Flax Spinning Wheel

Flax Spinning Wheel

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Spinning is the simple act of drawing out a few fibers and twisting them together to form a yarn. The process predates written history, and was first done by hand and with sticks. Spinning wheels are believed to have originated in India between 500 and 1000 A.D. By the 13th century, they were seen in Europe and were a standard piece of equipment for those making fiber into yarn. By the 17th century, they were commonly found in homes in the colonies of North America, where the production of fabric was a cottage industry. Spinning was generally seen as a woman's job. Women spun yarn at home, as well as with friends at "spinning bees," where food was served and prizes might be given to the person who produced the most or best yarn. The Industrial Revolution brought mechanization to the textile industry, and eventually spinning was done on large machines in textile mills.
This vertical flax wheel was made in France by George Beck, in 1694. Mr. Beck gave it to Adeline Beck, who passed it onto Margaret Beck in Paris, France in 1807. In 1822 she brought it to the United States and she used it in Cincinnati and Muskingum, Ohio, for spinnng fiber into yarn. It was given to the Museum by one of her descendants in 1886.
Currently not on view
Object Name
spinning wheel, flax
spinning wheel
Object Type
hand tools
Date made
date made
1694 ?
Associated Name
Beck, George
Beck, Adeline
Beck, Margaret
Beck, George
place made
Physical Description
ivory (overall material)
wood (overall material)
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. Charles Beck
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object