Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Temperance Pickering Knight’s mid 18th c. Canary Yellow Quilted Petticoat



Among the one of the most striking pieces in the Irma Bowen Collection At the University of New Hampshire Museum is a dazzling canary yellow quilted petticoat. Made of silk, lined with wool and flax, This cheery, warm garment was worn by Temperance Pickering Knight (1731-1770) of Newington, NH. It is a significant survival and not surprisingly at mid-18th century, similar to earlier British-made counterparts.


In addition to the petticoat, there is evidence to suggest that a pair of silk brocade pattens or clogs may also have belonged to her. The style and construction would be appropriate.

The second wife of John Knight, Temperance was married 15 March 1759 at the the age of 28.  Knight ran a very profitable business, operating the ferry between Newington and Dover Point.  This would explain the expensive clothing attributed to Temperance Knight.
After having the opportunity to examine her canary quilted petticoat, I started on a quest to find Temperance Pickering Knight's headstone which I had heard was "embedded" within the expansive mall area of Newington, NH., which is where she was born and married. 

As it turns out, I had actually seen the remains of the small plot, adjacent to an “I Party” store some five years earlier and knew exactly where it was located. The burial site is in a state disrepair and the handful of stones within the borders are barely legible and eroded from the elements and years of past vandalism.  While Temperance's headstone is badly damaged and the upper third severed, there is nonetheless a powerful connection with her through the stone. 

It is possible to make out her name and death date on the the stone despite the damage.  Note the deeply incised and elegant serifed lettering.  

Fashion and costume historians, textile and sewing enthusiasts can applaud the foresight of family members and UNH instructor, Irma Bowen, for the survival of this rare garment. Fortunately, Irma Bowen, began collecting examples of needlework and textiles back in the 1920s for the benefit of her students. The fact that we can actually put a name and a biography with this striking, well-crafted and expensive garment, amplifies its significance tremendously. Knowing an approximate time period when the petticoat was worn and where, a small northern New England community, has attracted the attention of students and costume historians over several decades.

The author thanks Astrida Schaeffer, costume historian and mannequin maker at SchaefferArts, and Dale Valena, Curator, UNH Museum, for making the textiles available.

Descendants have a created a family genealogy which may be found at
http://members.tripod.com/Al_Beagan/April4/3565.htm and a there are a number of key documents at the Rockingham County Probate Records.

For further information on the Bowen Collection and Temperance Pickering Knight and her petticoat, see

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