Black Americana Chase Lap/ Carriage Blanket
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Excellent printed lap/ carriage/ buggy blanket, likely made by the Chase Co. of Sanford, Maine. The blanket depicts a smiling black man coming through a fence while holding a watermelon. The edges of the blanket are designed to look like the inside of a watermelon with seeds. Done in golds, browns and reddish oranges. Brown backing. Image is clear with great vivid color. A showpiece for the Black Americana collector.
When November arrives, and winter is around the corner, I begin to plan for sleigh weather. Jostling the horse-drawn vehicles around in the shed is the first step; get the sleigh and bobsled forward, and tuck the wheeled vehicles back until spring. After that I pull a stack of lap robes out of a trunk, and put them near the sleighs. These old, richly colored and heavy wool lap robes that I pile on in the winter to keep me and my passengers warm, have an equally rich and colorful history.
Years ago anyone who had a horse had some heavy lap robes, along with various kinds of foot warmers, fur coats and muffs to survive travel in the winter. The robes ranged from homemade fabric ones, through horse and buffalo fur, to the commercially produced intricate designs that were popular in the Victorian era. Quality and fibers were varied, from prime quality woolens to “shoddy,” a historical term for recycled fibers (not meaning bad workmanship as we now use the word). There were hundreds of designs, made by a myriad of mills. The story of these robes, also called sleigh blankets or carriage robes, or rugs, is the story of New England. It is a tale of individual Yankee pluck, hard work and ingenuity, as well as the industrial age in New England, the golden age of textile manufacturing there.
Some of the best blankets were made for the Chase label, in the sprawling Goodall Mills of Sanford, Maine, around the turn of the century. A classic mill town, Sanford was built along a river for water power. It was developed there and owned by the Goodall family during the late 19th century.
Thomas Goodall, born in 1823, became an orphan who went to work to support himself at a young age. By 1844, he had a successful business in making his first invention: horse blankets.
He became the first and, at the time, only manufacturer of horse blankets. The business grew so quickly and was so successful that by 1865, Thomas was able to sell out, and move to England, where he became an exporter of English plush lap robes.
In 1867, Thomas returned to the States, where he bought vast amounts of land at Sanford, in Southeast Maine, on the Mousam River. He bought the land both for water rights and a place to manufacture plush lap robes. His plant was the first manufacturer of robes in the United States. By 1910, the mills were a two million dollar business, employing more than 1,100 people.
The above information was excerpted from an article entitled, Threads of History – Chase Lap Blankets, written by Martha Greene Phillips.
Date: Late 19th century.
Size: 54″ x 48″
Condition: Overall condition is clean and sturdy. There is wear and some stuffing is balled in corners. A few unimportant tears to edges and minor wear spots.
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Categories: Americana, Black Americana, Country, Fabric