About the Home Textile Tool Museum
The Home Textile Tool Museum is located in the hilltop village of Orwell in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The 4.5 acre property on the north side of the street contains a Federal style house, an English Threshing Barn, Bill Ralph's tool building, the museum's entrance building, chicken coop, wood shed and gardens.
Orwell, Pennsylvania, is an ideal site for a museum on the subject of home textile tools and production. The 1810 census reveals that the 134 families in Orwell Township owned 240 spinning wheels and 41 looms. Almost every family had two spinning wheels, one for wool and one for flax. These families reported having made a total of 5170 yards of cloth; an average of almost 42 yards per household. The census marshal noted that families in Orwell and nearby townships only made cloth "for their own wearing" and that the "weaving is performed by the females, except in one or two instances."
Bill's tool building contains woodworking tools and a foot-powered lathe, a Gutenberg-style printing press, flax processing equipment used to turn the flax into fiber ready for spinning, a working flax wheel, a loom, carpenter's tools, and a functional blacksmith shop.
The museum's entrance building contains our Mercantile and five timber frame looms from the 1800s. A Pennsylvania German linen loom dated 1805 is the oldest loom in our collection.
The dimensions and the timber framing for the Threshing barn and the house are similar, with the barn probably built first and then the house in the 1820s by the same master carpenter. The barn was repaired and stabilized in 2005 and opened for use in 2006 for workshops and special displays.
The Federal house has been extensively renovated to provide space for exhibits in the dining room, the parlor and the foyer or central hallway. Our Jane Hansen Reference Library is located upstairs.