America's Favorite Bedspread Celebrates 75 Years of Continuous Production: Martha Washington's Choice
On Martha Washington's birthday (June 2), we're proud to share the story of our most popular and timeless bedspread, the Martha Washington's Choice.
George Washington chose the original of this bedspread for his bride, Martha, on their wedding day. Though the original weave was lost when textile machinery replaced skilled hand weavers, the talented Bates team was able to resurrect this beautiful pattern in 1940. According to the Bates team at the time of its introduction, not even President Washington himself could have told the difference between the spread made on a hand loom for his elegant Mount Vernon home and the one recreated by Bates.
Advertising 1: Since Bates introduced the George Washington's Choice Bedspread in 1940, it has been highlighted in a variety of classic Bates marketing campaigns.
The original idea for the bedspread came about when a Bates representative, visiting the imposing estate on the Potomac River, became impressed with the hand-woven fabric he had seen. The bedspreads really caught his eye, he immediately was seized with the idea that possibly these same constructions could be produced by the Bates team of textiles artisans in Maine. His beaming enthusiasm soon spread to the mill. Bates officials got their heads together, seeking to come up with the designing and loom applications that would make the idea a reality.
The designers collected samples of the antique spreads, visited Mount Vernon, museums and reviewed pertinent material in libraries. They traced the weave of the spread to Damascus, that ancient city which had craftsman with pure genius in their fingers. It was here that knot weaving was originated. It was a weave never before seen. Some of the finest examples of the weave were reproduced by the Copts, along the Nile, shortly after the advent of Christianity.
This woven work was collected by connoisseurs of the centuries, each piece being a priceless article. In view of George Washington’s exquisite taste, it was no sheer accident that these spreads were sought and used at Mount Vernon.
With such a weave being virtually a lost art, technical experts interviewed in the years Bates was seeking to develop the spread simply shook their heads. Loom manufacturers, asked to make a specially built job, said it was incredible. It couldn’t be done, they said.
But the Bates people had no time to listen to such skeptics. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work. The technical know-how, the skills passed down from one generation to another in the “Bates Family” were pooled in this project and after two years of experimentation the first George Washington’s Choice rolled off a specially built loom. The loop knot had been perfected; it would hold. That was January 1939.
And a little more than a year later (March 1940) the “GW,” as Bates people affectionately call them, were placed on sale. The rest is history. George Washington’s Choice immediately won public acclaim and quickly became a favorite gift especially for weddings and anniversaries in the 1940s and 1950s. It represented the quality that made Bates famous as well as the innovative manufacturing capabilities that kept them famous as the team specifically designed looms that were previously thought impossible to create to weave the spreads. They were truly "Loomed to be Heirloomed."
Advertising 2: One of our favorite ads from the archive features a model "wearing" the bedspread.
Today, the bedspread is called, "Martha Washington's Choice," but it has also been labeled “America’s First” as well as “George Washington." Even though the names may have changed over the years, the classic weave and texture have remained throughout its lifetime. Its reputation is as lasting as its beauty and the quality materials and skilled craftsmanship that go into its construction.
We receive notes everyday from customers sharing their own stories of receiving a Martha Washington's Choice as a wedding gift decades ago or memories of sleeping under a Martha Washington's Choice at their grandmother's house as a child. We'd love to hear your own story as well! Please share in the comments.