The 50,000 objects in the textile collections fall into two main categories: raw fibers, yarns, and fabrics, and machines, tools, and other textile technology. Shawls, coverlets, samplers, laces, linens, synthetics, and other fabrics are part of the first group, along with the 400 quilts in the National Quilt Collection. Some of the Museum's most popular artifacts, such as the Star-Spangled Banner and the gowns of the first ladies, have an obvious textile connection.
The machinery and tools include spinning wheels, sewing machines, thimbles, needlework tools, looms, and an invention that changed the course of American agriculture and society. A model of Eli Whitney's cotton gin, made by the inventor in the early 1800s, shows the workings of a machine that helped make cotton plantations profitable in the South and encouraged the spread of slavery.
"Textiles - Overview" showing 1 items.
- 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
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center