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American Period Rooms

The MacFarlane Memorial Room



Come in and take a look around.

Unlike the museum’s other period rooms, the MacFarlane room never existed in anybody’s home. It was created around hand-painted Chinese wallpaper bought in New York by Mable H. MacFarlane.

The room is set up like a wealthy New England merchant’s formal parlor of around 1800. The woodwork was copied from a Boston house built in 1796, which still stands today. As in the Charleston drawing room, the architecture and furnishings follow English styles of the time. However, Americans were also creating their own furniture designs, such as the sewing table—a new form of furniture popular in many American parlors and drawing rooms.

In Europe, people were fascinated with exotic places, particularly China. Among the wealthy, imported Chinese wallpaper was all the rage. Each wallpaper was a unique work of art made up of hand-painted scenes, like a giant picture book. The scenes might portray nature, or animals, or everyday life.

This wallpaper shows a family festival. As you move around the room, you’ll see boys flying kites, parents buying souvenirs for their children, musicians and dancers performing for the crowd, and families resting on the grass as they watch an acrobat routine. And everywhere, the people are carrying fancy paper lanterns.

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1. This room resembles one that might have existed in Boston, Massachusetts.
2. By this time, sofas were very popular in parlor rooms. In front of the sofa is the sewing or "working" table.
3. In this scene, a man buys an item for his son from a local merchant.


February 2005