May 20, 2018
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Seal of approval: Maine rug headed to inaugural

By Ardeana Hamlin, BDN Staff

NEW HARBOR, Maine — Mrs. Geyer’s rug, hooked in Maine, is headed to Washington.

In the early 1970s when then-Sen. Edmund S. Muskie was making a bid for the U.S. presidency, Francina Geyer started hooking a rug that depicted the seal of the president of the United States.

“All the while she was making it, she said, ‘If Muskie becomes president, I’m going to give it to him,’” said her husband, Sherley Geyer, 79, of New Harbor, who served for more than 20 years as director of the Olde Bristol Days festival in Bristol.

The rug, Geyer said, is 45 inches in diameter and made of narrow wool strips.

“It was a Joan Moshimer pattern from a shop in Kennebunkport,” he said, and his wife, “bought white wool and dyed the colors just the way she wanted it.”

It was the first rug Francina Geyer had ever hooked. The cloth strips for the piece were cut using a small machine made especially for rug hooking at Moshimer’s shop. Moshimer, who founded a rug hooking supply shop in 1968, was instrumental in keeping the art of rug hooking alive in Maine. Today, the shop is operated as W. Cushing and Co.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Sherley Geyer said of his wife’s hooked rug.

From the 1970s until her death in 1988, Francina Geyer hooked a total of 10 rugs.

“I was very proud of her work,” Sherley Geyer said, noting that his wife was very particular about the details of her work, ripping out sections and redoing them until she was completely satisfied that it was done correctly.

He said it took his wife two years to create the intricate seal rug.

Muskie lost the 1972 race to the White House, and Francina Geyer’s rug had a place of honor on a wall in her home where it hung for many years. It also was on display for several years in U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office in Augusta and, recently, it was exhibited at the River Grill in Damariscotta and at the Bristol Town Hall so local people could see it.

“The rug is stunning,” said Deborah McNeil, who works in Snowe’s Augusta office, where the presidential seal rug hung for several years. “She did absolutely stunning work.”

Now Geyer hopes President-elect Barack Obama will accept the rug as a gift for the White House.

“I’m a Republican but I voted for one Democrat,” he said. “I voted for Obama. I’m very impressed with him.”

To facilitate the rug on its journey to Washington, Sherley Geyer enlisted the aid of former legislator Severin M. Beliveau, whose son Emmett S. Beliveau is executive director of the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The first stop on the rug’s journey is the New Zealand Embassy, where it will be on display during a pre-inauguration reception on Monday. Hundreds of Mainers, including the congressional delegation and Gov. John Baldacci, are expected to attend.

From there, Severin Beliveau said, one of several options would be selected to present the rug as a gift to Obama. Beliveau will go through the Maine congressional delegation, the governor’s office or his son Emmett S. Beliveau to help the rug reach its final intended destination of the White House.

Geyer said he’s too old to travel to Washington for the inaugural celebrations, but added, “I’d like to go down in the spring when the weather is better and I get to meet [the new president].”

Betty Adams of the Morning Sentinel contributed to this report.

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