While I was cataloging some of the interesting artifacts here at The Shaker Historical Society, I came across something labeled as a bookmark. The description was simple, and the item seemed functional.  I thought the advertisement for Shaker Cloaks on the bookmark was interesting, but I moved on to the next item. But, the more I thought about the bookmark, the more I wondered why someone would go to such an extent to mount the little ribbon onto a gold embossed card.

I did some research and found that the bookmark is called a Stevengraph.  A Stevengraph is a silk ribbon that was woven on a modified Jacquard loom. The process was developed in Coventry, England in the mid 1800’s by a man named Thomas Stevens. Stevens realized that by adapting the loom he was using he could produce colorful pictures with the silk. He was able to produce over 900 designs with looms by the end of the century. Many of his designs were used to make bookmarks and cards, as well as advertisements.

Shaker Cloaks were being sold by E.J. Neale & Co. in Mount Lebanon, New York in the 1800’s. Mt. Lebanon had served as the main spiritual home of the over 600 Shakers living there at the time. As part of their advertising campaign, they used a silk ribbon design that would get the word out about the distinctive cloaks.

In the early 20th century, the Stevengraph bookmarks became very collectible. We are fortunate to have had this item donated by Miss Bessie Emerson in 1957. She said that she had gotten the bookmark years before when she was visiting a Shaker Colony in New England.  Who knew one little bookmark could hold so much history!

Until next time!


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