England’s All-american Corner

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The museum is probably best known in England for its stunning collection of some sixty patchwork quilts that are on display, with many others in reserve storage. They are hung fulllength on swinging crossbars so that their overall design can be appreciated. Some hooked rugs are also shown, and the textiles are widely studied by serious students of needlework. Outside, the Mount Vernon garden reproduces George Washington’s original one in Virginia, plant for plant, and the Southampton, Long Island, Garden Club has installed an authentic herb garden of native American plants, many of which are on sale in an herb shop at the front of the manor. Also on the grounds is a nineteenth-century milliner’s shop displaying bonnets and vividly decorated travelling boxes and a first-rate gallery of American folk art housed in what was the manor stable.

On sunny days scores of school-children are scattered over the broad lawn gobbling down their picnic lunches, and there is no doubt that the museum offers them a rich visual picture of America’s past. The founders’ message to the English—that Americans are creative as well as pioneering in spirit—seems to get through pretty well, although one schoolgirl remains convinced, after inspecting samples of scrimshaw in the ship captain’s cabin, that American whales were born with pictures of ships engraved on their teeth. The air of authenticity is maintained even in the country store, where souvenirs are sold, and in a tearoom serving cookies and cakes from real colonial recipes. But one item did rather shatter the careful illusion—a tray of little cakes with sugar frosting on top was bravely labelled “Original American Flapjacks.”