James Alexander Coverlet

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James Alexander wove this coverlet for Eleanor Van Etten in 1824, possibly on a draw-loom. The owner's name and the date, October 14, 1824, appear in each corner. James Alexander was born in Ireland of Scottish parents on November 2, 1770. He immigrated to the United States in 1798, and settled in Orange County, New York. He was both a farmer and a weaver. He married Catharine Bullard in 1800, and they had 13 children. Like many weavers, Alexander wove household fabrics as well as coverlets. His account books survive, and show that he was weaving figured double-woven coverlets as early as 1821. This is earlier than any other known American weaver. It is believed that he was using a draw-loom, as the Jacquard loom had not yet been introduced in the United States. Although his weaving business was successful enough that at times he had others working for him, he did many odd jobs in exchange for money or goods: driving a team, processing flax, picking apples, husking corn, and more.
This coverlet is made of cotton and wool and features a center field of flowers. It has two borders: lengthwise the border consists of eagles and stars and the tower of a building possibly intended to be Independence Hall. Across the top and the bottom the border consists of eagles and Masonic columns. This coverlet was woven in two pieces and sewn together. A hand-sewn paper label came with the coverlet. It says that the Swartwout family of Orange County, New York, owned the coverlet from 1824 to 1982, when it was given to the Museum.
Currently not on view
date made
Van Etten, Eleanor
Alexander, James
place woven
United States: New York, Orange county
Associated Place
United States: Connecticut
Physical Description
fancy (overall production method/technique)
double weave (overall production method/technique)
cotton (overall material)
wool (overall material)
overall: 96 1/2 in x 76 in; 245.11 cm x 193.04 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History