Blue White Harry Tyler Lion Woven Coverlet 1842 Harriet Sanborn Jefferson Co NY
A rare and important American folk art double woven coverlet!
This historic winter/summer coverlet is attributed to New York's preeminent coverlet weaver Harry Tyler.
Harry Tyler left his signature in the form of a pair of stylized, scowling lions in the bottom corners.
Dated 1842, this coverlet was made for Harriet Sanborn.
This superb quality double weave coverlet is woven in two 38 1/2" panels of indigo handspun wool and natural two-ply cotton. This covelet measures 77" X 86".
The interior features flowers and diamonds. The lower edge and two sides are framed with bush rose and picket fence borders, while a boxy lion guards each lower corner. “Jefferson Co., NY”, “Harriet Sanborn ”, and “1842” are also woven directly into the fabric, noting the location and date of its production.
Harry Tyler was a prominent weaver in 19th century Jefferson County, NY. He was known primarily for his bridal coverlets that were inscribed with the name of the bride, her county of origin, and the year in which the coverlet was woven. These coverlets were an essential piece of every upper class bride’s “setting out.” Though famous for these wedding coverlets, Tyler’s repertoire also included coverlets for other occasions such as baptisms and births.
It was conventional for nineteenth century coverlet weavers to integrate the customer’s name into the border design. Consequently, we know that the coverlet was commissioned either by or for Harriet Sanborn in Jefferson County, New York in 1842.
Harry Tyler was born in Connecticut in 1801 to English parents. Tyler eventually settled in Butterville, Jefferson County in 1834. It was then that he began to weave his famous coverlets. Tyler built his own looms with a Jaquard attachment on which all of his coverlets were woven, either by himself or his children who apprenticed under him. The coverlets came in two predominate colors: red or blue, with the dye sourced locally from Elisha Camp of Sacket’s Harbor. Tyler's coverlets were also reversible, with the dominant color on the front set against a white background on the back. The coverlets were made of two pieces sewn together— the right and left side of the coverlets (on both sides) were mirror images of each other.
Harry Tyler used the lion as his emblem or "trademark" from 1834, when he began weaving, until, at his son Elman's suggestion, he adopted an eagle with the motto “E Pluribus Unum” as his logo eleven years later. He used the latter mark until his death in 1858. His eagle and stars were eventually used in 2002 on an American first class postage stamp.
Great numbers of twill and overshot coverlets were produced in the United States in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Skilled handweavers typically executed small geometric designs in multicolored bands of cotton and wool on four harness looms with between four and twenty-four shafts. “Unlike overshot and weft-faced plain-weave types, geometric-patterned double-woven coverlets were the work of professional weavers,” most often men, and were likely produced on drawlooms. The complicated double weave technique enabled the weaver to produce simultaneously two layers of cloth which intersect at intervals. Double weave coverlets are reversible, typically bold in contrast, and, because air is trapped between their two layers, are warmer than their single-layer counterparts.
The introduction of the Jacquard loom to the United States about the year 1825 revolutionized weaving in this country as it had in Europe twenty years earlier. The Jacquard mechanism, with its series of punched cards, allowed a single weaver to produce almost any design with relative ease. The flourish of complex coverlets woven during the middle of the nineteenth century and the numbers which survive are testaments to the significance of the Jacquard loom in the history of weaving.
Harry Tyler is noteworthy for both the number of double weave coverlets he produced with his Jacquard loom as well as for their distinctive designs. The 268 extant coverlets attributed to him feature “eleven centerfield designs, six borders, and eight variations of the lion logo and five of the eagle” in an array of combinations. According to his granddaughter, Etta Tyler Chapman, who was invited to talk about “The Tyler Coverlet” at a 1928 meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Jefferson County, New York, Tyler built his looms and drew his own patterns, except for the fruit pattern and the eagle design which were created by Elman, his son and able assistant.
Female customers generally provided the fiber for their coverlets and prepared it to Tyler’s specifications. Typically, the weaver and his children dyed the yarn with indigo which yields a deep blue, although patrons could also order scarlet dye for an additional charge. An 1856 advertising handbill lists Tyler’s fees: $2.75 for weaving one coverlet; $2.50 for more than one in the same web, or design.
The beauty and value of Tyler’s coverlets have been recognized by his customers and their descendants, as well as his own. Many are in museums throughout the country from the Jefferson County Historical Society to the Williamsburg Foundation, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Shelburne Museum, and the Smithsonian.
The coverlet is in very good to excellent condition. There are no holes that go through both sides of the weaving. It is not faded, worn or separated. There are a couple of small stained which are shown. Pictures 3,4 and 12 were taken inside while the others were taken outside which explains the variations in color. The colors of the coverlette are consistent throughout. On the white side there are a few tiny areas of thread breakage which were so small I couldn't get them to show up in my pictures.
Ihave tried to find geneological information about Harriet Sanborn. When we bought the coverlet many years ago we were told that she was part of the family that eventually established Chase & Sanborn coffee -- the first coffee sold in sealed cans. I have not been able to confirm that history. It does appear, however, that the coverlet may have been made to celebrate Harriet White Sanborn's marriage to Edmund Sanborn.
This coverlet comes from our smoke and pet free home.
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