This crewelwork hanging descended in the family of Dr. Charles Hooker (1799–1863), a prominent New Haven physician and Dean of Yale Medical School, as well as a direct descendant of Thomas Hooker (1586–1647), founder of the Connecticut colony. According to history passed down through generations of Dr. Hooker's family, the hanging—made by a relative in the mid–eighteenth century—was given to him by his mother. The Transactions of the Connecticut State Agricultural Society for the Year 1854 documents that the hanging was exhibited at the New Haven State Fair in that year:
"The display of quilts, of all kinds, could not be surpassed; most of them showing originality and taste in the designs, and great skill and neatness in the execution. . . . Among the most interesting was an embroidered bed-spread and curtain, worked about the year 1700, by Mrs. Ruth Norton, of Berlin, great-grandmother of Dr. Charles Hooker, of New Haven."
Needlework made in colonial America is indebted to England, by way of India, for its rudiments of design, in particular, the progressive adaptation of tree motifs found in crewelwork. The symbolic Tree of Life, associated with Indian palampores and incorporated and adapted into seventeenth–century English crewelwork, has evolved on this American piece into an oak tree. This motif is perhaps a reference to the famous Charter Oak in which the Colony of Connecticut's royal charter was hidden in order to escape confiscation by agents of King James II in 1687. Although felled by a storm in 1856, it remains an enduring symbol of liberty (the state tree is the white oak). The mounted figures may represent colonist Joseph Wadsworth, who supposedly spirited the document away, and Governor–General Sir Edmund Andros, who was sent by the king to retrieve the document.
For more information, see the Cora Ginsburg 2016 catalogue.