“The Dynamics of Regional Cloth Production and Consumption in Early America”
Presented by: Dr. Adrienne Hood
Cloth and clothing were among the most essential and valuable commodities in early America and European colonists expended a great deal of time, labor and financial resources acquiring these textile items. Many of us envision the women of rural households busily spinning yarn and weaving cloth for their self-sufficient families. Though there are grains of truth in this interpretation, the reality is more complex. Considerations such as the European origin of the settlers, local and regional economies, access to labor, disposable income, consumer tastes and global markets, all determined how early Americans made and used textiles. Focusing on the mid-Atlantic, I will discuss these factors in terms of the technology and skill required to produce cloth, the market forces that had an impact on its procurement, the role of gender and labor in producing it and the changes in consumer culture, technology and economy that shaped these realities over the long sweep of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the process it will become clear that despite the highly local realities that affected the manufacture and acquisition of textiles in places like rural Pennsylvania and Virginia, they were, in fact, influenced by and responding to, larger cultural, economic and global forces.
Meet the Speaker
Adrienne Hood began her career as a professional weaver, after which she obtained her doctorate in American history with a research focus in textile production. For over a decade, she was curator of North American textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum, after which she moved to the History Department of the University of Toronto, where she taught early American History and Material Culture. Her books include: Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving in Early Canada (2007) and The Weaver’s Craft: Cloth, Commerce, and Industry in Early Pennsylvania (2003). Among her articles are “Cloth and Color: Fabrics in Chester County Quilts.” Layers Unfolding the Stories of Chester County Quilts. editor Ellen Endslow, (2009); Gender, Textile History 50th Anniversary Essays 50:2 (2019): pp. 212-217; and “‘The Real Thing’: How Object Analysis Unlocks Meaning and Enriches Documentary Evidence.” A Companion to Textile Culture, Jennifer Harris, ed., 2020.