The Age of Homespun

The Age of Homespun

Objects and Stories in the Creation of An American Myth

Book - 2001
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Using objects that Americans have saved through the centuries and stories they have passed along, as well as histories teased from documents, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich chronicles the production of cloth--and of history--in early America. Under the singular and brilliant lens that Ulrich brings to this study, ordinary household goods--Indian baskets, spinning wheels, a chimneypiece, a cupboard, a niddy-noddy, bed coverings, silk embroidery, a pocketbook, a linen tablecloth, a coverlet and a rose blanket, and an unfinished stocking--provide the key to a transformed understanding of cultural encounter, frontier war, Revolutionary politics, international commerce, and early industrialization in America. We discover how ideas about cloth and clothing affected relations between English settlers and their Algonkian neighbors. We see how an English production system based on a clear division of labor--men doing the weaving and women the spinning--broke down in the colonial setting, becoming first marginalized, then feminized, then politicized, and how the new system both prepared the way for and was sustained by machine-powered spinning. Pulling these divergent threads together into a rich and revealing tapestry of --the age of homespun,--Ulrich demonstrates how ordinary objects reveal larger economic and social structures, and, in particular, how early Americans and their descendants made, used, sold, and saved textiles in order to assert identities, shape relationships, and create history.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780679445944
Branch Call Number: History 974.03 Ulr


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Feb 24, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having recently taken up spinning and weaving myself, it was fascinating to read about the women of the colonial and post-colonial era, who spent so much of their time and energy on creating cloth--which we take entirely for granted now--and how these skills were a matter of physical survival for many people; how cloth-making contributed to the economic, cultural, and political climate of the time, and how financially valuable these skills were as well. (I think my favorite story in the entire book is about a handspun, handwoven linen tablecloth which was valued at considerably more than the table it rested on.) I also greatly enjoyed learning about how the society in that time and place was far more varied and complex than I had ever imagined.


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