Flax Spinning Wheel; New York, 18th C.

Flax Spinning Wheel; New York, 18th C.

Usage conditions apply
This Saxony-style flax wheel is fashioned of wood, with small leather parts. It was probably made in the 18th century, possibly in Genoa, New York. Family records trace ownership of the wheel as far back as Mary Shaw, of Genoa, who was born in 1813. However, a study of the wheel's construction indicates it may have been made before Mary was born. Mary Shaw died in 1903. The wheel was given to the Museum by one of her descendants.
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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Spinning Wheel, Flax
Object Type
hand tools
Date made
18th century
Shaw, Mary
Place Made
United States: New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
leather (overall material)
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Laura E.C. Crow
Hand Tools
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
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.


I have a spinning wheel that appears to be an exact match to the one in the picture. Mine has a makers mark on the side of the main platform that says S. Reiner. If you have any information about the maker or the wheel it would be appreciated.
We have little information beyond what is given on this web page for object T15611, However, the main platform of T15611 is marked with what appears to be a small "10" followed by larger capital letters "CFRIS" (but we have no information about a possible interpretation of this marking).

Note: Comment submission is temporarily unavailable while we make improvements to the site. We apologize for the interruption. If you have a question relating to the museum's collections, please first check our Collections FAQ. If you require a personal response, please use our Contact page.