What can you tell me?

Did you know that the Archive & Heritage Collection runs an enquiry service? Do you wonder what people ask us? In May we received a very interesting enquiry asking what information we held in our Archives about Queen Mary’s Carpet and how its sale in 1950-1951 was coordinated by WVS.

The answer to this question is a simple but important one we hold two files one in our Central Registry collection discussing the how the carpets journey from the Victoria and Albert Museum to America, its tour around the USA and Canada and how it raised money for the united Kingdom after the War. The other is a file of miscellaneous memoranda containing leaflets, postcards, souvenir booklets and letters - the story these records tell is fascinating. 

In 1950 Queen Mary gave the nation a carpet that she had been embroidering between 1941 and 1946 and measures 10ft 2inches by 6ft 9.5inches has a unique floral design and signed Mary R, the boarder was made by the Royal School of Needle Work. Her Majesty decided to give the nation the carpet to help ‘bridge the dollar gap’, created by the war, money raised would go to the National Exchequer as she thought that everyone should contribute something to the country in its time of need. The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) were responsible for raising the much needed dollars while WVS were responsible for the carpets tour of US and Canadian public institutions. Lady Reading was made acting chief of staff of the operation.

The Carpet was first displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum before traveling to North America on the Queen Mary. The Carpet arrived in New York on 20th March and was exhibited there for 5 days before traveling around 15 other main cities in America and Canada including Ottawa (Ontario), Washington DC, Los Angeles (California), Seattle (Washington), Vancouver (British Columbia), Toronto (Ontario) and Montreal (Quebec).  On its tour the carpet was accompanied by a WVS volunteer who commented that it was the most exciting three months of her life and at in that time she and the carpet traveled 14,000 miles and was seen by 400,000 people.

After its tour the IODE purchased the carpet and toured it across Canada, raising at least another $100,000 for the British Exchequer. The carpet was presented to the National Gallery of Canada at the end of its tour. It is now kept in the gallery’s collections.

If you have a question about the Archive’s or the History of Royal Voluntary Service why not contact our enquiryservice today, we look forward to hearing from you.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 18 July 2016.

Labels: WVS, Queen Mary, Carpet, Enquiry, Archives, Records

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