The Age of Homespun : Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (review)

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Perhaps one of the few things we can say with some certainty about the collective project of design history is that it intends to elucidate the past through analysis of its objects. This, too, is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's aim in The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth. The author communicates her knowledge of using and making the objects she has studied just as she reflects on the act of using and making history. Each of the chapters is a selfsufficient object study—perhaps a product of the book's ten-year gestation through a series of papers and awards—but it is when collected here that they, and the numerous links between them, resonate most powerfully. Following an introduction, the chapters discuss, in sequence, 'An Indian Basket: Providence, Rhode Island, 1676', 'Two Spinning Wheels in an Old Log House: Dover, New Hampshire, date unknown', 'Hannah Barnard's Cupboard: Hadley, Massachusetts, 1715', 'A Chimneypiece: Boston, Massachusetts, 1753', 'Willie-Nillie, Niddy-Noddy: Newburyport, Massachusetts and New England, 1769',' 'A Bed Rug and a Silk Embroidery, Colchester and Preston, Connecticut, 1775', 'Molly Ocket's Pocketbook: Bethel, Maine, 1785', 'A Linen Tablecloth: New England in the Early Republic', 'A Counterpane and a Rose Blanket: Kennebunkport, Maine, and New England, 1810', 'A Woodsplint Basket: Rutland, Vermont, After 1821', and 'An Unfinished Stocking: New England, 1837'. A photograph of the eponymous object accompanies each chapter along with others of its type, and a range of maps, diagrams, portraits, paintings and broadsides. The illustrations are not extensive being, instead, acutely pertinent and illuminating. In fact, the book's entire appearance gives form to an assurance of quality within.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-126
JournalJournal of Design History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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