Nathaniel Young; Figured and Fancy coverlet, double-cloth; 1836; New York or New Jersey

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Description
This coverlet has a side to side and top-to-bottom mirror image depicting flowers, fruits, cornucopias, and scrollwork, except for the center medallion, which contains the information "Phebe Ann Baylis 1836" embellished with four simple birds on the wing and a pair of rosettes, all framed by a garland of simple stylized flowers. The arabesque leafy border is interrupted on either side by a strangely proportioned urn and scattered eight-pointed stars, along with fruits, flowers, and birds sparsely placed between the center of motif and border. The coverlet is double-cloth containing two sets of cotton and indigo-dyed wool, warp and weft. The coverlet was woven for Phebe Anne Baylis (b. 1828) of Suffolk County, New York in 1836, when she was just eight-years-old. It was common practice for parents to being building up their children’s wedding trousseaus at an early age, and coverlets and other bedclothes were an expected contribution from the family. It was not uncommon for families to place coverlet orders with weavers for all of their children at once. This coverlet is representative of this arrangement.
According to the 1850 Federal Census, Baylis, at age 22, was living in the household of her 29-year-old brother, Orlando (b. 1821) with her presumably widowed mother, Mehitable (b. 1801) in Suffolk County, New York. The weaver of this coverlet has been the source of much debate over the past thirty years. Nathaniel Young (life dates unknown) was the weaver of this coverlet. His life is a bit of a mystery, but he was likely a Scottish immigrant, first working in the vicinity of New York City and later moving and working in Hudson, Bergen, and finally Morris County, New Jersey. Unsigned Nathaniel Young coverlets are identifiable by the stylized foxglove flower found in the corners of this coverlet, which may appear as a shaded pear to modern audiences. It is unclear whether Young worked for New Jersey’s most famous coverlet weaver David Haring (1800-1889), but the similarity in design and pattern is striking. The details of his life have yet to be fully worked out. He was first described as an itinerant weaver, but the cumbersome nature of the barrel or cylinder loom he would have been using would make this very unlikely. The style and arrangement of the patterns of Young and Haring’s New Jersey coverlets are also linked to those found and made on Long Island, New York, and the existence of this identifiable coverlet may be the missing link connecting those early Long Island coverlets written about by Susan Rabbit Goody with the later coverlets from New Jersey in a similar style.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1836
maker
unknown
place made
United States: New Jersey
Physical Description
double cloth (overall production method/technique)
blue, white (overall color)
figured and fancy (overall production method/technique)
cotton, wool (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 87 in x 72 in; 220.98 cm x 182.88 cm
ID Number
TE.T16835
catalog number
T16835.000
accession number
306589
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Coverlets
Domestic Furnishings
Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History

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