COLLECTION: Textiles

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Embroidered Hand Towel by Anna Clemmer

1830-1845
Origin: America, Mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania
OL(plus fringe): 43 1/2"; W: 15 1/2"
Cotton embroidery threads on a linen ground
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1954-735
This is a linen hand towel embroidered in faded red cotton threads. Selvages are at top and bottom, and a 1/8" flat hem at sides. There are two buttonhole stitched loops at top corners for hanging towel. Worked in faded red cross stitch near top of towel is the signature: "A C" and "ANNA CLEMMER." Attached to the bottom selvage with a twisted herringbone stitch is a 3" band of fringe.

Stitches: cross, twisted herringbone
Label:Anna Clemmer signed and initialed her embroidered hand towel at the top in red cross stitches, which are now faded to pink. The bottom of the towel consists of three inches of knotted fringe that is attached to the selvage edge of the towel with a twisted herringbone stitch.

The custom for young, unmarried women to decorate hand towels with embroidery was common in both Germany and Pennsylvania, especially in Mennonite families. Making a hand towel was part of mastering sewing skills and developing self control--important lessons for young women who were soon to become wives, housekeepers, and mothers. More often they were made in anticipation of marriage as part of the household linens required to set up housekeeping. Intended to beautify a home rather than for actual use, decorated hand towels were usually hung for display on the living-room side of doors between the kitchen and living room, or stove room. Frequently painted blue or red, these doors showed off the prettily embroidered white towels to their best advantage.
Provenance:Purchased in Tarrytown, New York in 1954; nothing more is known of towel's provenance.
Mark(s):AT top: "A*C, ANNA*CLEMMER" in cross-stitch