March 12, 2013

July 23, 2008 A sense of history

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 3:18 pm

Perhaps my favorite thing about the business we’re in is the discovery of beautiful things that are new to me, and the things I learn from them. I’m not Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German), but I’ve lived in Dutch Country almost 50 years, and collected antiques for nearly as long. Still, every once in a while something comes along that’s really special, really beautiful, and sends me on a journey of learning more about the rich cultural history of the area.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the business we’re in is the discovery of beautiful things that are new to me, and the things I learn from them. I’m not Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German), but I’ve lived in Dutch Country almost 50 years, and collected antiques for nearly as long. Still, every once in a while something comes along that’s really special, really beautiful, and sends me on a journey of learning more about the rich cultural history of the area.

The special item of the week is an early Pennsylvania German show towel:

Rudy show towel

I love the quality of the homespun linen towel itself as well as the precision and beauty of the needlework in traditional designs in three colors of linen thread. But there are things about this particular towel that I hadn’t seen before in others. So I was intrigued, and had to investigate

Barbara Rudy AND Carl Rudy

Most PA German show towels, or more properly, door panels – because they were made to hang from pegs on the kitchen door – were made by Mennonite girls in southeastern Pennsylvania. They come from a German tradition, but the earliest known dated one is from 1784, with the majority dating from 1820-1850. While some young girls were in fancy schools learning their needlework (from which arise the sampler tradition), the Mennonites, some Schwenkfelders and a few others among the PA Germans were busy preparing fancy linens for their eventual marriage.

Door panels were stitched by girls as young as eleven, and by young women in their twenties. Only a few are known to have been made after marriage. Apparently, mine is one such, as it includes the names of both husband and wife, Barbara and Carl Rudy. The Rudys were Mennonites from Lancaster County. Between Carl’s first and last name is the date 1806.

1806

So it’s a relatively early example as well. There are whole books of information on the subject of door panels, the best of which is This Is the Way I Pass My Time by Ellen Gehret and others, published by the Pennsylvania German Society. Apparently the images – eight pointed star, tulip, birds, a heart, and other flowers are quite typical. And certainly there are many more elaborate examples, many in museums or important collections. But this is the one that exited me into another great learning experience.

PA German motifs

The towel is currently being offered in my eBay store. (Much of the fun of loving something is in the sharing!)

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment