Monday, July 12, 2010

Great Wheel, Wool Wheel, Walking Wheel, High Wheel, Others...

I got this Great wheel from a friend in her 80's who developed macular degeneration. She purchased it at auction in Southern PA many years ago. It's been in my living room with my 3 other spinning wheels collecting dust. I decided I wanted to learn to spin on her. (Click any picture to enlarge.)
I found a label on the accelerating wheel head and did some research. The wheel-head maker is Benjamin Pierce (1814-1899) and was manufactured in Chesterfield, NH at the Chesterfield Factory (also known as Factory Village and now Spofford Village). Pierce was known for the manufacture of bits and augers. The New Hampshire Historical Society owns a ledger and daybook of Benjamin Pierce and Old Sturbridge Village Research Library owns a Pierce daybook (1859-1866).

Another bit and auger manufacturer living in Chesterfield at the time was Richard Henry Hopkins (1831-1877). Hopkins was also a wheel-head maker. It was common for Chesterfield manufacturers to combine the business of creating bits and augers with manufacturing spinning wheel-heads. The forging skills were similar. At one time Hopkins worked for and partnered with Pierce.

Apparently Pierce was selling wheel-heads manufactured by the Hopkins family and others, and eventually made by himself and his son. Around 1868 Frederick Benjamin Pierce, the son of Benjamin, joined as a partner in his father's business. This continued until Benjamin Pierce sold the bit shop to the Currier Brothers in 1882. From what I can tell it appears the elder Pierce may have continued marketing the spinning wheel-heads after he commenced manufacturing them. Pierce also manufactured spinning wheels and flax wheels.The label reads, "Benjamin Pierce's Wheel Heads /Particular care must be taken to keep them / dry. When used they must be kept well oiled, / and when new bands are required, they must / be smooth and even. Spindles warranted steel. / by BENJAMIN PIERCE, Chesterfield Factory, N.H." I believe it was made sometime between 1853 and 1882.

Wheel-heads made in Chesterfield were manufactured according to patents 1803 and 1810 owned by Amos Miner from upstate New York. Miner's 1810 patent gave him exclusive right to manufacture, or license the manufacture of, his wheels until 1824. After the expiration of the patent Chesterfield became the center of manufacturing wheel-heads in New England.

There are maker's marks on the end-grain of the table under the wheel-head. Punched twice are AWheeler and C. W. MUZZY. I found in the census some Wheeler's and a couple of Muzzy's living in Chesterfield but haven't absolutely identified them. If anyone knows for sure the spinning wheel was made at the Chesterfield Factory I would appreciate knowing. Update: After pouring over census records I believe AWheeler is Ashbel Wheeler born about 1817 and C.W. MUZZY is Carlton William Muzzy born about 1837.The accelerating wheel-head appears to be all original even the braided corn husk bearings. I noticed the spindle is ever so slightly bent and that causes the spindle to wobble. In order to remove the spindle it looks like I would need to remove and replace the corn husks and I hate the thought of doing that if they are original. The accelerator head appears to be made of beech wood. The table is 45" x 5" x 2".The wheel diameter is 49". The wheel looks like it is made of Chestnut. At the scarf joint you can faintly see the square headed copper nails. The drive cord tracks properly. I will probably remove the knot in the cord and overlap the ends and sew them together then wrap and sew the overlap to prevent fraying. That's how I learned to do it from Norman Kennedy in one of his classes. Today I ordered Katy Turner's book "The Legacy of the Great Wheel: Myths, History, and Traditions" from AbeBooks. I also ordered some back issues from The Spinning Wheel Sleuth that contained information about Great wheels.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post. At my workplace (in Gettysburg), we just received a Hopkins accelerating wheel head for a charity auction. I'm glad you mentioned the Hopkins business, too.

Sue said...

I have a spinning wheel made by Benjamin Pierce. It is one with a treadle, not a walking wheel. It is in almost perfect condition. I used to spin on it when I was a teenager and would give demonstrations and spinning lessons. That was 40 years ago. I have the original bobbin stored as it was becoming dry and slightly chipped and I didn't want it to get any worse. I had a man make me a new one to use when I would spin. I raised my own show sheep and mostly spun wool, but did spin some dog hair once. I also have a yarn winder (?) that the spun yarn is put on to to count off and store skeins. It is a "pop goes the weasle" one. My grandmother gave it to me. It has been in our family many generations. The wheel was found in the attic of an old home my parents purchased when I was a baby. Would you know the value of these or know who I could contact to find out? I'm considering selling them, as I've had them around a long time and no one in my family is interested in them.

joe said...

Hi teri
I have an old pierce spinning wheel and i am missing a flyer fork and bobbin any idea where I can find rhese parts--Thanks Joe
josephhjanes@hotmail.com

Karla Noyes said...

Hi Terri,

Thank you for doing all that excellent research and posting it on your site with the terrific photos.

I bought what turns out to be (thanks to your page & pics) a Benjamin Pierce Accelerating Wheel Head off of eBay. I demo spinning at public events using my Ashford Traditional and got tired of people asking "Where did Sleeping Beauty prick her finger?" Hard to describe on a bobbin! So I bought the accelerating head. Honestly, it's an artifact and I hesitate to use it. Mine has leather instead of braided corn husk and the leather soaks up a LOT of oil. Hard to believe it was maybe made in the 1850-60s, it looks 200+ years old to me but it is identical to yours. Mine must have been stored in a damp shed because it has a fine coating of mildew and a wonderfully old musty smell. (Before central heating lots of things must have acquired that smell.) From the bottom of my heart, thank you again!

fjelly said...

Very much appreciate the excellent photos and research. Your posting has helped me better identify the walking wheel, found in a barn in southern WI in the 1970s, that I'm now restoring. Mine has the same wheel head with leather (instead of braided corn husks) and a paper label, but the label has turned black so is unreadable. It has the same post that holds the great wheel; the same post that holds the wheel head; the same tension screw. But mine has a different table with a beveled edge on the underside and no makers marks. And my great wheel has 12 spokes. Again thank you so much. Wendy

Anonymous said...

Hello, Thank you for sharing all of your research! I have a great wheel and would love to learn how to improve my spinning. I taught myself by watching youtube. But I really need to take a class. Does anyone know where I could take lessons in Massachusetts? I'm in the Boston area. Thanks

Amy Cordero said...

Hi Teri! I just purchased a Benjamin Pierce Walking Wheel, but it is missing its spindle. Do you have any suggestions on where I might find one? The antique stores where I am (southern California) are more focused on 1970's era antiques (old tupperware) than 19th century spinning wheels.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Angela Jane said...

Hi, I just replaced corn husk bearing on Amos Miner wheel-head. looks just like yours in blog....handspun by Angela Howard I demonstrate on the walking wheel and need it working for Champoeg Oregon state parks. 503-537-0733 I believe old stuff should be used not just looked at. willing to share my fumbles too. Happy spinning for the next generations.

Anonymous said...

I just purchased a walking wheel made by S Morison. The feet resemble a horse hoove and is overall in excellant condition. How can I find out more about the maker? Thank you.
Nancy

John Chanaca said...

I have a Great Wheel with a Amos Miner 1820 head all in good condition. I am looking for an appraisal and a buyer who will take care of it. jchanaca@earthlink.net I live in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina.. cell 834-957-0236

Candice Baker said...

Thank you so much for all of the information. Recently, I was given a spinning wheel from my aunt and uncle. It has been passed down through the family as well. My aunt and uncle had a sand stone house passed down in the family that was around 200 years old.

Anyway, the wheel is 48". I don't have much of the head. I can send a photo of what I do have if anyone can help. I really need a diagram giving me the sizes of the spool, wheel etc. what I have it the forks going up but I think there is another small piece that goes into both sides which holds the wheel and then the bobbin information.

Can anyone help? I would really appreciate it. I would like to make it complete and preferably complete it with original antique pieces.

Sincerely,

Candice

Terri said...

Hi Candice, Thanks for your post. I would suggest you join Ravelry.

There are so many spinners there to offer help. Once you join you can search for great wheel groups to join but you can start with this one once you are a member.

http://www.ravelry.com/groups/spindle-wheels

Have fun! Terri

Candice Baker said...

Thank You Terri. I will do it now. :)