A floorcloth is actually a hand-painted canvas rug. Floorcloths were very popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were frequently painted to simulate marbled pavement or patterned tiles. They could sometimes also imitate something as simple as straw matting or as complex as a Turkish carpet. These were true artisans whose talent was exemplified by the detail and lifelike images they could successfully transfer to canvas. The rich and famous such as George Washington himself owned a floorcloth which he used in the White House. He interestingly enough, even listed it in his 1796 financial disclosure at $14.82 and took it with him when he left the presidency. Because of the constant demand for a seamless floorcloth to fit a much larger area, floorcloth factories were most often built near sail-making communities in seaports and villages throughout the land. These strategic locations contributed greatly to the popularity and availability of this unique flooring.
As technological advancements in ship building were made, and steam and fuel powered engines gradually replaced the traditional sail-driven vessels, the demand for canvas dropped dramatically. Less and less was produced and this created an obvious shortage for floorcloth makers. It was during this time that the shift in flooring was made to linoleum, which by the way was in great supply, and quickly became the floor of choice for most people. Today, floorcloth is increasing in presence once again and are proudly being displayed on hard surfaces such as ceramic tile and hardwood flooring.
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