Saturday, March 24, 2018

It's Old Abe Forever: The Nunda Lodge Quilt

Quilt known as the Nunda Lodge Quilt
Collection of the Chicago Historical Society

This flag-strewn quilt gives us much narrative information.

"It's Old.Abe

Gen's Grant 
Nunda Lodge No, 86 Wc.Henry.Co
Ill '65

Pure Water 
Faith Hope and Charity
Union Peace Love and Truth"

All those words and pictures. As I wrote in 2009 in my book Quilts from the Civil War:
"Several memorial quilts leave no question as to the maker's intent, as words and portraits give us a code that is easy to read. The Chicago Historical Society's Nunda Lodge quilt, made in McHenry, Illinois, features the words ' It's Old.Abe Forever.' "
Wrong! Despite the imagery the quilt's origins and date are obscure.

Here are some facts. The quilt came from a family named Tomlinson in Montclair, New Jersey. Somehow it came into the collection at Colonial Williamsburg. Because their collecting focus is an earlier era they transferred the quilt to an Illinois museum--- the Chicago Historical Society in 1971.

We can begin with the central sentiment:

Which Old Abe? I assumed it was President Lincoln.

Sheet music from about 1860. During that election
Lincoln was often referred to as Old Abe.

Lillie Harvey's Crazy Quilt with image

of "Old Abe...dead & gone....Died in 1881."
East Tennessee Historical Society

But Old Abe the eagle had his share of fame during and after the War. The captive bird was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army, nicknamed the "Eagle Regiment."

Nunda in McHenry County is under the pink arrow. Note it says
"Crystal Lake or Nunda" for the town's name.
They changed it at some point.

Nunda or Crystal Lake.
1935/1975 it didn't look much different

I lived in Illinois for a couple of years in the 1970s and spent many weekends antiquing in McHenry County so I remember several things about the area---one that it's almost Wisconsin. Old Abe the Wisconsin eagle would have been a popular bird in Northern Illinois.

Old Abe the President (also extremely popular in Illinois) died in 1865 and because there is a number '65 on the quilt I assumed that it referred to the date of his assassination and the year the quilt was made. 

Old Abe the eagle died in 1881. The words could refer to either. 
See more about Old Abe the Eagle on quilts at this post:

How old is the quilt?  I'm not so sure about '65 as the date. We don't get many clues to date from fabric, patchwork pattern or quilt style. The cottons are all solids in Turkey red, blue and green on white. The best clue and it's really quite weak is that the colors have not faded in that distinctive way that solids after 1880 fade to tan. 

Quilt date-inscribed 1884 with discolored greens.

But maybe it's never seen the light. Or maybe the quiltmakers were careful to use reliable colors, so it could have been made after 1880.

Most of the pattern is unique. Images that are familiar---the florals--- are rather generic 19th-century patterns like the 8-lobed flowers, tulips and buds. 

The style is also unique---but I guess we could consider it in the broad category of a medallion format patriotic quilt---there are many others.

Elizabeth Holmes, patriotic medallion quilt.

Banner Quilt made for General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War

by the Ladies' Social Circle of Eureka, California.
Collection of the Clarke Museum, about 1865.
That eagle in the center looks like Old Abe.

The two above from the 1860s.
The border is somewhat helpful too as an appliqued floral vine is more common before 1870 than after. But again, it's a weak clue. If we could see the quilting in the photo it might provide another weak clue to date.

More mysteries to solve. We certainly recognize the "Gen's Grant, Sherman and Sheridan" as Union heroes. But who is Thomas?

Probably General George H. Thomas, Virginia-
born General and Union hero of Chickamauga, who
as far as I can tell had nothing to do with McHenry County, Illinois.

And who or what was Nunda Lodge No. 86?

Obviously some kind of fraternal organization. Another thing I remember about that Illinois/Wisconsin border country: The presence of ghosts---reminders of old fraternal organizations like the Masons, Odd Fellows and Modern Woodman were everywhere. Every town had a lodge hall or two; every antique mall a Masonic apron or a Modern Woodman ax charm.

Nunda Lodge No. 86 would seem easy to decipher in the era of the internet. But no-o-o-.

The only lodge I can find with that name is the Nunda Lodge No. 169 of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, begun in 1855.  No. 169 is not No. 86. Complicating my search is Nunda, New York for which Nunda, Illinois was named and the 19th-century name change of Nunda, Illinois to Crystal Lake. 

Quilt from "Columbia Lodg No 44 Oh, 1867"
Collection of the Milwaukee Museum

The Nunda Lodge quilt could very well be a Masonic quilt. Many of them survive as reminders of the importance of fraternal life in America. The Ohio quilt above has a vine border and similar lettering. But the Nunda Lodge quilt has no obvious Masonic symbolism. 

I looked for other fraternal organizations (and sororital) with the number 86. The Mason's female branch is the Eastern Star - no luck. The International Order of Odd Fellows maintained a Nunda Lodge #701 between 1882 and 1887. Their female branch, the Rebekahs, were Lodge 908.

Charlotte Gardner
attributed to New York or New Jersey, late 1880s.
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum 

Above a spectacular quilt with IOOF imagery including the triple link chain,  heart and hand and the worlds Hope & Charity. It also has an ax and a goat.

I don't know too much about fraternal imagery but the ax and
the goat are found in Modern Woodmen of the World or 
Modern Woodmen of America imagery.

I remember doing restoration painting on this
MWA hall in Valton, Wisconsin decades ago.
The Goat originally was painted by Ernst Hupeden in the 1890s.

The Modern Woodmen organization was founded in 1883 in Iowa and soon moved its headquarters to Rock Island, Illinois. It's influence on the folk culture of northern Illinois and Wisconsin is everywhere, particularly in cemeteries where skillfully carved stone trees grow .

So I looked up MWA (Modern Woodman of America) lodges in McHenry County. In a list of MWA "camps" (they were nicely consistent with that woodman theme) is No. 86, the Boxwood Camp in Harvard, Illinois.

The county history notes the Boxwood Camp No. 86 was organized in 1885.  Harvard is just below the C in Wisconsin on that map of McHenry County above, about 20 miles northwest of Crystal Lake/Nunda.

No. 86 is the right number but MWA lodges are called camps, and it's not in Nunda. The female versions of the Modern Wooden are the Royal Neighbors. Nothing there. So I still know nothing about the quilt, its date or its meaning. But it was a good excuse to poke around McHenry County again (if virtually) and  to look at some fraternal imagery in quilts.

Sallie E. Hasson, full of Masonic imagery, from
an ad in the Clarion magazine in 1985

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Scraps of History: Post Civil-War Scrap Quilts

Great repro of a late-19th-century scrap quilt by Lissa Alexander

We're Blog Hopping this week about the new book Oh Scrap!

A few more scraps of history from the book.

Same idea---smaller pieces.
From about 1900

I found many references to scrap quilts in periodicals of the 1870s and '80s. They were quite popular in those years with subcategories like quilts of thousands of small pieces and charm quilts (one shape and no two pieces the same.)

About 1885

Magazine editors and writers often had opinions as to what their readers should be doing with their time---

Annie Curd in Good Housekeeping in 1888 invoked nostalgia to defend the "Old fashioned scrap quilt, of which our mothers and grandmothers were so proud..."

A Four-Patch "Friendship Blues" from Oh, Scrap!

Annie liked the "modest quilts" - nine patches, Irish chains.

Plus Marks the Spot by Lissa Alexander

Apparently not all grandmother's quilts were desirable:
"I do not mean the gay red, green and yellow abominations known as the 'Rising Star' and 'Setting Sun' that we see year after exhibited at the annual county fair."

This "abomination" belongs to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art
and was photographed by the Western Pennsylvania project and the
Quilt Index.

Readers weighed in on the topic: " neater in my opinion than a neat scrap quilt to say nothing of economy...I save every scrap left over from my dresses & aprons..."

"Quilt-making has many enemies and many firm supporters...."

A fan of scrap quilts in 1874 wrote she could not defend buying "costly material just to cut up and sew together."
Charm quilt from about 1880 from Moda's collection

Julia Dent Grant in 1854

On the other hand the fan wanted to know:  "Who has not calico scraps? Even Mrs. Grant [the President's wife], I presume, has calico dresses.... What could be nicer than a neatly made, pretty, calico patchwork quilt, although she need not use it at the 'White House' unless she wishes." 

Julia Grant did not comment.

This may have been a sore subject for the First Lady. Isabel Ross in her book The General's Wife: The Life of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant refers to a long-unfinished quilt.

When Julia Dent and Ulysses Grant were engaged between 1844 and 1848 and waiting for her father's approval in the midst of a fad for quiltmaking...
"she started a quilt that Ulysses would always tease her about, for it went with them everywhere and never was finished. Shortly before his death [in 1885] he jested about this in a letter to [daughter] Nellie."
Well, we'd all like to see that quilt top.

This scrappy star quilt is attributed to Grant's cousin
 Epsi Addaline Grant, according to the owner
Kathy at the blog RubyLemons. 
A Texas neighbor gave it to her family with the Grant story.

I have no idea of the accuracy of that tale but it is certainly a scrap quilt.

And let's hope Epsi Addaline didn't bring it by the White House to show it to cousin Julia. An awkward moment perhaps.

From Lissa Alexander's Oh, Scrap: Fabulous Quilts That Make the Most of Your Stash
Here's the schedule for the blog hop this week. Every day we're giving away a free e-copy of the book.

March 20 Mellissa Corey

March 21 Carrie Nelson

March 22 Sherri McConnell

March 23 Fat Quarter Shop

March 24 Teresa Silva

March 25 Jane Davidson

March 26 Martingale Publishing & Winners Announced

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tarrytown Fair Quilt

The Connecticut Quilt Project documented this unusual quilt which is connected to a July, 1864 Sanitary Commission Benefit Fair in Tarrytown, Westchester County, New York.

In the central block
Sanitary Fair
For the benefit of
Disabled Soldiers
July 1864
Amount Realized..."

In June of that year Catherine Beck Van Cortland,  Manager of New York's Women's Central Relief Association for Putnam and Northern Westchester Counties, signed a letter to the Sanitary Commission reporting that the local organizations would conduct a meeting on July 5, the week of the fair.

The "Amount Realized" area is blank.
Never filled in? Faded?

Apparently the Tarrytown Sanitary Fair for Benefit of Disabled Soldiers was managed by women living north of New York City.

Fanny Arnold (Associate Manager for Eastern Westchester Co.) lived in Mott Haven in what we'd call the South Bronx; Catherine Van Cortland in Sing Sing (now Ossining) and Miss G.B. Schuyler (Manager for Southern Westchester County) in Dobbs Ferry.

The woman who brought it to be photographed inherited it from her husband's family. It is indeed an unusual quilt.

The hand with a sword---"The Way to Peace."
Does it represent the African-American soldiers?
Many of the women who were associated with Women's Central Relief Association
later worked to raised money for the Freedmen's Association. 

The cat is relatively common on New York quilts in the mid-century.
It must have a meaning that we do not understand.
Here the block is embroidered "Victory".
Does the cat represent the Union?

Cut-out chintz block above a red work block.

It's set with a striped fabric that is not easily seen in the photos.

The blocks on the left here may represent Corps Badges, images
you see on G.A.R. quilts from the end of the century

 I can't make much sense out of it and even though there is a date in the center I am not so sure it was made in 1864. Perhaps a later quilt organized around an 1864 souvenir?

Here's the Link to the file at the Quilt Index:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Oh Scrap! Repro Stars

Sherbet Stars by Lissa Alexander

Now that's a pretty picture.

It's from Lissa Alexander's new book Oh, Scrap! - Fabulous Quilts That Make the Most of Your Stash
I wrote a introduction on the history of scrap quilts for the book and I'll be doing some more posts on that topic in reference to the Civil War years here and on my Material Culture blog. 

Lissa has done a fabulous job of combining the traditional look of scrap quilts with a contemporary aesthetic. Sherbet Stars: Classic color and pattern pushed a little bit modern.

Here are a few similar stars from the past, mostly from online auctions.

The star blocks in the book are 21-3/4" square and the finished quilt is

Sherbets: raspberry and lemon

Detail of a star date-inscribed 1853
DAR Museum Collection


Amazing stuffed quilting. I think the
pink star may be a patch over a very worn center.

We'll be giving away many Oh Scrap! E-books on Moda blogs between tomorrow and March 26, 2018, so begin the blog hop with Lissa's blog tomorrow March 15

See a preview of Oh Scrap! on Amazon:

Lone Star Sampler
by Lissa Alexander, Quilted by Angela McCorkle
Lissa's made this pattern several times. Here's a great repro look from a few years ago.