Locally identified coverlet groups
Libertyville Woolen Mill (Factory)
Little documentation exists on the Libertyville Woolen Mill beyond local tradition stating that New Paltz resident Jacob Lowe (b.1786) and his brother Samuel (b.1789) were in partnership with Solomon DuBois, also from New Paltz in running a mill which specialized in fancy coverlet weaving. The mill was located approximately three miles south of New Paltz on the Wallkill River. The New York Census for Libertyville, Ulster Co., for 1850 lists Jacob Lowe as a weaver.
Two distinct design types appear to have been woven at Libertyville – one type is representation in the coverlet just around the corner that bears Dinah Roosa’s name. The pattern this coverlet is a densely composed floral field centering four federal eagles each carrying the banner “E Pluribus Unum”. The whole is bordered with classical urns and a palmetto motif. Examples of this type found so far are not dated. A second design type, sometimes dated, incorporates medallions with scrolled floral and grapevine motifs. Both carry a “Libertyville, Ulster County, N.Y.” border inscription.
Historic Huguenot Street owns eleven coverlets produced at this factory (including one from the second type dated 1846). Family names include: Hasbrouck, Elting, Deyo, LeFevre, Roosa, Freer, Van Nostrand, and DuBois
“Agriculture & Manufactures Are The Foundation of Our Independence”
This group of coverlets may have been woven by several different weavers. At one time it was believed that they came out of the workshop of James Alexander of Orange County, N.Y., since striking similarities exist between the two groups. However this attribution has now been dismissed. The corner legend reading: “Agriculture & Manufactures Are The Foundation of Our Independence” is usually combined with a date (known examples ranging from the early 1820s to the late 1840s) and sometimes an addition to the inscription “July 4” or “General Lafayette” (these additions most likely commemorating Lafayette’s return visit to America in 1824-25). However, it is not clear where the agriculture quote itself came from. Many examples of the Agriculture group of coverlets exist whose original owners lived in Dutchess and Ulster counties. Historic Huguenot Street owns four coverlets from the Agriculture group dated between 1824 and 1838 – all with Ulster County family provenance.
An important New York State coverlet weaver, James Alexander (1770-1870) was born in Belfast, Ireland of Scottish parents. Already a skilled trade weaver when he came to America in 1789, Alexander eventually moved to Little Britain (Orange County), N.Y. where he farmed and set up a workshop employing several weavers. Alexander kept a very complete accounting of his expenditures and receipts along with the names of almost all of his clients. These account books form the basis of our understanding of Alexander’s weaving business and the products coming from his workshop. Based on similarities in central medallion designs, it is extremely easy to see why the Agriculture group of coverlets has been confused with Alexander’s output. However, important differences exist. The most important follow: Alexander always put his client’s name into a framed corner block (Agriculture client names are on the end borders). Alexander used a sprigged, leaf motif in the arch above his eagles (Agriculture coverlets used shamrocks). Alexander used twin pine trees on his borders (Agriculture coverlets did not). And finally, Alexander coverlets are always woven in two pieces and seamed down the middle (some Agriculture coverlets were woven on broadlooms and therefore were not seamed).
James Alexander retired from weaving sometime around 1828 (the last year entries are made in his account books) and resumed his life as a farmer. Alexander died just short of his 100th birthday. He is buried in Newburgh, N.Y. Historic Huguenot Street owns one very early James Alexander coverlet, woven for Ann Blake, dated 1820.
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