From the early seventeenth century through the 1850s, a fully dressed high-post bedstead was frequently the most valuable piece of furniture in well-appointed southern houses. The expense lay in the textiles rather than the wooden frame, however. When George Washington purchased a new bed for his Virginia home in 1759, London cabinetmaker and upholsterer Philip Bell charged him just under, £ 5 for a mahogany and beech bedstead with an upholstered cornice, and £24 for matching chintz bed curtains, a custom-made quilt, and a pair of large mattresses.
Although viewed as decorative accessories today, bed curtains originally were important functional components of a high-post bed. In the winter, tightly closed curtains provided protection from the subfreezing indoor temperatures common before the advent of central heating. During the summer, gauze mosquito curtains were often substituted to ward off insects.