The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

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    This spinning wheel is said to have belonged to Caldweller Slaughter who came to Kentucky as early as 1787. It could also have come from the family of one of his wives. His first wife, Margaret Ransdell Slaughter, died in 1786. Some sources indicate he may have remarried Mary Fowke who died a few years later (unverified). He then married Lucy Slaughter in 1790. Slaughter owned 200 acres in the area today known as Cherokee Triangle in Louisville. Spinning wheels were crucial to early pioneer families. Generally, weaving was a professional occupation for men, and in Kentucky was also done by enslaved men and women. Spinning on the other hand, was a woman’s task and was done in between gardening, milking, preserving crops, cooking food, making/mending clothes, doing laundry, and rearing children. Fiber was painstakingly cultivated, processed, and spun on the family farm and then taken to a community weaver to be made into cloth, which might be finished at home or sewn into clothing. Approximately 3 lbs. of spun flax or 4/12 lbs. of spun wool was needed to make a single sheet or blanket. Spinning wheels, for some American women, were more than just tools and were also political statements. Prior to the American Revolution, and then during the embargos of the War of 1812 some colonial women (particularly in New England) hosted and participated in 'Spinning Bees' to create yarn and thread to boycott English-made goods.

    Flax paddles were used for scutching, part of the process for 'dressing' flax, or getting it prepped for spinning. The paddles separated the hard stocks from the useable fiber underneath. It took 4 months to grow flax from seed. It was beaten with the paddle until fibers could be pulled by hand through a hatchel to separate the fibers, which were then bundled and hung for drying to prepare them for spinning. Flax is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world. It was an important crop during the colonial and early frontier era. Until the invention of the cotton gin, flax was easier to harvest and process. In Kentucky, it was commonly used in handwoven household linens. Historians estimate that families needed about ¼ to ½ acre of flax per person in a household.

    A mold that could make three candles at a time. Most candles at the time were made with tallow (animal fat) because other options like beeswax were expensive. Using bayberries, despite providing wax with a pleasant smell, was hard work and took too many berries to produce an adequate amount of candles. Once more lighting options were more readily available (lanterns, betty lamps, etc.) candles would be considered too expensive for daily use and were brought out for only special occasions.
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