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.
Patent issued to Nathaniel Foster of Fleming County, Kentucky, for a machine for spinning hemp and flax. Signed by President James Madison, Secretary of State Robert Smith, and Attorney General Caesar A. Rodney.