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.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Post War Party in Boston: Quilts from the Freedmen's Schools

Students and teacher at a Freedmen's School,
late-19th century

The Freedmen's Record, June, 1865
"While a grateful nation is welcoming back its soldiers from their victorious battle-fields, it seemed fitting that we should make some thank-offering to our noble veterans returning from their honorable toil in the cause of the freedman."
Thus, the Boston Freedmen's Bureau held a Welcome Levee for about a dozen teachers who'd finished their terms in the South teaching newly freed children in Washington, Charleston, New Bern, Richmond and Norfolk. Teachers celebrated with ice cream, socializing and speeches from William Lloyd Garrison, James Redpath and other antislavery activists.

Freedmen's School in Raleigh, North Carolina,
National Park Service

One of the speakers was Harriet Carter of Cambridge:
"The production of a bedquilt made by the little children in a sewing-school at Washington induces Miss Harriet Carter to come forward...The bedquilt was then put up for sale for the benefit of the sewing school. Thirty dollars was bid on the spot; but the purchaser will yield to higher bid and the quilt will remain at our office a short time for inspection and sale."
Mrs. Green's class at a Freedmen's School in Vicksburg, Mississippi,
Harper's Weekly.
Dr. John Rapier, Jr., an African-American doctor working at the Freedmen's camps in Washington, described 24-year-old Harriet Carter in one of his letters, noting she was attractive and "as full of learning as an Episcopal minister."
Teachers at the Washington school

It would be nice to know more about Harriet and her pupils' quilt. Records of the various branches of the Freedmen's Bureaus include several references to quilts made by students as part of the sewing curriculum. The finished pieces could be sold as fundraisers, given as gifts or kept as bedding.

The following year Abby S. Simmons at the Washington school sent this account:
"In a barrel of goods sent me from Hartford, there were several small pieces of calico, and I thought it would be a good idea to teach the little girls to sew...The Society [in Poughkeepsie, New York] sent us a large bundle of pieces. I told the children about them, and about the kind ladies who had sent them ...and asked them if they would not like to piece a whole bed-quilt and send it to the ladies. They had already several blocks pieced. I asked them which they would rather do, piece a bed-quilt, and sell it, and buy something for the school, or present it to the ladies. At the last proposal every had was raised..."

A log cabin made of Mouselline de Laine (cotton/wool combination fabric)

One teacher in Camp Rucker, Virginia, wrote to a newspaper in 1866:
"I should be very thankful for Chintz or Mousline de Laine pieces, that will do to make into patch work, not only to teach the children to sew, but they need quilts badly."
Perhaps she was thinking about using the delaine to make log cabin quilts.

Photo of a school on St. Helena Island, 
Georgia and an illustration drawn from it

In 1864, the Women's Association of Philadelphia for the Relief of the Freedmen reported receiving "A box containing material for several bed quilts from Ruth A. Shaw, Avoca, Illinois."

Sewing was also part of the adult curriculum

See a post on another quilt made by the children at a school on Hilton Head Island:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Antebellum Album Photos

Go to the Facebook Group:

Click on Photos in the column on the left. See what's new.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Soldiers & Celebrities

Tied quilt with 168 inked signatures.
76 inches x 88 inches. 
Thought to have been made in Boston, 1876-1884

Lucy Hayes's signature and her husband's are framed
in an accompanying piece.

Nov. 1882"

Rutherford B. Hayes was President from 1877 to 1881, so when the Hayeses signed the squares
he was former President Hayes. He was followed by Chester Arthur, who served from 1881-1885 and died in 1886. Arthur also signed a square.

This quilt was documented in the Wisconsin project, when it was noted: "The quilt was found in an attic in Boston, and was purchased from an antique dealer in Connecticut. The signatures on the quilt are autographs of prominent persons in the Boston area and includes Presidents Arthur and Hayes."

The quilt also contains signatures of many Massachusetts Civil War veterans including Benjamin Butler, Winfield Hancock and Nathaniel Banks. Important women include Lucy Stone and Mary Livermore.

Three signatures that may have
arrived too late???

The celebrity quilt was a fashion in the last part of the 19th-century. It appears the autograph collector sent white silk squares to famous people and then framed each with red triangles, set the blocks with blue sashing and tied the silk quilt with red and white yarn.

There's a handwritten list of signatories.

In 1883, the ladies of Cleveland, New York "succeeded in obtaining the signature of President
Arthur and Governor [Grover] Cleveland. At an auction held in the church the other night it was knocked down to a Philistine at the low price of $7."

This is not the same quilt, Celebrity quilts and soldiers' quilts were a trend in the 1870s and '80s.

The quilt is now for sale at Lion Heart Autographs for about $65 per signature.,-Civil-War-officers-and-generals,-congressmen,-writers,-abolitionists,-suffragists,-scientists,-and-others.

If you are looking for a New England Civil War veteran you might find his name on the list.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Antebellum Album #2: Lend & Borrow

Antebellum Album #2 
Lend & Borrow by Pat Styring

Emiline F. Cross attended Mount Holyoke Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts, thirty miles from her home, graduating from the elite women's academy in 1854 when she was about twenty. She must have been well-liked as classmates made her a gift of an album quilt.

Emiline's quilt from Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth.
Collection of the Blandford, Massachusetts Historical Society

The pattern was also popular. We'd call it Lady of the Lake or Lost Ship. The name Lend & Borrow  refers to the way the red and white shapes shift from positive to negative spaces when it's set like this. Just like last month's block, it's not what we'd think of when we decide to piece a friendship quilt. But Emiline's generation, the first to adapt albums to patchwork, thought the block with two different triangles quite the thing for single pattern or sampler quilts.

Quilt with blocks dated 1839-1843 from the Silber Family collection,
possibly New Jersey. Blocks in this quilt dated 1839 are among
the earliest surviving examples of  friendship style blocks.

Mount Holyoke about 1870. 
Over 300 pupils and teachers lived in the five-story building.

Mary Lyon, 1797-1849

Like founder Mary Lyon, Mt. Holyoke Seminary became a pillar of New England's cultural temple so Southern girls were unlikely to enroll.

Classroom and students about 1870

In a list of  307 students and teachers in Emiline's class of 1853-1854 the majority were from New England states with westerners from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Wisconsin. I counted only one woman who might be considered a Southerner in the class of 1853-54.  (Two others were from St. Louis and Washington City, cities with Southern roots that remained in the Union.)

Sarah Jane Foster traveled from Jonesborough, Tennessee
to South Hadley, Massachusetts for school. Most of
her fellow pupils were from the green Union states here.

Sarah Jane's interest in Mt. Holyoke might have been due to dreams of becoming a missionary. Alumni records indicate she married a widowed missionary in 1860, taught in Oroomiah, Persia and returned to Tennessee in 1869 after his death.

Same classroom, same day

Why did New Jersey's St. Mary's Seminary attract Virginians like Indiana Fletcher while Mt. Holyoke enrolled more girls from the South Pacific than the southern states? It was probably both curriculum and culture. Mt. Holyoke's classes were more academic than schools aiming to turn out cultured wives: Latin and logic, history, philosophy, algebra, music, science and calisthenics followed by examinations described as "severe" by Emily Dickinson. A Mount Holyoke graduate might become a teacher, spreading Miss Lyons's ideals to the next generation.

The Library

Mt. Holyoke's values were embedded in New England's culture of independence, self reliance, reform and improvement. Rather than being waited upon, students shared housekeeping chores. Mary Lyon not only hoped to create devout Christians of her pupils, she also encouraged them to "Attempt great things, accomplish great things." Southern parents would not be pleased to find their daughters returned as unmarriageable blue stockings and reformers.

Olympia Brown was in Emiline's class. 
She may have decided Mt. Holyoke wasn't radical enough
 as she transferred to Antioch College and later
attended theological school, ordained as a minister in 1863.

This pair is thought to be friends 
Emily Dickinson and Kate Turner.

Emily Dickinson attended Mt. Holyoke for the 1847-1848 term. Some speculate the religious focus was too much for the poet. While Mary Lyons ruled religious temperament was graded: students who professed, those who hoped to, and girls without hope. Emily remained in the last group.

How many other Mt. Holyoke students received an album quilt from friends? Emiline's, well documented by Lynne Z. Bassett for the Massachusetts project, is one of two in the literature right now.
This block from missionary Mary Matthews's 1888 album
 would have warmed Miss Lyons's heart.
See the quilt here:

"Sharer in all the joys and sorrows of Holyoke life,
Lizzie Hanmer, Wethersfield, Conn."

The Block

Denniele Bohannon's blue and white version

Students at the Friends' Institute in New York City
made a similar friendship quilt for teacher Patience Smith in 1852
with many names in the appliqued border. See more about this quilt:
One of the many variations of the pattern shown
as a block about 1890 by the Ladies' Art Company,
which called it Lady of the Lake

In repeat block versions the large half-square-triangle
is the block, the smaller triangles form the sashing.


A—Cut 6 dark & 6 light squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half diagonally into 2 triangles. You need 12 light and 12 dark triangles.

B—Cut 1 dark & 1 light square 6-7/8”. Cut each in half diagonally into 2 triangles. You need 1 light and 1 dark triangle.

By Mark Lauer

Album quilt date-inscribed 1842-43.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Another early version in red and white.

The Civil War and After

Here her name is spelled Emeline

Tracking Emiline Cross into the Civil War years reveals she married Edward Lay Tinker, about 15 years older than she in 1856. She died in 1863 leaving two boys---a five-year-old and a baby. Emiline's quilt might have survived only because she did not. It's now in the Blandford Historical Society, the town where she was born.

Emiline's Tennessee classmate Sarah Jane Foster's Civil War was fought far away in Persia. She married widowed missionary Samuel Audley Rhea in Jonesborough May, 1860. By July she was on a boat from Boston to Kurdistan.

Sarah Foster Rhea in the middle east.

She spent the years 1860-1865 with the Kurdish people. You can read her adventures in her husband's biography The Tennessean in Persia & Koordistan.

By Mark Lauer

Sentiment for February

Inked sentiment from an 1854 quilt.
We tend to be perfectionists but many of these inked
blocks were not skillfully drawn. That's called charm.
And if you blot the ink---make it part of the design.

The eagle in the inking

Read Lynne Z. Bassett's essay on Emiline Cross's quilt here:
Dated 1851
A colorful sampler album belonging to the Stratford [Connecticut]
Historical Society includes several versions of this month's block.
From the Connecticut Project & the Quilt Index.

Lend & Borrow by Becky Brown

Post pictures of your blocks in our Facebook group. Ask to join and I'll let you in---or just lurk to watch the fun.
Bookmark this link:

The photos of Mount Holyoke are from this site: