Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brussels Carpet

Floor coverings on the Montana frontier were a luxury only the wealthy could afford. Turkish carpets were the most expensive, but British-made Brussels floor coverings were a near second. Harriet Sanders packed two expensive Brussels carpets in the covered wagon that brought her family West from Ohio. One of the carpets covered the floor in her home in Virginia City, but the other she had no use for and stored it away. Worried that the mice or moths might find it tasty, she was one day inspecting the carpet for damage when a merchant acquaintance happened by. He asked what she was doing and Harriet told him that she had no use for the carpet but hated to see it destroyed by varmints. The merchant offered to sell it for her. Harriett had little hope that the merchant could find a buyer, as Virginia City was so primitive and staples so expensive, she imagined that no one would have use for such a luxury. So she consented and it wasn’t long before the merchant returned and handed her $500 in gold dust. Harriett could hardly believe it, and wondered who had paid such a price for her carpet. She soon discovered the carpet’s fate. The merchant cut it in strips and sold it at $20 a yard. There were no smooth boards at this early date in Virginia City, and so merchants used the carpet to cover their rough counters. Miners often spilled their bags on the carpet in weighing the dust. When word of the next gold strike prompted the merchant to move on to the next boomtown, he burned the carpet and realized handsome sums from the gold dust captured in the pile.

The Brussels carpet in this photo is on display at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.
Photo courtesy Grant-Kohrs Ranch Foundation.

No comments:

Post a Comment