Saturday, May 19, 2018

Military Memory in a Sampler

Eagle with cannons, a liberty cap and 9 stars,
block from a mid-19th-century applique sampler.
Mexican War or Civil War?

I've been collecting photos of applique samplers for next
year's block of the month. Here's one that seem to have
some Civil War imagery in a center block.
But then again it could be the Mexican War of the late 1840s.

All I know about it is that dealers Kelter-MalcĂ©  advertised it about 30 years ago in a 1990 issue of 
the Clarion/Folk Art magazine from the American Museum of Folk Art.

They sold a lot of great quilts and are still selling antiques in Bridgehampton, New York.
A recent profile:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Quaker Pride---Block History

I tossed 20 of your blocks into a digital quilt.

Looks pretty good.

Dated 1851, made by students at the Five Point School
in Warren County, Ohio. Ohio Historical Society Collection.

I have many photos of this block because it was so popular as an album choice and because I like the way it works in design. The earliest dated examples I have in the photo files are from 1841 and 1842 at the beginning of the signature quilt craze.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Date: 1841. Signatures include
Mary Ann Skerrett, E.B. Phillips, George S. Lang,
Julian Phillips, and E. Phillips, Philadelphia

Collection of the Salem County Historical Society in New Jersey.
The makers lived in Mullica Hill in Gloucester County.

Samuel Gillingham was a Philadelphia Quaker

Very similar quilt attributed to Elizabeth Prickett of Burlington County from the Gloucester County Historical Society Museum. Striped sashing looks good whether the blocks are set on the square or on point.

Another dated 1841-1842 from the New Jersey Project

As Jessica Nicholl wrote three decades ago in her catalog: Quilted For Friends: Delaware Valley Signature Quilts: "Friends [Quakers] found the idea of memory quilt particularly compelling."
Nicholl studied several of these quilts and found they had signatures in common.

And then there are some fragments & blocks.

Presented to the Revd. Thomas P Hunt by the 
Ladies Total Abstinence Society, Philadelphia, 1842. 

Maybe this man: a famous temperance preacher who died in Philadelphia in 1876.
The fragment above was from an online auction.

Nicholl also lists an 1841 quilt made by the Female Jefferson Total Abstinence Society 
Presented to the Daughters of the Reverend Thomas and Anna Hunt
in the Atwater Kent/ Philadelphia History Museum Collection.

A fragment 1841-1842 that was once in Julie Silber's inventory, now
in Sandra Starley's collection.

Evalina L. Shaw's block, 1841

1842 Angelina Venable, a set of 12 blocks

At least two in a sampler album dated 1842, also in the Starley collection.

The block continued popular in the Delaware River Valley and spread to other regions. Here's a great version from the collection of the Mercer Museum, dated 1843-1844. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

The Delaware River Valley in eastern Pennsylvania
& western New Jersey.
The heart of album quilt country.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Lydia Hamilton Smith and a Movie Quilt

Tommy Lee Jones & S. Epatha Merkerson as 
Antislavery Activists Thaddeus Stevens & 
Lydia Hamilton Smith in the 2012 movie Lincoln

Always being up on the latest in cinema I just got around to
watching Lincoln, the Steven Spielberg version.

People had talked about the quilt on the bed at Lydia Smith's and Thaddeus
Stevens's 1865 Washington house.

I thought it was a good pick as far as historical accuracy, patchwork pattern and fabrics. The director and the art director obviously wanted to make a statement in that shot and such a vivid pattern certainly offers a visual counterpoint to the vivid image of the Congressman in bed with his black partner.

Green calico print in a block dated 1848

In the imaginary world here Lydia Hamilton Smith, a Pennsylvania native, might have made a quilt just like this or brought one from her home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The sepia movie palette has toned down the colors but I'd guess the stars are various bright colored prints set with overdyed green calico squares. The sashing looks like a California gold print.

California gold, a tiny chrome orange figure on a white ground---
very mid- to late-19th century.

The nine-patch star block, one of the oldest of patchwork designs.

Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Smith

Well, the quilt is accurate. How accurate is the image of Stevens and Smith in bed?

They were quite the item of gossip in Civil-War era Washington. If you read the papers you'd be familiar with the story. For example in June 1868 the Idaho Semi-Weekly World had some gossip:
"Mrs. Thad. Stevens---The mulatto paramour of Thad. Stevens, generally known as 'Mrs. Thad Stevens' was robbed in Lancaster (Pa.) lately, at the railroad depot, of $100 in greenbacks and three Mexican silver dollars, one diamond breastpin....This woman's former name was Smith. She was the wife of Jacob Smith....but through the influence of Thad. Stevens she left her husband and became his mistress and his housekeeper which double position she has filled for many years! "
In September, 1866 Wisconsin's LaCrosse Democrat printed a short rant about "Good Thaddeus! sweet paramour of the mulatto wench of Lancaster!"

Their Lancaster house on Queen Street is
being developed as a historic site.

We can hope Lydia was not unduly upset by such political meanness. Even after her death in 1884 the Raleigh, North Carolina Farmer & Mechanic referred to her as "the mulatto 'wife' of Thad Stevens, the virulent South-hater who forced the Reconstruction villainy upon our people."

Lydia Smith is an interesting woman without much public record yet. She is reputed to have worked with Stevens in assisting escaped slaves before the war and during the Civil War was active in soldiers' aid activities. After Stevens died in 1868 she bought a Washington boarding house with money he had left her in his will. 

Lydia's boarding house on Newspaper Row had a view of the Willard Hotel, the
large building on the corner in this photo of the Union victory parade in 1865.

A more respectful obituary of Lydia Smith that was copied
in several newspapers in 1884.

See Stevens's underground railroad activities in the Lancaster house application for National Parks Service status on the Network to Freedom in this PDF:

Christa Achtenberg won a ribbon for her star
quilt inspired by the movie quilt.

And Jeanne at Spiral tells us she loved the movie and made a quilt too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Southern Charm

Collection of the Charleston Museum #1992.45.2
106" square.

The Charleston Museum's annual quilt show comes down at the end of this month. Piece by Piece: Geometric Quilts features pieced quilts from their estimable collection. I noticed that this featured quilt, an Irish Chain variation, has a lot to do with our Antebellum Album block for this month, the block I'm calling Quaker Pride.

Becky Brown's Block #4 plus 2 setting blocks

I figured out that the Charleston quilt is two
separate blocks. 

The block of blue chintz is a double
nine patch much like the alternate block in our official set---different proportion.
The block that looks like the Quaker Pride album on point is
actually the same block shaded differently.

I've seen this simple and effective pattern in a couple of other quilts. MESDA has this pretty child's quilt from the Marion family in South Carolina. Again the double nine patch is a consistent fabric with the alternate album scrappy. A striped chintz border frames it.

Harriet Kirk Marion (1782-1856)
Berkeley County, South Carolina 58" x 44"
Collection: Museum of Southern Decorative Arts MESDA

On the reverse: a label added later says this small quilt was made for her granddaughter Harriet Marion Palmer born in 1830.

My third example is also Southern. I found it in the Georgia project book Georgia Quilts: Piecing Together a History.
This one is red and green and looks later than the chintz examples, perhaps made about 1860.
 The caption:
"Aunt Ollie's Quilt (Irish Chain Variation.) Makers said to be slaves on the Northern Glover Plantation near Albany (Dougherty County, Georgia.) 101" x 109".

I drew it up in EQ. It's a block of 25 squares based on a grid of 5.
I used 2" finished squares cut 2-1/2". Each block finishes to 10".

One block is shaded like this.

The other block is shaded like this

49 Blocks makes patchwork 70" x 70"
It would make a great charm quilt if you could control the shading
into light, mediums and darks.

With a chintz border of about 6" it would be 82" square

It's a cool design but it IS a large quilt made completely of 2" squares.
A crib quilt may be more do-able. Note the vintage examples that are over 100".

See more quilts in the Piece by Piece: Geometric Quilts at the Charleston Museum. It's up till May 31.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Dastardly Border Ruffians

In the years before the Civil War a border war was fought in Kansas where free-state and slave-state emigrants came to vote on the territory's future status. Things got ugly as you can see by this testimony before a Congressional committee.

Elizabeth Thomas described an 1856 raid by Border Ruffians (primarily Missourians) who raided the homes of antislavery settlers, hoping to terrorize them into returning to the east. Mrs. Benjamin S. Hancock was one of the victims. They carried off her flour ("flour was very dear at that time,") her pots and kettles and a ham. She wailed to no avail.
John "Randolph, who commanded them, came up and ordered him no attention to the cries of those abolition women---that they would cry for everything. I know that there was a lot of quilt-blocks; they were blown and scattered over the prairie, having been nearly torn to pieces."

Now, that is mean.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Antebellum Inking Ideas

Quilt block in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a couple of groups of album blocks with beautiful inking. And they have good shots of the signatures, which can be quite inspirational. Here are a few from a set of star blocks attributed to Malinda Gamble.

To see these click here:
Search for QUILT BLOCK. You can't right click to save these so you might want to do a screen capture if something captures your eye.

Maryland's Cecil Whig 1841

The album signers may have themselves been inspired by newspaper illustrations. Publishers could commission or buy small engravings for the masthead or advertisements.

Baltimore Daily Clipper, 1846