Monday, January 9, 2012

NMAC Coverlet Query: 8-Point Stars, Long Island Type?

This coverlet may be in the National Museum of the American Coverlet, Bedford, Pennsylvania.  I have an ongoing interest in multiple-harness doublecloth coverlets with various sorts of 8-pointed stars and related motifs, particularly those with inscriptions.

If it is not in the NMAC, where is it?

Does this one have an inscription?

    ❁    ✸    ❁    ✸    ❁    ✸    ❁    ✸

Update:  According to Ms. Melinda Zongor, this coverlet is in the collection of the National Museum of the American Coverlet, Accession No. 2007.001.025.

Its motifs are 8-point stars within 6-block snowballs, halves of which are shown in the illustration here, alternating with 8-point blazing stars within which are small stars with tiny diamond checkerboards within them.

The coverlet has no woven inscription, and the donors to the NMAC had no information on its prior ownership provenance.

Many thanks to Ms. Zongor for the information.

The coverlet's motif format strongly resembles some with Long Island provenance woven in the 1820s, and may be a product of the same shop.  If this conclusion is correct, the coverlet tells us that the weaver of these geometric-design Long Island coverlets wove coverlets both with and without inscriptions, so some were made for specific clients and others perhaps woven as general stock.

Some Dating Mileposts

Many coverlet owners have wrestled with identifying some features of coverlets.  The most difficult area is what sort of loom technologies were used to produce specific coverlets before 1840.  Scholars have rightly pointed out that the coverlet itself cannot always answer this question.

So far the history of actual use of specific types of weaver-controlled or automated patterning mechanisms for extensive inscriptions and pictorial patterns in America has not been comprehensively documented.  Articles by Virginia Parslow Partridge and Rita J. Adrosko, in Made In New York State remain the best surveys of this topic, although research continues.

It has been said that the Jacquard-type mechanism was mainly installed on handlooms, although this can’t be determined by looking at coverlets.  Power from a water wheel or steam engine was widely possible by the last quarter of the 18th century.  Factory-spun cotton yarns introduced before 1800 made power looms much more workable.  Tied weave structures (such as summer-and-winter and those called ‘beiderwand’) and patterns with many small figures in doublecloth also deterred warp stretching and eased using power looms.       

A few pictorial coverlets exist in some twill structures, which also would make for a more consistent shed.  One brought to my attention dated 1833, by J. Hausman, looks to be in a summer-winter structure with an unusual interlacement.  If these were as uncommonly woven as it now appears, I’d like to be able to ask the producers why they used these structures at all.

Woven dates have their own uncertainties.  They could commemorate a client’s date of birth or marriage rather than the date woven.  Of the geometric-design coverlets, some inscriptions appear to have been produced by a loom-control means; others were inlaid on the loom in a “pickup” method.  Since photographs have limitations, it is not always obvious whether some might have been embroidered.

The year 1831 saw an explosion of weavers’ advertisements and pictorial coverlets– an explanation for this has not been documented.

While many coverlet weavers can be found in pre-1831 tax assessment rolls, such as Jacob Bender in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1826, they are not included here.  Despite the questions, a look at chronology reflected in coverlets and advertisements gives one picture of trends.


Our most commonly seen are four-harness overshot coverlets, with their astonishing variety in design.  The earliest known woven dates are 1771 and 1773, and the latest I know of is 1846.  “Tied Beiderwand,” multiple-harness overshot coverlets of the “starwork” type and of the type with other twill-like designs (and sometimes tulips, trees and men) are not known with dates.  Rare coverlets in structures such as boundweave and “M’s and O’s,” have not been found with woven-in dates.

Summer-and-winter coverlets are less commonly found, and of those few with woven dates the earliest I have seen is 1817 and the latest 1848.

Multiple-harness free plain doublecloth coverlets with geometric patterns, bearing dates, names and other inscriptions from Long Island, New York,  are now famous, thanks to the work of Susan Rabbit Goody.  The earliest known date on these is 1810, and the latest I know of, of this type, is 1831.  Here again, the dates may reflect birth dates or marriage dates rather than when woven. A few others share the Long Island inscriptions’ format as being woven to read warp-wise in one border, but differ in method and their provenance is unknown; one shown below reads “JANU Y 1 1828” in one loom width's end border, and “H OAKLEY” in the other loom width's border.

Another small group, with names only, again woven to read warp-wise, may have originated in Westchester County, New York (related-pattern coverlets with no inscription also are known).  The names on known examples are M. Ferris, Sally Baker, Eliza Townsend, E. Moseman, Sarah Smith and H. Fowler.  Clusters of related families lived on Long Island and in Westchester, so this design format may have a common origin in one or a group of weavers.  While their dating may be contemporaneous with those dated in the 1820s or earlier, their time of production has not yet been documented.

Selected ads, weaving coverlets [c]; weaving carpet,
        coverlets  and/or carpet coverlets [cc]

Oct. 28, 1737  John Ewan, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA [c]
March 3, 1775  Stephen Miner, Stonington, New London County, CT [c]
Oct. 23, 1790  Frederick Baugh, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA [c]
July 15, 1793  Nicholas Mayer, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia County, PA [c]
Sep. 22, 1795  Thomas Brysland, Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania [c] Selling lot on Bedford St., Carlisle with log house, log stable and brick weavers shop; will also sell farming utensils, household goods and two Weavers Looms for raised work.  For terms apply to owner living on the premises.
Nov. 18, 1795  Robert McBride, Cotton Factory in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania [c] wanted Journeyman Weaver, who can weave with a flying shuttle. Purchased loom, for raised work, from Mr. Thomas Brysland, of whom he received instruction for weaving double and single Coverlids, Diaper and White Counterpains
Aug. 3, 1796 William Dawson, Carlisle, Cumberland County, PA [c]
June 13, 1797  Thomas Thompson, Blooming Grove, Orange County, NY [cc]
July 18, 1797 Joseph Schrack, Fancy Weaver, Berks County, PA [c]
Oct. 26, 1797 Joseph Cherry, White Plains, Westchester County, NY [cc]
April 25, 1799  Henry Arnold, Hagerstown, Washington County, MD [cc]
Dec. 30, 1799  Gawin I. Beatty, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA [c]
Nov. 3, 1801 John L. Cole, Bridgetown, Middlesex County, NJ [c] offered to teach diaper and spread weaving up to 20 harnesses
Aug. 7, 1802 Jacob Garlick, Philadelphia County, PA [c] located near Foundry on the Schuylkill
Jan. 29, 1803  Nicholas Mayer, Philadelphia County, PA, moved to Second St. in new Union Row [c]
March 30, 1803  Robert Douglass, Hagerstown, Washington County, Maryland [cc]
Sep. 10, 1803 Hugh McGonnigal, near Fort Fayette, Allegheny County, PA [c]
July 18, 1804  Adam Maguire, Nashville, Davidson County, TN [c]
Oct. 31, 1804  Thomas Garrett, Hagerstown, Washington County, MD [cc]
April 9, 1805  John Bantz, Frederick Town, Frederick County, MD [cc]
Aug 13, 1805  John Philip Schneider, Frederick County, MD [c]
March 21, 1806  James Armstrong, Carlisle, Cumberland County, PA [c]
April 29, 1808  William Morrow, Charlestown, Jefferson County, (West) VA [c]
March 5, 1810  Abel English, Burlington, Burlington County, NJ [c]
March 27, 1810  John Knight, Galway, Saratoga County, NY [cc]
April 3, 1810  Daniel Stover, Mercersburg, Franklin County, PA [cc]
Jan. 2, 1811 Jacob Miller, near Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD [cc]
June 10, 1811 Archibald McCann, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [cc] new shop one door below his former residence, Wheeling street
Nov. 18, 1811 Archibald McCann, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [cc] wants Journeyman for coverlet, carpeting and diaper work
Sep. 4, 1811  James Strong, Marsh Creek, Adams County, PA [c]
Dec. 16, 1811  James Burns, Canton Twp., Washington County, PA [c] reward for return of runaway coverlet and diaper weaving apprentice
May 18, 1812  Thomas Miller & Co. Factory, Chillicothe,, Ross County, OH [cc]
July 18, 1812  John Robertson, Ross County, OH [c]
Oct. 21, 1812  Walter Potts, Level Corner, Lycoming County, PA [c]
Sep. 27, 1813  Coverlet and Diaper Weavers, Washington County, PA [c] Met September 11 to set prices.  Signers: Thomas Briceland, Wm. Herron, Wm. Robinson, Robert Ford, David Briceland, Arch’d McCann
Oct. 4, 1813  William Robinson, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c]
Nov. 24, 1813  Crumpton & Smith, Chillicothe, Ross County, OH [c]
Feb. 2, 1814  John Lamon, Charlestown, Jefferson County, (West) VA [cc]
Sep. 23, 1814  William Long, near Shippensburg, Cumberland County, PA [c]
Oct. 17, 1814  Archibald McCann, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c]
Mar. 27, 1815  Archibald McCann, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c] All patterns of Coverlet and Diaper done in America, shall be wrought here on a sample being furnished.  At his old shop in Wheeling street; now determined not to go volunteering, until his adopted country require his services as a soldier
July 31, 1815  Fred Imhoff, near Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c]
Oct. 18, 1815 Charles Coburn, near Ballston Springs, Saratoga County, NY [cc]
Nov. 20, 1815  Archibald McCann, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c]
Feb. 2, 1816  John Lamon, Charlestown, Jefferson County,  (West) VA [cc]
April 1, 1816 William Robinson, Washington County, PA [c] Figured Weaving
April 29, 1816  Archibald McCann, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c] at old shop on Wheeling Street
April 29, 1816  John Boal, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c] began business in Archibald McCann’s former shop, April 1
June 3, 1816  John Glaze, Mercersburg, Franklin County, PA [c]
April 2, 1817  John Wimmer, Charlestown, Jefferson County, (West) VA [c]
April 21, 1817 James and Robert McMillen, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c] in the shop on Wheeling street lately occupied by A. McCann
March 7, 1818 Thomas Makinson, Lancaster, Lancaster Co., PA [c]
May 20, 1818 John Robertson, 4 mi. from Chillicothe, Ross County, OH [c]
Jan. 11, 1819 Thomas Briceland, Canonsburg, Washington County, PA [c] advertises for Journeyman and for an apprentice
April 14, 1819 Sally G. Kennedy, Pittsfield, Berkshire County, MA [cc]
Dec. 6, 1819  David Merryman, Canonsburgh, Washington County, PA [c]
Dec. 20, 1820 John Briceland and David B. Merryman, near Canonsburgh, Washington County, PA [c] in house formerly of Thos. Briceland
Feb. 21, 1820 William Robinson, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c], north end of Main Street
May 3, 1820  George, Oswald and Thomas Patchel, West Chester Borough, Chester County, PA [c]
June 20, 1820  John B. Welty, Boonsboro, Washington County, MD [cc]
June 27, 1820  Jacob Fort, Schoharie, Schoharie County, NY [cc]
Oct. 9, 1820 Samuel Ray, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c]
Jan. 20, 1821 Robert Craig, Steubenville, Jefferson County, OH [c]
March 10, 1821  Michael Courtney, Monongalia County, (West) VA [c]
Oct. 1, 1821 William Herron, Strabane Twp., Washington County, PA [c]
Jan. 3, 1822  James H. Hennion, Parsippany, Morris County, NJ [c]
Oct. 1, 1822  E. Stanley, Canandaigua, Ontario County, NY [cc]
May 5, 1823 William Robeson, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [cc] at head of Market St.; can weave Table Linen, Diaper, &c. the full breadth of two yards.
June 17, 1823 H. Hayford, Rochester, Monroe County, New York [cc]
July 28, 1823 Erastus Stanley, Canandaigua, Ontario County, NY [cc]
Sept. 23, 1823 Thomas Fleming, broadloom weaving, Washington County, MD [c]
March 25, 1824  Hannah Bissell, Richmond, Berkshire County, MA [cc]
Sept. 13, 1824 Robert Willson, near Washington Borough (near South-Buffalo Meeting-house), Washington County, PA [c] at house of John McMillan Jun.
Nov. 30, 1824 Daniel Stover, Washington County, MD [cc] also Blue Dying plus Red, Green, Yellow and Black; at Cross Roads, about 2 miles from Hagers-town & 2 from Funks-town
May 4, 1825 George Dietterick, Lansing Town, Tompkins County, NY [cc]
May 30, 1825  Andrew Cassidy, West Middletown, Washington County, PA [cc]
Aug. 17, 1825  Eagle Woollen Factory, Ithaca, Tompkins County, NY; Fancy Weaving by J. Conger; Jno. Bridges, Prop. [cc]
Aug. 16, 1826 Jacob Hunciker, Williamsport, Lycoming County, PA [c]
Feb. 19, 1827 John Feighner, Canton, Stark County, OH [c]
Apr. 28, 1827 John and Samuel Best, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA; just moved from Canton Twp. [cc]
Oct. 9, 1827 Jacob Galley, Tyrone Twp., Fayette County, PA [cc]
Feb. 14, 1828 Daniel Stover, Washington County, MD [c] selling farming and household goods and one coverlet loom, dye kettles and other articles appertaining to the weaving and dying business
April 11, 1828 Valentine Leopold, Canton, Ross County, OH [cc]
April 11, 1828 John Shoemaker, Canton, Ross County, OH [c]
Nov. 8, 1828 Peter Kennedy, Washington Borough, Washington County, PA [c] worked under father several years; from Steubensville, OH
Nov. 13, 1828 William Vallett, Stockbridge, Berkshire County, MA [cc]
April 21, 1829  E. N. Faxton, Geneseo, Livingston County, NY [cc]
Oct. 29, 1829  Valentine Bohn, Greencastle Borough, Franklin County, PA, selling house, land, weaving shop, coverlet and plain looms [c]
Oct. 27, 1830  Adams County Jail, Gettysburg, Adams County, PA [cc]


Of coverlets in summer-and-winter structure, none are known dated before 1835.  Extremely rare single-weave, twill and “true Beiderwand” coverlets are not known with dates before 1831.  Of the plentiful  coverlets in the tied Beiderwand structure, none are known dated before 1831.

Coverlets in free plain doublecloth are much more widely known.  Examples known to be James Alexander’s products are documented in his Accounts Book, dating 1821-1828.  Others by unknown weavers bear dates from 1822 (“Agriculture & Manufacture”), 1823 (recumbent cow in border) and 1829 (“American Independence”).  A group from central NY bear 1830 dates:
from Scipio (Cayuga County), Southport (Chemung), Pompey (Onondaga), Benton, Orange County, and Ithaca (Tompkins).  Dates on Long Island pictorial doublecloth coverlets also are known beginning with 1830, ending in the 1860s.

Selected pre-1831 ads, weaving figured / flowered coverlets,
carpet coverlets; or ingrain carpeting and coverlets [icc]

May 16, 1818  James Aikens, Orange County, NY
June 1, 1818 James Alexander & John Gibbs, Orange County, NY
Oct. 1819  Mrs. Ann Wilson was awarded first premium for a carpet coverlid by the Rensselaer Agricultural Society; reported Troy, NY: October 12, 1819 [The Plough Boy (Albany, NY), Sat., November 6, 1819 Vol. 1, issue 23, p. 182] [weaver unstated]
June 11, 1823 William Sherwood, Ridgefield, Fairfield County, CT [icc] just installed an ingrain carpet loom
Nov. 22, 1823  Hugh Gilroy, near Hillsborough, Washington County, PA; coverlets of every pattern; flowered, chequered, diamond and Venitian carpetting with a variety of other fashionable and fancy patterns; experience in one of the most extensive factories in Europe.
April 27, 1824  George Mason, Ryegate Town, Caledonia County, VT; Will put any flower on cloth that is possible to be drawn on paper.
Aug. 16, 1824  Hugh Gilroy, moved to Bealville, Washington County, PA [cc]
Aug. 17, 1825  Eagle Woollen Factory, Ithaca, Tompkins County, NY [cc] Fancy Weaving by J. Conger; Jno. Bridges, Prop.
Oct. 21, 1825  Hugh Gilroy was awarded First Premium of $2 for best coverlets at Washington County, PA Agricultural Exhibition [c]
June 21, 1827  Jeremiah Van Riper, Riverhead, Suffolk County, NY [icc]
Sep. 24, 1828  Josiah Cass, Forestville, Chautauqua County, NY
March 26, 1829  Wm. McDannell, Clear Spring, Washington County, MD.  dissolved partnership with Valentine Bohn in Green-Castle, Pa., now renting the house and shop of David Shover.
June 1, 1829 Sidney Allen, Sodus Town, Wayne County, NY [icc]
June 6, 1829  Daniel Haff, Patchogue Woolen Factory, Suffolk County, NY
June 6, 1829 David Kennedy, Wheeling, Ohio County, (West) VA [icc]
July 30, 1829  Kantner & Eichelberger, Scotch figured loom, Hagerstown, Washington County, MD
Nov. 19, 1829  David Pollay & Company, Ithaca, Tompkins County, NY
Jan. 13, 1830  Jonathan Conger, Groton, Tompkins County, NY
Apr. 1, 1830 John F. Kantner Factory, Hagerstown, Washington County, MD
July 3, 1830  Andrew Hoff, Straban Twp., Adams County, PA.  Hitherto carried on plain weaving; now can do all kinds of fancy work.

Updated January 26, 2013
Text and images copyright © 2012-2013 by the author.