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Embroidered Hand Towel, "George Hoke"

ca. 1835
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Lebanon County
OL: 71" x OW: 16 1/4"
Cotton embroidery threads on a linen ground with cotton fringe
Museum Purchase, Funds given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Baumgarten and Mr. and Mrs. James W. Smith
Acc. No. 2011.610.1
This is a long rectangular linen hand towel embroidered in red and blue cotton threads with scattered Pennsylvania German motifs. It is hemmed at sides and top with a 1/4" hem. It is marked at the top in red cotton embroidery threads: "George Hoke." The lower portion contains a 10 3/4" long section of cotton darning stitch on drawn work. Signed in the open drawn work are the initials "MH." The bottom edge of the towel is finished with an applied white cotton mill-made fringe measuring 5" deep.
Label:This hand towel was embroidered in red and blue cross-stitched designs probably by a member of the Hoke family for George Hoke, whose name is marked at the top of the towel. It is signed in the open drawn work with the initials "MH." The bold colorful Pennsylvania German motifs fill the complete length of the towel as well as the open drawn and worked bottom panel.

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.
Mark(s):In red embroidery cotton "GEORGE HOKE" at top of towel; "MH" in drawn work
Inscription(s):In red embroidery cotton "GEORGE HOKE" at top of towel; "MH" in drawn work