Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Research: The Stratham Historical Society

By Kimberly Alexander, Project Director & Director of Museum Studies

In July, the Flax Team spent the morning at the Stratham Historical Society, Stratham, NH. We initially came to see two child's homespun and hand sewn dresses (c.1827 - 1835) from the Lane family (descendants of Deacon Samuel Lane and his son, Jabez Lane). I viewed the dresses the previous summer (Summer 2022) and was captivated by the textiles, the sewing, the details and the mending, and the stories behind the maker and the wearer. After working to untangle some misattributions on the written receipts, we are now making progress with these two charming dresses. [1]

Olivia Emeline Lane dresses, c.1827-1835;
made by her mother, Hannah French Lane

Note the exquisite matched mend on the puffed, vandyked sleeve.

Thanks to the Historical Society collections manager, Andra Copeland, we found much more than we had anticipated -- including several outstanding examples of homespun linen (and other fibers as well) created by three generations of women from the Brown family of Stratham. 

As our research unfolds over the next year, we will share updates on the homespun linen found in this corner of New Hampshire and, where possible, the names of the makers responsible.

This research is active and ongoing.

[1] The Lane dresses are housed at the Stratham Historical Society, in Stratham, NH. For information, see Stratham Historical Society at http://www.strathamnh.gov/historical-society

The author thanks Andra Copeland, Skip Stearns, Bruce Kerr and Teddie Smith of the Stratham Historical Society for their assistance throughout the summer of 2022 and 2023.

          For a guide to the Lane Family Papers at the New Hampshire Historical Society, see: https://www.nhhistory.org/object/272904/lane-family-papers-1727-1924.

For a comprehensive account of Samuel Lane, see Brown, J. E., & Garvin, D.-B.. The Years of the Life of Samuel Lane, 1718-1806: A New Hampshire Man and His World. (Univ. Press of New England, 2000).  For an account of Lane and additional 18th century New England shoemakers and their business, see Alexander, K., Treasures Afoot: Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018)

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