One of the most prolific and innovative weavers of the 19th century was a New York residentnamed Harry Tyler. Tyler wove over 300 coverlets in 26 years, several of which are housed in the McCarl Gallery. Much of Tyler’s early history is unknown, the only tangible pieces of information that he was born in 1801 Connecticut and was the child of English parents. Tyler was a farmer for a time but later he revealed to his granddaughter that he had “not been fond of farming,” and decided the loom, rather than the plow, was the best way to earn a living in 1834.Tyler would eventually settle down in Butterville, New York and married his first wife, Anne Cole, with whom he had four children: Cynthia, Elman, Leman, and Leona.
As a weaver, Harry Tyler became well known for his wedding coverlets, however he also made pieces for other special events. The colors of Tyler coverlets are a variety of reds and blues. One of the most remarkable aspects of Tyler’s career as a weaver was that he always changed some element of his coverlets every year. Tyler was one of the few weavers to use a known logo in his corner blocks. For example, Harry Tyler’s earlier coverlets used a lion logo in the corner block of the weave which would change eight times until he began to use the eagle as his personal mark. The eagle logo has an interesting legend behind it as to why the symbol changed; the story goes that one of Tyler’s sons was in the United States military and felt that the lion (a symbol of England) was too unpatriotic and asked his father to switch to using an eagle to represent his work instead. It was also mentioned that a bride may choose the logo that she preferred: the English bride would usually opt for the Lion while the American bride would opt for the eagle.
Harry Tyler died in 1858 after a stroke, he was buried in a Smithville cemetery in New York. However, his weaving lives on and continues to be treasured by coverlet enthusiasts and historians.
Anderson, Clarita S. American Coverlets and Weavers: Coverlets from the Collection of the Foster and
Muriel McCarl Gallery.N.p.: Ohio University Press, 2002.
"Tyler Coverlet Collection."Jefferson County Historical Society.Accessed March 13, 2013. http://www.jeffersoncountyhistory.org/pages/collection-tyler.htm.
?Image of Harry Tyler's lion emblem in the corner block of a coverlet. Photograph. Jefferson County Historical Society.Accessed March 13, 2013. http://www.jeffersoncountyhistory.org/pages/ collection-tyler.htm.