QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

DAR Seminar Papers 4: 1850s Immigration Crisis


My talk at the DAR Museum symposium in November was
Star Spangl'd Patriotic Quilts of the 1850s

I'd noticed a group of patriotic eagle quilts dated 1853 and wondered
about the inspiration? What wars, rebellions, politics?

A casual look at the cultural and political context told me only that Franklin Pierce
was inaugurated that year, not something to excite this much patriotic display.


More than patriotic---some of the eagle quilts of the decade were rather aggressive,
with several birds holding no olive branches of peace.

The U.S. was not at war with any other country in the 1850s.
Our own Civil War was unimaginable at the time.




A deeper look into politics of the 1850s  reveals that there was a strong
third party electing many to local and statewide offices.


And in the 1856 Presidential election winning 21% of the popular vote.


The Know Nothings or American Party had one plank in their platform;
they were anti-immigrant.

"Americans Will Rule America!"


The Irish and the Germans

I've written about the eagle quilts and the ugly nationalism of the 1850s on this blog.
Here are links to five posts.


The Know-Nothings with only one hate-filled principle 
were not a viable political party for long. By 1859 they were gone
and the memory of the anti-immigration movement faded.

Quilt labeled "Fancy Know Nothing" at the Indiana State Museum

Did their politics inspire these eagle quilts?
More mind-reading.

Quilt dated 1856 from James P Julia auctions.

There were other papers which I'll tell you about in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

DAR Seminar Papers 3: Facts

From the Nadal Baltimore album
NMAH, Smithsonian Collection

The symposium topic at the DAR Museum in November was Culture & Technology in American Quilts so Lynne Z. Bassett also talked about technology, in particular inking on album quilts.

1847 from Cindy's Antique Quilts

These papers are not published but Lynne has written on the topic in the Massachusetts project book
Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth.


"The argument has been made and frequently repeated that signed friendship quilts became possible...because of improvements in commercially available ink and the invention of the steel nib pen...." 
That argument is not supported by facts. If you go to her footnote...
"the best ink...was India ink, imported from China, which had been known...for centuries already. Even so, many women continued to make their own ink at home...."

From a quilt dated 1852
India ink did not deteriorate the fabric like this


"Inking designs on cotton cloth was not new [in the 1840s]; inkwork was a fancywork technique practiced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."
Lynne mentioned reticules, bags with inking like this English item dated 1810.



Album quilters combined an older fancywork with patchwork
in their new-style quilts of the 1840s. There is no cause and
effect between ink technological changes and album quilts

Augusta Auctions

Well, who has been spreading this misinformation about manufactured ink being
the genesis of the album quilt fashion?

Signature on a moth's wings

Possibly MOI.

Get out your copy of Clues in the Calico,
my 1989 book, and cross out as shown on page 118.


Forget that first paragraph. The rest about inking still holds up.

Collection of the American Museum in Bath, England

Tomorrow: My Paper

Monday, December 9, 2019

DAR Seminar Papers 2: More Mind Reading

Star quilt from 1840-1860 with background cut from a Gothic print
sold at Skinner auction 15 years ago.

A Gothic building in a landscape it seems.

Furnishing print with a Gothic window
1840-1860

Trying to interpret another culture, whether that of another gender, geographical community or a long-ago era, is all a matter of mind reading and we did a lot of that at the DAR symposium in November: A Piece of Her Mind: Culture and Technology in American Quilts. 

Gothic Drawing Room 1850
These are mostly my pictures. Lynne's were better.

Lynne Zacek Bassett gave us several insights into the mind of the mid-19th century album quilt maker in her talk on The Romantic Era: Understanding Friendship Quilts. Here's what I learned (and remember.)

Lynne curated an exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum a few years ago:
Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion and Its Legacy

I was particularly struck by her references to the fashion for Gothic imagery, which we are all familiar with in surviving architecture from the period.

Gothic Revival Victorian cottage
Small towns are full of Carpenter Gothic style.

But the influence was much more pervasive at the time.

Cooper Hewitt collection
About 1840

Lynne pointed out many references to that distinctive pointed arch.



Including the fashionable female silhouette. Of course!!!

Block dated 1845

The appeal of the Gothic arch might explain the appeal of this popular album pattern.

Tollford Quilt, Connecticut, Blocks dated 1844-1845
Quilt Index

And why it was set on point so often.
I'm a better mind-reader today than I was before Lynne's talk.

Lynne Zacek Bassett wrote a catalog on the exhibit Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion and Its Legacy. We should have bought a copy when it first came out. More of Lynne's talk tomorrow.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

DAR Seminar Papers 1: Mind Reading

Quilt offered by Thomaston auctions in 2014

Terry Terrell and Deborah Kraak gave a paper at the November seminar at the DAR Museum about Floral Literacy as a key to understanding the look of early-19th-century American quilts: Mind-Reading: Improving our Understanding of the Floral Literacy of Quiltmakers in the First Half of the 19th Century

It's a Flower
They made some interesting points that we (mostly floral history illiterates) should consider in examining chintz quilts. As a floral illiterate I will try to report what I learned.



For example: Changes in flowers through breeding and hybridization in the look of a plant over time can be used to date a fabric such as a viola/pansy. A full-blown pansy, round in shape, with variegated color in the center looking like eye spots would not be pictured on a chintz before pansies were hybridized to look like that.  

See their Flowers On Chintz web page here:

Plant breeding was done by professional florists, garden suppliers and amateur gardeners. The speakers emphasized English gardening interests and the trend for flower clubs---a manly hobby---inspiring changes in floral appearance and popularity of different species, which they saw reflected in American chintz quilts but, like much American fashion, with a time lag.

Here's one of my favorite paintings:
 Rubens Peale with a Geranium by his brother Rembrandt Peale, 1801
Now I know why the Philadelphian is showing off a geranium.

Deborah discussed desirable traits in hybridization, including round, compact blooms with a central pom-pom and the much-desired color variegation in petals. 

Variegation was favored as in the tulip here in a print from
the 1850s in the collection of the Winterthur Museum

They gave us a vocabulary of popular flowers such as auricula, anemone and ranunculus. We floral illiterates might see them as hydrangea, daisies and roses but we’d be wrong.

English block-printed panel

When I first began looking at chintz panels I saw
roses in the pinkish, layered flowers and hydrangea in the brown composite blooms.
More accurately: Ranunculus and Auricula (primroses)

Ranunculi, tulips and another kind of primrose in the center of a basket panel.

Primroses of various types were quite the fashion

1749 print of a Ranunculus by Benjamin Wilks

As were Ranunculi

Collection of the Winterthur Museum
This panel includes many of the flowers popular at the time.

They showed several botanical prints, the inspiration for chintz designers, and noted that although the floral prints on paper may have been published about 1805 the flowers do not show up in chintzes in dated quilts until the 1830s. 

Gladioli in a quilt dated 1845

Blooms like calla and gladioli bred about 1805 were not seen in quilts till the middle 1830s. This 25-year time lag is hard to explain, but it's something we see in the appearance of many English chintzes in American quilts.

Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum
Extremely popular print in American quilts with a calla,
a bunch of primroses and a ranunculus among others.

When were the chintzes with auriculae and ranuculi printed? This is still a question. On our Chintz Panel blog we too have noted this 20-30 year lag between fashions in chintz and fashions in American quilts. And what happened about 1830? Maybe we just started getting imports of the fabric only a few decades behind London.

Dr. Terry Terrell with a Geranium 2019

Deborah's just lucky I didn't have a photo of her.

Tomorrow: More papers