In Which I Get On My Soapbox Before a Young Antique Dealer…

…and he takes it with admirable grace.

Last weekend we went to an antique festival in town.  My usual routine is to cruise through quickly, snapping up anything I know I want, and then to backtrack, taking a more leisurely look, to see if there is anything I’ve missed.

I glimpsed this red and white coverlet in a booth when we entered, but dismissed it as a mass-produced blanket from the ’50s.  But when it was still there when we on our way out, I gave it another look.

antique coverlet topped with stuff for sale

Not the most lovely of textiles, but it deserves better treatment than this!

woven label - "made by T. Marsteller, L. S. 1859"

Signed and dated. Be still my heart!

I approached the young dealer and said, “Can I talk to you about your table covers?”

And he said, “No.”

I said, “Okay,” but I kept standing there, wondering why antique dealers bring things to shows when they don’t want to sell them, and wondering if I should ask this question.

Dealer:  “I got it from this really cool old lady.”

Me:  “Fine, but if you value it, it really shouldn’t be out here in the sun.”

See those dark shadows? That’s how strong the sun was. I know. Scary.

Dealer (a touch apologetically): “I don’t want to put my stuff out on something new.”

Me: “Okay, but there are lots of new things that look old and interesting, and wouldn’t hurt your presentation any, and you wouldn’t have to ruin an old piece.”

Dealer’s Partner:  “Look at how she’s looking at it.  She can see it’s suffering.”

Dealer: “I fold it up nicely and put it in a plastic bin when I’m not using it.”

Me:  No comment.  Possibly an eye roll.  The point of my sermon was to get this coverlet out of the sun, I was not going to go off into the evils of plastic storage as well.

Dealer:  “And really, it was in that shape when I got it, I promise you.”

Me:  “Fine, but it’s 170 years old and you are not helping it survive to get any older!”

Dealer (with interest): “How do you know that?”

At this point we had the little angel/demon discussion going on on my shoulders — “Tell him what you know!”/”Don’t tell him anything, just try to pick up a bargain!  He’s had time to research this before!  He doesn’t deserve to keep it!  His partner wants him to sell it to you!!”

But the kind teacher in me won out over the merciless bargain hunter (I don’t really need to own ALL the textiles, I just need to see them get some respect).

So I showed him the date.

Dealer:  “I never noticed that before.  What else can you tell me?”

Here are some of the other things I pointed out about it:

The abundance of curving lines shows it was woven on a Jacquard loom, rather than the simpler 4-harness looms that were more common in homes.

It is a summer and winter weaving structure — reversible, but not actually two layers of cloth woven together.

The fringe was made on a separate device and added afterwards.

(And let me interject here that the day was wearing on, and crowds were thinning. Plus his partner was there to deal with customers.  I don’t think I lost him any money.)

So then he started taking things off from on top of it, I took pictures and told him I was going to blog about it, we exchanged contact info, and I thanked him for letting me be on my soapbox, and congratulated myself on making a Textile Conservation Convert.  🙂

When I got home, I decided to research the weaver.  I searched for “T. Marst Eller 1859”, but all that came up was a lot of results for a Chance Marsteller, who is apparently a boxer or wrestler who is involved in some type of scandal.  But it gave me the clue that the weaver had broken up his name to fit in the border, and I looked for “T. Marsteller weaver”.  I had no idea what the “L + S” could mean; I was thinking possibly “Louisiana.”  I was very excited to find that coverlets from Thomas Marsteller of Lower Saucon Township had been in an exhibit in 2001!

So far, that is the only reference I have been able to find.  I have emailed the museum that had the exhibit, but so far, I have not heard anything back.

I have also been looking for coverlets that were woven in the summer and winter structure on Jacquard looms, but so far, I have not found anything about that either.  If I find anything more, I will let you know!