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The WVS and Queen Mary's Carpet

In the years after World War II Britain struggled to recover economically. In stark contrast, the USA was becoming a much richer nation than before. Sterling was no longer a leading currency and national banks wanted US Dollars, not Sterling. Feeling that every citizen should try and “do their bit” for the economy, in November 1949 Queen Mary decided to donate her needlework to the nation, so that it could be sold for dollars. A committee responsible for the “disposal” of the Carpet was formed and chaired by Lady Reading as Head of the WVS.

Before its journey to America the Carpet went on public display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) on February 8th 1950. From the start queues were averaging 3000 per day who were stewarded by members of the WVS. By the end of the exhibition which finished on March 12th 1950, it had been seen by over 100,000 visitors including Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and Princess Margaret.

Lady Reading’s PA Miss Patricia Hardie was then appointed to care for the carpet on its journey. The only qualification for the job was that Patricia had worked with the American Red Cross during World War II.

As the V&A exhibition closed, the Carpet was carefully folded and placed in its specially made oak & steel casket. Accompanied by Patricia Hardie on the RMS Queen Mary it was shipped to New York. The plan was to take the Carpet on an 80 day, 14,000 mile tour of cities across the USA and Canada, arranged by the son of Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Antrim, Colonel Angus McDonnell, who would also escort the Carpet assisted by Miss Hardie.

The Carpet, Colonel McDonnell and Miss Hardie arrived in New York on March 23rd 1950. The first exhibition was in New York for 5 days before embarking on a tour of 23 cities in the USA and Canada. Every venue had made special arrangements to display the Carpet. Some even removed priceless artefacts to make room. 

Miss Hardie noted “In every case the Carpet was in place within half an hour of our arrival. Sometimes it was hung with a curtain background, sometimes against a wooden frame or plinth and sometimes laid flat on a specially built dais.

Young GI brides helped us in many cities, always willing and enthusiastic, arranging their household duties so that they might be free to work a shift at the sales desks selling the literature from which the expenses of the tour would be paid.”


The Carpet was seen by over 400,000 across North America, including Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt former 1st Lady and wife of the former US President Franklin D Roosevelt. Mrs Roosevelt praised Queen Mary for her sacrifice and devotion in sending her needlework to the USA to generate dollar funds for her country. Miss Hardie commented that it was the most exciting three months of her life.

Patricia also commented that “so many I met were needlewomen themselves and everyone, without exception, wanted to feel the texture of the carpet.”

Sadly, present day visitors to the National Gallery of Canada are rarely able to view the Carpet. Due to the light sensitive nature of the wool dyes and degradation of the fabric, the Carpet is not on permanent display.

If you’re interested in more information on Queen Mary’s Carpet you can contact our enquiry service or search the WVS Bulletin/WRVS Magazine. 

Posted by Ian Myhill, Volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 24 April 2017.

Labels: Carpet, Canada, America, Victoria and Albert Museum, WVS, Queen Mary

Food news - Thanksgiving Day

November 24th will be the last Thursday in the month which in America means its Thanksgiving. If you don’t know much about this holiday, apart from what you’ve seen in episodes of Friends and The Big Bang Theory, don’t worry Issue No.37 of the Bulletin from November 1942 is here to help, complete with Mock Duck and Mock Goose. If you were looking for a Mock Turkey go to Issue No.49 November 1943

"As we have so many of our American Allies in this country, many of us are likely to celebrate a festival we have never shared in before. The first Thanksgiving Day was held by the Pilgrim Fathers to give thanks for their first harvest, and ever since that time the last Thursday in November has been celebrated in the United States as a national festival and day of thanksgiving. Here is a typical Thanksgiving Day menu:

Soup- Tomato and Croutons. Turkey or Chicken or Goose, Mock Goose, Mock Duck. Cranberry sauce or jelly. Vegetables - Mashed Potatoes; sprouts; chestnut puree or chestnut stuffing; celery (raw); carrot strips (raw); salted nuts. Sweet- Pumpkin pie; mince pie; apple pie; biscuits.

Cream of Tomato Soup or Mock Bisque-2 cups raw, canned or bottled tomatoes; 2 teaspoons sugar; 1/3 tea-spoon bicarbonate of soda ; 1/2 onion, stuck with 6 cloves ; sprig of parsley; bit of bay leaf; 1/2 cup stale bread-crumbs ; 4 cups milk (household); 1/2 tablespoon salt; 1/8 teaspoon pepper ; 1/3 cup margarine. Scald milk with bread crumbs, onion, parsley and bay leaf. Remove seasonings and rub through sieve. Cook tomatoes with sugar 15 minutes (shorter time if canned tomatoes are used). Add soda and rub through sieve. Reheat bread and milk to boiling-point, add tomatoes, butter, salt and pepper. Serve 6 to 8.

Mock Goose (Ministry of Food).-1 lb. liver; 2 lb. potatoes; 2 onions or leeks; 1 apple; 3 oz. fat bacon; 1 dessertspoon chopped parsley; 1/2 teaspoon dried sage ; 1/2 pint water; seasoning. Wash liver and cut into slices. Cut potatoes, onions and apple into slices. Arrange ingredients in layers in a pie-dish or hot-pot dish. Cover with pieces of bacon. Add water. Cover with a greased paper and cook in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Mock Duck (Ministry of Food) - Cooking time, 1 hour. Ingredients-14lb. potatoes; 2 large cooking apples; 3/4 pint vegetable stock ; 1 tablespoon flour; pepper and salt; 4 oz. grated cheese ; 1/2 teaspoon dried sage. Quantity- 4 helpings.

Method.-Scrub and slice potatoes thinly, slice apples, grate cheese. Grease a fireproof dish, place a layer of potatoes in it, cover with apple and a little sage, season lightly and sprinkle with cheese, repeat layers, leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in 1/2 pint of the stock, cook in a moderate oven for 3/4 hour. Blend flour with remainder of stock, pour into dish and cook for another 1/4 hour. Serve as a main dish with a green vegetable.

The American “biscuit” is more like a small muffin and is used at breakfast, dinner or supper. A biscuit like our own is known in America as a "cracker." American muffins are like our queen cakes in appearance. American Emergency Biscuits (Ministry of Food)-3/4 lb flour; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 2 oz. margarine; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 3/4 cup milk.

Method-Mix flour, baking powder and salt together, cut in margarine; add milk gradually until a soft dough is formed. Turn out on a floured board and pat out with the hand to about 1 inch thick. Cut into rounds and bake in quick oven for 15 minutes."

I haven’t included all the recipes just a selection if you want to know more visit our online catalogue.

Photo: members of the WVS are providing wartime services for the welfare of American service personnel at a flat in Buckingham Gate, London. In the flat, a number of American service personnel, WVS members and ladies are being entertained by a recital of classical music that is being performed in the flat for them. WRVS/HQ/P/SWH/AMER002 1939-1945.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 21 November 2016.

Labels: America, WVS, Bulletin, Archive, 1942, Thanksgiving