“Textile Treasures” Digging Deeper Tour


web-gownWhen textile and costume expert Lynne Bassett was invited to consult on a new textile tour at the Webb-Deane-Stevens (WDS) Museum, she was genuinely surprised at the quality of the collection. There, among the brilliantly colored and richly detailed clothing, shoes, and linens dating from the 1690s to mid-1800s, lay several Sarah Noyes Chester crewelwork pieces. To put that into perspective, Chester’s crewelwork bed cover, part of the same set, is at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the first time, the public can get a behind-the-scenes view of this historic and remarkably well-preserved collection during the WDS “Textile Treasures” Digging Deeper Tour, on  October 8, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Admission is $15 per person. Space is limited and advance-ticket purchase is recommended.

Bassett, a scholar specializing in New England’s historic costume and textiles, notes, “This is a very special tour, because it’s rare that an organization will pull their textile treasures from storage to show them to the public.” The fact that they are in such a historic setting is a bonus, she adds. ‘It’s wonderful to see them in such a beautifully restored house setting so you can visualize how they were used.”

Among the favorites of Bassett, and  Textile Treasures curator Richard Malley, are an exquisitely detailed   man’s crewel purse dated 1759; a luxurious crewel christening robe; beautiful, whole-cloth, worsted quilts; a beautifully quilted red petticoat that belonged to Mary Fish Silliman, who is the subject of the book “The Way of Duty: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America;” and 18th-century men’s clothing attributed to Jeremiah Wadsworth.  Other highlights on the tour include a charming mid-18th century gown of woven-silk “Spitalfield” brocade (a type of weaving brought to England by French Huguenots), an 18th-century felted-fur (wool) tricorne hat worn by William Williams – signer of the Declaration of Independence , a very rare wooden tricorne hat box, and a collection of early 19th century needlework samplers.

Digging Deeper Tours are professionally curated, interactive, behind-the-scenes examinations of specific aspects of the lives of the former residents of the three homes that comprise the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum. Malley notes that WDS maintains a treasure trove of 18th-century imported and domestically produced fabrics thanks, in part, to Wethersfield’s role as a port and commercial center making importation of English and other goods (including cotton and indigo from the West Indies) easier. He notes also that wealth generated by West Indies trade helped develop and sustain importation of such goods. While the primary fabrics were silk, wool and linen, by the 19th century much of the material was produced in mills rather than in the home. He adds that while during the “Textile Treasures” costumed guides are showing off some of WDS’s most prized possessions, they will discuss the home as source of textile production, domestic labor, including spinning/weaving contributing to domestic economy, and textiles as an indicator of wealth/social status.

About the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Located in the heart of Connecticut’s largest historic district, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum provides the quintessential New England experience – from the American Revolution to the early 20th century. Tours include the 1752 Joseph Webb House, where General George Washington met with French General Rochambeau and planned the military campaign leading to the end of the Revolutionary War, the 1770 Silas Deane House, built for America’s first diplomat to France, and the 1788 Isaac Stevens House, which depicts Connecticut life in the 18th and 19th centuries. For more information visit: www.webb-deane-stevens.org or call (860) 529-0612. Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WDSMUSEUM.