ON PERMANENT DISPLAY at the Drake House Museum are three Colonial era rooms including a kitchen, Queen Anne dining room and the Washington bedroom. The parlor and the Harberger Library are interpreted as period Victorian rooms. The Drake House collection also includes costumes, historical books, photos and prints, paintings and a wide array of community memorabilia. Listed below are just a few of the fascinating objects on display at our site.
Something to Keep You Warm, The Tree of Life Quilt
IN THE WASHINGTON BEDROOM visitors will find the most famous of the Drake House quilts, the Tree of Life. This quilt is associated with the daughter of John Hart, a representative of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and resident of Jersey City. The tree of life pattern is derived from Indian textiles called palampores, which indicates that even during America's early history, the colonists were influenced by styles from around the world.
Although colonial quilts were primarily made to ward off the cold on a cold winter's night, these homespun gems filled several important roles in colonial communities. Among families, many quilts were made as wedding presents for newlyweds. A number of quilts contained family histories including names, birth, marriage and death dates. In rural communities, quilting bees provided an outlet for socializing. One quilting bee which took place in Narragansett, Rhode Island in 1752 lasted ten days! In the annals of East Jersey history, it is written that Martha Washington took part in quilting bees with the ladies of Morristown while General Washington was stationed at headquarters there. From an aesthetic view, quilting provided an important outlet for artistic creativity.
In Freedom's Footsteps, Colonial Documents
ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING DOCUMENTS in Drake House is the last will and testament of Isaac Drake, its builder. Upon his death in 1756, Drake manumitted his female slave Cate and provided for the freedom of his three male slaves Tom, Tone and Cesar ten years later. This document is important because it records slavery found in the North and among the early families of Plainfield and East Jersey. It also provides evidence of Americans slowly changing their attitudes towards the "peculiar institution," and raises as many questions as it answers regarding slavery and the history of colonial African-Americans. Was Isaac Drake influenced by local Quakers in his decision to manumit his slaves? By moral belief or religious persuasion? Why did he set Cate free and not the male slaves? What happened to Cate, Tom and Tone after they left Drake House? Why did Cesar, later a free man continue to reside with the Drake Family? Did Tom, Tone or Cate take the last name Drake?