100 Objects

1870 The Fox

& Lark Coverlet

1870 The Fox & Lark Coverlet

This Indigo blue wool and white cotton coverlet depicts a steamboat race between the Fox and Lark on the Fourth of July. Researchers at the Senator Heinz History Center found records of a steamship named the Fox built in Brownsville in 1863 and a ship named the Lark built two years later in California, Pa. From 1811 to 1888 boatyards in Brownsville produced more than 3,000 steamships. No record of a July race on the Monongahela River could be found.

Racing was often impromptu rather than a staged event. The steamship that reached a stop before the other vessel got more passengers, made more money, and earned greater prestige. Everyone knew racing was dangerous, but the thrill was too great to deny. Passengers and crew would be yelling as the steamships came side by side with flags flying, engines roaring, smoke billowing out of the tall stacks, and steam spurting from the escape pipes. Onlookers would line the shore cheering the thrilling site.

This commemorative coverlet was woven on a Jacquard loom by a professional weaver. The double-woven “figured and fancy” pattern required over 2,000 punch cards to produce the one-of-a-kind pattern. Many of the Scot-Irish that settled in Washington County were weavers by trade. Hand weaving stopped with the Civil War as most of the weavers joined the army or were quite old by that time This rare textile was donated by the Gerry Evans Family, having been owned by their ancestor Maria Evans (1810-1869).

Linda Zelch is a volunteer for the Washington County Historical Society and a member of the antiquities committee.

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