Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peter Lorenz : Germantown's Weaver Extraordinaire

 Even after more than a century and a half, the handiwork of Peter Lorenz remains. From 1836 to 1847, the Germantown man created exquisite coverlets on his Jacquard loom. His work appears at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and the Indiana Museum of Art in Indianapolis.

 This 1838 coverlet is in the Pinehaven collection. It dates back to some of Lorenz' earliest work.

 Little has been published about Lorenz, only that he was born in France in "about 1801", emigrated to the United States as a young man, and worked in Greene County, Ohio, Wayne County, Indiana and Montgomery County, Ohio.

A wider view of how Lorenz placed his name and date in the corner block of most of his coverlets.

 Here's more of his story. It appears that Lorenz arrived first in Greene County (early 1830's perhaps), traveled to Indiana where the weaving of a existing coverlet was shared with another weaver, Henry Adolf. By 1834, Lorenz is known to have moved to Montgomery Co. Ohio. He settled in Germantown and spent the rest of his life there.

This "half  Jacquard coverlet" is 84" x 36". A full coverlet is two pieces of this size joined in the middle.
It is likely that Lorenz loom was just over three feet wide.

 Lorenz claim to fame, the works of art he created on his loom, were made in two pieces and sewn together at a center seam. A "half coverlet" - the usual item that came off his loom - was probably 84" by 36". When two were joined, the whole coverlet was 84" by 72".

 These coverlets, I understand, were often split into their original two sections and shared with different family members.

Lorenz usually dated his coverlets in a corner block and further weaved the date of creation just below his name. Not every coverlet is signed and dated, however.

 The invention of the Jacquard loom and Lorenz' birth both came in the same year (1801) and same place (France). Perhaps it was destined that the two should be associated.

 Lorenz lived in a house at the southeast corner of E. Market Street and S. Cherry Street (the modern address is 103 E. Market Street). A plaque affixed to the front of the house dates it to "circa 1834". Census records show he and his family in Germantown on the 1840 census though the name is shown as "Lawrence".

An historical plaque on Peter Lorenz home. He lived here from the early 1830's till his death in 1876.
His wife, Sophia, lived until 1905.

The Lorenz House is located at 103 E. Market St, Germantown Ohio. This view faces southeast.

A rear view of the Lorenz House facing northeast.

 At that recording, one "free white men" younger than age 5 was noted; three age 20-29 and one age 30-39. The "free white woman" were two under age 5 and one age 30-39. Those "employed in manufacture or trade" were shown as four. Also the "free white persons" under age 20 was listed as three and five between 20-49).

 By 1850, the census recorded names. Peter (age 49), Sophia (39, his wife) and their children-to-date: Josephine (14), Ann M (12), Phillip M (9), Charles W (8), George E (5), and Henry C (3). Also noted were Peter's parents: Phillip (74) and Margaret (73).

On the 1860 federal census, the family added John (5). Margaret had passed away five years earlier (Phillip, now 84, is still listed). Some records show the family name as "Sorrenz".

 By 1870, the census listed just four people living there: Peter, Sophia, John A and, probably a boarder, Rosa East (16). This census lists Peter Lorenz as a 69 year old retired weaver. His real estate was valued at $2500 and his personal property was valued at $1200.

Genealogical Data:

Many of the Lorenz family are buried at the Germantown Union Cemetery.
It is located on W. Market Street, west of the downtown business district.

 A trip to the Germantown Union Cemetery, offers firm dating for the Lorenz family. For some, actual dates appear on the stones; for others, the number of years, months and days of their lives was used to arrive at dates. They are (in order of birth):

Phillip b. 08-01-1775 d. 07-12-1860  (84-11-10)
Margaret b. 01-30-1776 d. 01-12-1855  (78-11-12)
Peter b. 03-29-1801 d. 06-02-1876  (75-2-3)
Sophia b. xx-xx-1810 d. 10-09-1905
Josephine ca 1836
Ann M ca 1838
Phillip M ca 1841
Charles W 01-26-1842 d. 01-11-1898
George E ca 1845
Henry C ca 1847
John A. xx-xx-1855 d. xx-xx-1931

 A wide view of the Lorenz plot.

Peter, his wife, Sophia, and one son, Charles, are noted on the main monument.

Charles shares the main monument with his parents.

John is the last born child of Peter and Sophia Lorenz. He is also the longest surviving member of the family.

Peter Lorenz' parents, Margaret (l) and Phillip share old-style markers that are fast fading. 
Margaret, who died in 1855 at age 78, was survived by her husband for another five and a half years.
They were born during the years of the American Revolution.


  1. Your research also peaked my curiousity.
    While most of his coverlets were only two color, the multi-colored are quite valuable.

    DATED 1847 JACQUARD COVERLET, SIGNED PETER LORENZ, deep indigo wool on a natural cotton ground. Center field having repetitive wreath and leaf patterns, vining floral border, corner blocks signed PETER LORENZ with the year 1847 woven into the edge below; 78" x 86" (excluding fringe).
    Ex: Collection of Sheila & John Gorkis of Germantown, Ohio

    Condition: Fringe near 100%, tight center seam, areas of toning.
    Auction: 2007, Decorative Arts, Feb 17
    Price Realized: $258.75

    Auction: 2004, The Collection J. John Auraden / Oct 21-22
    American. Most unusual design of two-headed spread-winged eagle clutching arrows in talons with swags between, anchored with tall vases, Jerusalem crosses at base of each swag; center has lines of grouped roses alternating with stylized floral medallions. Woven in two pieces with most unusual colors of army green, light green and deep red wools on white linen ground; fringe at 3 edges, marked in corner blocks Peter Lorenz 1840; 84" x 90".
    Price Realized: $977.50

    Thank you! Enjoyed your story & the results of your research! :)

  2. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this site needs far more attention. I'll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the information!

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  3. Thanks so much for your comments. I have the advantage of living near where Lorenz did his fine work. My initial research found that little was known about him. It was nice to be able to ill in many of the blanks, especially firm dating. One of his coverlets is among our most precious possessions.

  4. Thanks for posting, I enjoyed reading this article. The Rosa East mentioned in the 1870 census is an ancestor of mine, I was actually searching for her when I found this article. I'm curious as to why she was living with them, as her family was down the street and in the same neighborhood. Her brother, John, was a tailor, so maybe she was helping around the house or was learning to weave? Just a guess. Thanks, again, for the information and photos!

  5. So nice to have that extra information, Lisa. Thank you for posting.

  6. Thank you for posting your research. Today I purchased one of his coverlets in Summerville, SC - it is undated, so I was glad to read that some of his coverlets were not dated.

  7. My wife and I own a beautiful red, white, and blue Peter Lorenz coverlet, dated 1838. It's in great condition, and we love it. I recently saw another Peter Lorenz coverlet (blue and white only, undated) for sale in an eastern Indiana antique market. Thanks for the information about the weaver!

  8. I own one of Peter Lorenz coverlets, dated 1837. It had been my grandmother's and perhaps her grandmother before her. I love it and my family's connection to it. Unaware of Peter Lorenz's home, my husband and I lived in Germantown, Ohio at one time. Isn't life fun?!!