Harness Loom at Old Economy Village

Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.

In the nineteenth century, the Harmony Society provided many necessities for its members, including clothing such as wool and cotton coats, dresses, shirts, and trousers. Along with their wine, beer, and whiskey industries, the Harmonists, who settled Old Economy Village, Ambridge, Beaver County, in 1824, relied on textile manufacturing to generate money for outside investments. They produced woolen and cotton fabrics on industrial looms in their factories. Outside their unusual religious community, two harness looms, similar to the reproduction loom pictured, would have been used to create a plain weave, such as for rugs or simple woven textiles. The loom, which uses a 100 percent cotton warp to create a durable weave, requires “people power” to work the foot pedals — an appropriate selection for Sharing the Common Wealth since PHMC has adopted “Energy: Innovation and Impact” as its theme for 2009. Visiting school students and visitors help the historic site’s volunteers to make rag rugs, some of which are used in the complex’s buildings. Historically, outmoded clothing was not thrown out but, instead, recycled — an early example of “going green.” Material was torn into strips and used to make rugs, quilts, doll clothes, blankets, and toys.