # 6:  At 22, Betsey fell in love & married James Roosevelt & became the daughter-in-law of Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, our 32nd President & 1st Lady. 

While James served as an Aide at the White House, Betsey would act as White House Hostess. As Hostess, she started a lifelong friendship with Queen Elizabeth.

James & Betsey Roosevelt on their wedding day.
Roosevelt family Photo. Betsey is on the far left seated to the left of her father-in-law, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt is seated, wearing the large white collared dress. Behind her is her son, and Betsey's husband, James Roosevelt.
Here is Betsey with her 2 daughters Sara & Kate Roosevelt.

In 1938, James left Washington, DC & went to work with Samuel Goldwyn in Hollywood, California. The family packed up & joined him. Unfortunately, love didn’t last - James & Betsey divorced in 1940.

Love Story # 7: Not to Worry! In 1941, Betsey met John Hay Whitney, better know as Jock. He was born into one of the most prominent American families of the 20th century. Jock’s maternal grandfather was a great American statesman, John Hay, who counted among his successes the privilege of being Abraham Lincoln’s Private Secretary

Betsey & Jock fell in love & married in 1942. He lovingly adopted both of Betsey's daughters, Sara & Kate, & raised them as his own.

The Whitney newlyweds, just after the wedding.

President Eisenhower named Jock as Ambassador to the Court of St James in 1957 & they moved to London. They often hosted small dinners for close friends Queen Elizabeth & Prince Phillip.

The Whitneys dancing at Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth, Vice President & Mrs Nixon, Ambassador & Mrs Whitney.

During the 1970s, Jock Whitney was listed as one of the 10 wealthiest men in the world. He was an heir to a fortune, but in his own right - a business magnate & a tycoon. Living back in the U.S., one of his businesses was Hollywood movies. It's said, he paid Margaret Mitchell $50,000 for the rights to make a movie out of her novel Gone With The Wind, he also financed & produced it too.

Olivia de Haviland, Jock Whitney, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier arriving at the 1940 Hollywood movie premiere of Gone With the Wind.

The Whitney's inherited Greentree - a 500 acre estate in Manhasset, New York, but they also maintained residences and horse farms in:

New York City + Manhattan       

Saratoga Springs, NY + Fishers Island, NY      

Georgia + New Jersey + Lexington, KY

Surrey, UK + London, UK                   

And others….


Greentree - the Princess Margaret bedroom

The professional Decorator of many of the Whitney's homes was Sister Parish (Dorothy May Kinnicutt Parish)

Sister Parish
1910 - 1994

The New York Times declared: "Mrs. Parish's six decades of decorating epitomized the rise of women in her own and other professions in 20th century America. Mrs. Parish is widely considered to have originated the decorating idiom known as the American Country style. No one else in America does a room with such patrician aplomb, such life-enhancing charm, such a lack of gimmickry or trendiness”.
A book documenting interiors by Sister Parish & decorator Albert Hadley.

As the 1st Lady of American Decorating, she was decorator to the Astors, Bronfmans, Gettys, Mellons, Rockefellors, Vanderbilts, Whitneys & many other prominent members of society. She also worked with 1st Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to redecorate the White House during the 1960s.
Jacqueline Kennedy reviewing plans to redecorate the White House. 
When the Kennedys moved into the White House in January 1961 it was dismal, 
dowdy & full of modern furnishings interspersed with a few clumsy period reproductions.

A 2016 article in Vogue magazine listed Sister Parish as one of "7 Legendary Interior Designers Everyone Should Know." They said: "Her designs for clients were romantic, warm, and elegant, but her tactics were precise and exacting."
House Beautiful magazine, 1968 - Featuring Sister Parishes' Manhattan apartment. The article states: "a designer-decorator to whom many great houses owe their panache."

What was Sister Parishes' key to success? According to an Architectural Digest article written by Steven M L Aronson, he said: "Their ingredients were repeatedly these: floors elaborately painted and stained; Anglo-Franco furniture that had seen good—but definitely not better—days; flashes and flares of daredevil color (yet she always knew how not to go too far); masses and slashes of luscious chintz (nobody could bring a room to flower better than Sister Parish); crocheted throws and needlepoint pillows and chair covers; humble mattress ticking for slipcovers; HOOKED RUGS and rag rugs; starched organdy; botanical prints; painted lampshades; dog paintings; exotic-wood bookcases; white wicker; patches of quilts; and bales of baskets.

So we may need to thank Sister Parish for not only introducing HOOKED RUGS to Betsey Whitney & many other affluent members of society, but for also showing them their value, as well as teaching them to appreciate HOOKED RUGS as ART!
Sister Parish's Maine (Summer) house kitchen - filled with hooked rugs. 
So, she not only filled her clients homes with hooked rugs, but her own homes too.
In 2019, New England Home magazine featured an article & photos of the Sister Parish Summer house on Islesboro Island, Maine. At that time, Sister Parish was deceased & her daughter Apple Parish Bartlett was living in the home. In this photo, the hallway is filled with hooked rugs. (Islesboro Island is only a few islands away from the Cranberry Islands - also known for a unique collection of hooked rugs.)
Betsey & Jock Whitney amassed one of the largest collections of Impressionist & Modern Fine Art - it was exhibited in Europe & the U.S.

Betsey looking at a Rufino Tamayo painting.

Jock died in 1982. Betsey never remarried.

Betsey was a prominent philanthropist in medicine, education & art. She served on the boards at Whiney Museum of American Art, a Life Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a Fellow of the Frick Collection, a long-term supporter of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the National Gallery of Art & many, many, many other organizations.

In 1990, Forbes magazine estimated her wealth at $700 million, which would be $ 1.2 billion today.

In 1990, Betsey made art history at Sotheby’s by selling one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s most famous paintings, the sun-dappled cafĂ© scene “Bal du moulin de la Galette.” It brought $78.1 million, then a record auction price for Impressionist art & the 2nd highest price for any artwork sold at auction.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting Bal du moulin de la Galette

The 1998 New York Post article "Whitney Windfall $300 million in art to museums" said it all. Betsy bequeathed remarkable pieces to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, & Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

After her death, her remaining art collection was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for a then-record $128.3 million, the 2nd highest single owner auction in history!

Sotheby's Auction, New York City - The Estate of Mrs John Hay Whitney, April 1999

Amongst all the amazing art in Betsey’s collection, 
The following are only a few that were auctioned, after her death, at the 1999 Sotheby's auction:


A fine American floral hooked rug, late 19th century, a central floral vase filled with flowers and surrounded by a garland of rose blossoms and rose vines.

Two roosters, late 19th/early 20th century, on a marbleized ground within a square tile border.

Photo from the auction catalogue. A view of the living room, Saratoga Springs, New York. Note the 2 hooked rugs on the floor.
Top: a recumbent lion flanked by trees within scrolling floral borders. Middle: a recumbent spaniel in a landscape. Bottom: large central oval reserve filled with rose blossoms within scrolling borders.

Two rearing horses, a young woman wearing a red dress, and an eagle perched on a monument, the monument initialed JAH and dated 1888, with multicolored striped borders.

Betsey must have cherished Hutchinson rugs! 


She owned not 1 but at least 4, 5, or more

Most could be found at either the Saratoga Springs mansion or the Greentree mansion, both in New York state. 


Here are some of the additional Hutchinson hooked rugs in Betsey's collection. (Don't forget, she owned the two above in Love Stories # 3 & 4.)


Well Matched

Said to have been part of the Greentree Estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. Horses were a common theme throughout the mansion.

The Whitney family had been involved in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing since the 1800s. It’s said that their contributions to the sport have been immeasurable. Greentree Stables was inherited by Jock and his sister Joan in 1927 and valued at $200 million. (Joan Whitney Payson later became well known in the baseball world as the original owner of the New York Mets.) Betsey & Jock summered at Greentree Mansion.

Betsey & Jock at the Horse Races.

Back From The Sea So Deep & Wide—is another Hutchinson rug that was owned by Betsey, unfortunately, we still don’t have a photo of this rug. In the original auction catalog, it is described as: Sailor and Sweetheart Rug—A straw-hatted sailor welcomed by a lady with yellow hair amid pink and white morning-glories. It sounds so romantic!

The Impetuous Lover—May also have been another one of Betsey's Hutchinson rugs - according to Susan & Mark Laracy, when they sold this rug at Sotheby’s auction in 2007, they state that it was part of Betsey's collection in the provenance. But as of this moment, I was unable to confirm/document that Betsey Whitney owned it. So, more digging to do on this one. However, the color photo is a recent discovery, due to the 2007 Laracy auction, which came after the printing of the book. A wonderful find! And definitely fitting in our romantic theme this month!

Betsey may have owned more Hutchinson rugs.... We'll keep on researching!

If you would like to read more about Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, there is a book about her & her equally famous sisters:  The Sisters: Babe Mortimer Paley, Betsey Roosevelt Whitney, Minnie Astor Fosburgh - The Lives and Times of the Fabulous Cushing Sisters. And much has been written about both of her famous husbands and their families.

And just so you don't get the wrong impression...

REGULAR PEOPLE do own Hutchinson hooked rugs

But the stories of the RICH & FAMOUS are just so much fun to tell!

 Here's hoping that February brings you LOVE & ROMANCE!



If you have hooked rug questions or discoveries, be sure to contact Kathy!

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