Dr. Paul Spooner’s Tow Cloth

Dr. Paul Spooner’s Tow Cloth


We know from the 1789 tax list that Dr. Paul Spooner was a wealthy man. This list was taken just 2 months before his untimely death at the age of 43. I was very interested in the “tow cloth” that was listed on this and many of the other tax lists. I contacted Jane Nylander, a leading expert on textiles, through her daughter Sarah Rooker, who lives in Hartland.

This is what Jane had to say

Tow cloth is made of yard spun from tow – the course outer part of the remains after the linen fibers have been removed (usually by pulling the flax through a long toothed iron comb called a hatchel or hackle.) It is usually beige in color and very scratchy because it has bits of the outer chaff still attached to the threads. It was woven in very simple weave structures (tabby) with course texture (so simple a child can do it). It was used for course work clothing and children’s clothing – especially trousers – also for grain sacks, bales, and other storage. Because it is made of linen, it gets lighter in color and softer in texture with use and laundering. Sometimes tow cloth was traded for store credits and then shipped south for use in slave clothing.

Extracted from the Winter 2012 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter.

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