Friday, July 21, 2023

Research: The Woodman Museum, Dover, NH

By Kimberly Alexander, Director of Museum Studies & Project Director

The UNH Flax Team has visited the Woodman Museum in Dover, NH several times and found numerous items in their rich collections which have assisted our research. The holdings can be divided into three categories: tools needed for processing flax into linen; examples of homespun linen used for sheets and clothing items; and written daybooks and account books, kept by local merchants, shopkeepers and farmers.

Three flax heckles (or flax combs), c. mid-18th through early 19th century 
All images courtesy, the Woodman Museum; K. Alexander, photos

Graduate student and research assistant, Sophie MacDonald, measures a hemp brake 
in the Garrison House at the Woodman Museum

We were especially fortunate to locate examples of homespun linen with a known provenance, created by two Dover women. Shown here are linen sheets (c.1810-45) with the linen woven by Eunice Pinkham (died 13 August 1870, at age 84) and then sewn by her daughter, Phebe T. Pinkham Thompson (died 9 May 1848, at age 36). Other items from the Pinkham family include Phebe’s needle-case, a cap, and a nightshirt/shirt. All are from the 1st half of the 19th century, and likely not after 1848. One especially fine piece is dated 1833.

Phebe T. Pinkham and Eunice Pinkham sheet (above and left image); unknown maker’s homespun, c. 1820 (right), probably from Dover, NH.

We are also investigating several daybooks and account books which mention braking flax, selling flax seed and so on. More on these items as research progresses.

'Old Dover Account Book' Ellen P. Rounds Collection

From tools such as a hemp brake and heckles, to examples of locally grown and hand-spun linens --- sheets, caps and shirt -- the Woodman has proved an invaluable resource for learning more about the processing of flax and the production of linen. 


A special thank you to the Director Jonathan Nichols, and Operations Manager Mike Day for sharing their knowledge and their enthusiasm.

For more information on the Woodman Museum, see



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