Sorting out the Hartmans, Nineteenth-Century Coverlet Weavers of Central Ohio

By Gunn, Virginia | The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc., March 2002 | Go to article overview

Sorting out the Hartmans, Nineteenth-Century Coverlet Weavers of Central Ohio


Gunn, Virginia, The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.


Jacquard coverlets were among the most prized handwoven products of the mid-nineteenth century Their bright and bold patterns graced beds in both farm homes and mansions. In the antebellum decades, professional coverlet weavers filled a unique niche in the production of these domestic textiles. After the family sheep had been sheared, women spun and sometimes dyed the wool. Then they took their yarn to a local professional weaver to be expertly woven into textiles such as coverlets, in exchange for cash, services, or products.

The backbone counties of central Ohio, especially Ashland, Richland, Stark, and Wayne, were the center of nineteenth-century Germanic coverlet weaving in the state. The huge influx of settlers to this region in the decades following the War of 1812 included numerous professional weavers, most of whom had roots in Pennsylvania and/or Germany. More than seventy identified Jacquard coverlet weavers worked in the area now encompassed by these four counties. The names Peter Hartman and John Hartman are especially well-known. This report, part of an on-going study of coverlet weavers in Ohio, focuses on clarifying the various Hartmans, their work and their locations.1

In 1912, Eliza Calvert Hall, author of the first book on coverlet weaving, stressed that "when a man's work lasts, his name should not be forgotten." She also acknowledged the problems faced by those who want to learn more about early coverlet weavers and accurately laid out the challenge:

... between us and most of the others lies the space of a long lifetime. So if we go to searching for information concerning them, we are likely to run up against the blank wall of oblivion. But the coverlets they wove are still with us, whole and unfaded, and now and then a scrap of biography comes to me carrying a distinct picture of a class of artists as interesting and as individual as the minstrels of England and the pipers of Scotland.2

Since records of coverlet weavers rarely appear in standard county histories in Ohio, information must be gleaned piece by piece from a variety of sources.3 Sources for this study included 116 extant artifacts; birth, marriage, and death records; census records; family histories; land records and maps; newspaper accounts and obituaries; probate records; property tax records; and voting records.

The Hartman weavers have presented problems to those trying to document their work. This is understandable when one notes that there were at least thirty-three men named John Hartman and twelve named Peter Hartman living in Ohio in the mid-nineteenth century. Changes in names of counties and towns have added to the confusion.

Authors previously listing or discussing the Hartman coverlet weavers have assumed that they were documenting the work of two brothers.4 A careful sorting of places and dates on extant coverlets clearly revealed that Peter and John would have had to have been in two places at the same time to accomplish all the work attributed to only two people. There were actually two unrelated sets of brothers, Peter and John Hartman of Wayne County, and John and Peter Hartman of Richland County. To complicate matters, the two John Hartmans both eventually wove in what is now Ashland County.

In her study of northwest Ohio coverlet weavers, Patricia Cunningham pointed out, while still assuming there were only two brothers, that some coverlets associated with the Hartmans were done in a 2:1 tied Beiderwand technique and others had a 4:1 tied Beiderwand structure. Tied Beiderwand is a compound weave using a single set of warp threads. Certain warp threads, sometimes blue in color, function as tie-down warps that anchor the pattern wefts to the ground fabric at regular intervals, creating a noticeable vertical ribbed effect on both sides of the textile. The 2:1 tied Beiderwand construction uses a closely spaced tie-down repeat that creates a fine ribbed appearance; the 4:1 tied Beiderwand structure leaves more space between tie-down repeats which results in a wider ribbed effect. …

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