Garfield Farm Heading

Garfield Farm home page | News Index

News from Garfield Farm

"Harriet Garfield’s Work Basket” Lecture

Campton Hills, IL — On Sunday April 23 at 1 pm, Garfield Farm Museum will present “Harriet Garfield’s Work Basket”. This program will be given by museum volunteer Amiee Daramus and will consider the skills and abilities that women like 1840s settler Harriet Frost Garfield had to keep her family well clothed in an era of homemade fashions and clothing.

      Today little thought is given to the work that is required to make our everyday clothing. Much of it with the demand for the lowest prices is made overseas at the lowest labor costs. Few American households can even sew or tailor the most basic outfits commonly worn today.

       Harriet Garfield, born in 1799 and married to Timothy Garfield in 1819, grew up when most all households had to not only sew their own clothes but actual spin and weave the cloth they needed. This occupied a great deal of a household’s resident females’ time. Mrs. Garfield knew how to spin as her walking wheel  i.e. large spinning wheel survives and her son wrote of setting up her loom for weaving in a room of the house as late as the 1860s.

      Coming to the prairies of Illinois might suggest even greater difficulty of keeping up the family’s clothing needs but times were changing as she and the family headed west. In one of her first letters back home she remarks that factory milled cloth is less expensive in Illinois compared to Vermont. This is in part was because of the rapid growth of mass production textile mills in the east and the less expensive transportation route of Erie Canal and the Great Lakes to Chicago than the more difficult mountainous overland trek from Boston to Vermont in the pre-railroad era.  

       As a responsible mother, Harriet would have taught her four daughters all the spinning, weaving, and sewing skills she had learned, but by the time they were mature adults, cloth was affordable and did not require home manufacture.

       Ms. Daramus’ talk will consider what Harriet Garfield's knitting, crochet, and quilting projects might have been like. She will discuss the materials that would have been available to Harriet on the farm, in nearby St. Charles, and/or 3 days away in Chicago. Seasonal changes and contemporary fashions would have influenced Harriet’s and her neighbors’ work baskets during the 1840's and early 1850's.  

     Ms. Daramus has experience of period fashions from her interest in historical re-enactment and from her work with the Widow Clarke House and Glessner House Museums in Chicago.

       There is a $6 donation for adults and $3 for children under 13 years of age.  Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills IL. Reservations are requested to plan for the refreshments. Garfield Farm and Tavern Museum is being restored as an 1840s living history farm and museum by volunteers and donors from around the county. For information or to RSVP please call 630 584-8485 or e-mail