QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT By Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Antique Quilt Exhibits: Winter, Spring 2016

Grab your valise and a trolley to see some antique quilt shows this winter and into spring.

Detail of Wheels Quilt

Collection of the Quilt Museum

California, San Jose
San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Blanket Statements: New Quilts from Kaffe Fassett and Historical Quilts from the Collection of the Quilt Museum and Gallery, York, England. Fifteen historical quilts from 1780 and 1949 and twenty from Kaffe Fassett's studio. March 12 – June 28, 2016

California, Santa Ana 
Bowers Museum. The Red That Colored the World; Cochineal. 100 objects-textiles, sculpture, paintings, manuscripts, decorative arts, clothing and more- the exhibition explores the history of cochineal and the seductive visual nature of red.
Through February 21, 2016

Indiana, Bloomington
Wylie House Museum is hosting an exhibit of Chris Allswede's collection of 20 antique quilts. March 3-5, 2016.

Poppy Quilt by Marie Webster
Collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indiana, Indianapolis
Indianapolis Museum of Art. A Joy Forever: Marie Webster Quilts. March 4, 2016 - January 8, 2017.

Kentucky, Paducah
National Quilt Museum

The Other Side: Backs. "Quilts hung so you can see both sides,a chance to see the other side of the story!" February 12 - April 11, 2016
The Pieced Empire: Antique New York Beauty Quilts with New Quilts from an Old Favorite: New York Beauty.
March 4 - May 10, 2016

Quilt Week is April 19-23. This year's Rotary Show of antiques Quilts Patriotic & Presidential  is curated by Sue Reich. 

Massachusetts, Lowell
New England Quilt Museum. Red, White & Green: Antique Quilts from the Permanent Collection
November 5, 2015 - February 20, 2016

First Impressions 2016: New to the Collection. Classroom Gallery. February 24 - May 15, 2016

From Quilts of Southwest China
Michigan, East Lansing
Michigan State University Museum. Quilts of Southwest China. American and Chinese museums led by the MSU Museum and the Yunnan Nationalities Museum (Kunming), have documented Chinese patchwork tradition for this exhibit up through April 30, 2016.

Quilt by an Unknown Maker, Cargo Collection
Nebraska, Lincoln
International Quilt Study Center & Museum/Quilt House.
African-American Quilts from the Cargo Collection. Through May 25, 2016

Favorites from the Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection showcases beautiful and rare chintz, toile, and calico in quilts and textiles that express the Dillows’ passion for fabric. Through August 23, 2016.

Applique quilt,

Ernestine Eberhardt Zaumseil, ca. 1865. Chandlerville, Illinois. 

Gift of George E. Schoellkopf, 2013 (Detail)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, Manhattan

Metropolitan Museum of Art. American Quilts and Folk Art includes recent quilt acquisitions in two rotations: The second rotation is up through August 7, 2016.

Lancaster County quilt shown at the last Poole Forge show in 2014.

Pennsylvania, Churchtown
Antique Quilts in the Mansion, Lancaster County’s Historic Poole Forge. March 14-19, 2016.

Pennsylvania, Doylestown
James A. Michener Art Museum. Blanket Statements: New Quilts by Kaffe Fassett and Historical Quilts from the Collections of the Quilt Museum and Gallery, York, UK. Through February 21, 2016.
The show will travel to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. See above.

Texas, LaGrange
Texas Quilt Museum. Antique Ohio Amish Quilts from the Darwin B. Bearley Collection. March 31-June 26, 2016.

String Quilt from the Texas Tech exhibit

Texas, Lubbock
Museum at Texas Tech University. Legacy of a Thousand Stitches includes almost 50 quilts spanning more than 150 years of history. Curated by Dr. Marian Ann Montgomery. Through May 15, 2016.
A bed-turning showing of other quilts from the collection is scheduled for March 31. Two quilt documentation days: April 9, May 14, 2016.

Vermont, Essex Junction
Vermont Quilt Festival. June 24-26, 2016.Two antique exhibits this year:
Lobby Lights: Red and White Quilts.
Plain and Fancy. Curators Donna Bister and Richard L. Cleveland are showing quilts from their 1991 book.
Quilt from the Etter Collection

Virginia, Harrisonburg
Virginia Quilt Museum. The American Quilt Study Group's Civil War Era Quilt Study will be up from November through March 1, 2016.
The Mary Spitzer Etter Collection will be up through May 7, 2016.

Virginia, Lynchburg
Lynchburg Museum. A Feast for the Eyes: Quilts and Textiles from Central Virginia. Through December 31, 2016,

Washington, LaConner
LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum. A Stitch Here, a Stitch There: Quilts from the Permanent Collection. Through March 27, 2016.

West Virginia, Charleston
Clay Center. Visual Systems: The Quilter's Eye, a traveling exhibit from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. Through March 6, 2016. Plus other exhibits and programming.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lidian from Old Cambridge Pike

Each of the prints in my latest Moda reproduction fabric collection
recalls a person or place along the Old Cambridge Pike
that ran through literary New England.

The largest floral is named Lidian.

The document print above, a gift from collector Arnold Savage.

Woman posing with a similar furnishing print, about 1890.

A perfect piece of cretonne from the 1870-1900 era.

We toned down the colors.

The repro print comes in 8 colorways across the whole range---
blue to red and pink.

And it has a butterfly for you fans of fussy-cut

It's named for Lidian Emerson (1802-1892)
This photo with son Edward Waldo was taken in the late 1840s.

Lydia Jackson married widower Ralph Waldo Emerson when she was 32 in 1835. They moved to a large house on the Cambridge and Concord Turnpike in Concord (It's now called Lexington Road). Emerson, a former minister, became a philosopher and surprisingly a philosopher who made a good living writing and lecturing about his ideas. 

Emerson called his wife Lidian and this became her name, although he had several other nicknames for her.
"Queenie (who has a gift to curse and swear) will every now and then despite of all manners & christianity rip out on Saints, reformers, & Divine Providence with the most edifying zeal."
Ralph Waldo Emerson diary, 1841.
The house was large and visitors like Henry Thoreau and Margaret Fuller stayed for months on end.

The Emerson House on the old Cambridge Pike was the center of literary New England, home to transcendentalist philosophers, novelists, poets and dreamers.

You can walk from the Emersons to the Hawthornes to the Alcotts--- something every one interested in American literature should do.

We used the Lidian print in brown for the strips in the "Wild Oats"
(pattern picture from Miss Rosie's Quilt Company).

Here's my reading list for this month:

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall. If I were Lidian I would have spoken sharply to Margaret who lived in the attic entirely too long. I imagine Queenie did have a few words to say.

The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson,
edited by Delores Bird Carpenter.

The People of Concord: One Year in the Flowering of New England by Paul Brooks.

And if you like historical fiction there's a hot novel:
Mr Emerson's Wife by Amy Belding.

Melissa Corry stitched the model quilt for "Wild Oats."
She used the blue colorway.

See her post here:

I'm going to show some antique quilts with cretonne borders
over on my Facebook page this week.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Eagles and Their Source?

Eagle applique by Helen Gilchrist Ferris (1831-1912)
Illinois State Museum Collection.

In the last post I showed this quilt and five others
with similar, rather primitive eagles.

Four of the five seemed to have an East Coast connection from New Jersey to 
Massachusetts but the fifth, Helen Gilchrist Ferris's medallion
is in an Illinois museum, donated by a Wisconsin family in 1966.

The Illinois State Museum has good family records about their version of this quilt. It was said to be  made by Helen Gilchrist before her marriage to Leonard Thompson Ferris in 1850.

Helen's parents Minerva Holton Gilchrist and Charles Grandison Gilchrist.

The Museum has several sites with information about the quilt:
"Helen Gilchrist was born in VT and came to Hill's Grove, IL, with her parents in 1837. From 1843 to 1849 she went to a school for young ladies in NY operated by her aunt, Miriam Holten, and this quilt was probably made while she was at school. When she returned to IL she married Leonard T. Ferris in 1850 and moved with him to Fountain Grove, {Green] Hancock Co., IL, where she lived the rest of her life." 
"One of the skills that Helen learned in her studies to become a good wife and mother, was sewing. She cut and sewed these appliqué designs onto a large piece of cloth...."

The basket at the top is from
the Garrison family quilt in Massachusetts.
The urn is from Helen's quilt:
Similar striped floral containers.

The family history that Helen stitched this applique eagle at her boarding school in New York could explain the similarities in several quilts. One might guess the needlework teacher shared her pattern with the students---who might have come from New Jersey and Massachusetts and gone home with similar quilts.

Fortunately, the family mentioned that Helen's aunt, Minerva's sister Miriam Holton, ran the boarding school, described in a story written by Helen's daughter as a "Select Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies."  .

Longworth's American Almanac & New York Register in 1839 lists a Miriam Holton running a boarding and day school for young ladies at 11 Amity and living with her brother Physician David P Holton.

Girls and teachers in an unknown school about 1860.

Women's education included an emphasis on needlework and one would expect girls to come home with beautifully designed and executed pictures, clothing and patchwork.

Embroidered cross-stitch sampler signed Susan Stevens Kennedy,
1821, with an eagle and 22 stars

 All the eagle quilts in question do not seem to fit that criteria.

One might want daughter's tuition returned.

However, one can imagine a rather loose curriculum where the students were encouraged to follow their own artistic directions with the eagle design---a progressive school so to speak.

And this is something one might expect of Miss Miriam Holton who was interested in many things, the antislavery movement, girls' education, public health, gynecology and genealogy. In her will she left $2,000 to her brother David to document the family thoroughly, which means we get more than a glimpse of Aunt Miriam and her school.

The Limerick Academy in Maine about 1910.
Miriam went to school at an earlier building.

Miriam Holton was born in Westminster, Vermont, on October 31, 1807. She received an education herself, attending the Academy in Limerick Maine, over a hundred miles from her home in 1830, and thereafter taught schools in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, according to her brother's account. Brother David Holton also taught while he studied medicine in New York City.

 In 1836 he asked Miriam to come to New York with an eye to opening a school on Amity Street in Greenwich Village (now West 3rd Street). In his autobiography her brother wrote:
"As a preliminary step to success in a city establishment, she taught awhile, in 1836, at Mrs. Starr's school for young ladies, 96 Madison street, and the next spring, without special patronage or promise from any one, she opened a school at 18 Amity street, beginning with one pupil. At the close of the first week she had six, and the number rapidly increased, until at the August vacation she had about thirty.
 "On commencing her fall term, she found her rooms too small, and one morning she and her brother were gratified to see, diagonally across the way, a bill on No. 11 Amity street, "To Let." Thither her school was forthwith removed to more ample quarters, and there, for six years, were accommodated from 60 to 125 boarding and day scholars."

I am guessing the school was at the corner of West 3rd Street
and Mercer Streets in Greenwich Village.

The curriculum included music from innovative singing teacher Thomas Hastings and a good deal of health and hygiene from the Doctor. 

This ad for an abdominal supporter for the cure of uterine affections, etc. indicates that M. Holton of 11 Amity Street invented the device. She and her physician brother were also boarding patients at the school and the dormitory around the corner on Mercer Street.

American Institute Fair at Niblo's Garden by B. J. Harrison, about 1845.

 Collection of the Museum of the City of New York.
Quilts were shown at these fairs too.

The ad indicates the medical device won a prize at the 1846 fair sponsored by New York's American Institute and indeed M. Holton is recorded as winning a diploma for a "spino-abdominal supporter".

In 1855 Miriam married Dr. Henry Smith Brown (1809-1890), and presumably gave up her school.

Detail from Helen's quilt

Fate took Miriam to the U.S. Senate on May 22, 1856. 

Representative Brooks about to cane Senator Sumner

She was one of a few ladies in the room when Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina  entered and seated himself near Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts who was working at his desk. Like Miriam Holton Brown, Sumner was antislavery. He had recently delivered a vituperative speech blaming Southern senators and, in particular, Brooks's relative Andrew Butler for maintaining slavery.

According to Sumner biographer Walter Gaston Shotwell, Brooks noticed "a lady present, he asked an officer of the Senate to get her out, but the officer seeing no reason for doing so declined." Brooks returned to Sumner's desk and began beating him severely with his cane.

Miriam's brother David maintained that she was that lady. At the time Sumner was "smitten down by Brooks...Mrs. B. was occupying a position near the distinguished Senator. With characteristic fearlessness in emergencies she first sprang to the rescue."

In the 1850s David and Miriam visited land they had bought in Waterville, Wisconsin. There are records of Miriam and her husband living in Milwaukee and it seems they had become westerners, although they traveled quite a bit.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861 David Holton and Miriam Holton Brown helped organize the Institute of  Reward for Orphans of Patriots. They were initially concerned with housing children orphaned by the war but also advocated public education into hygiene. As the orphaned children grew the Institute transferred efforts to funding college scholarships for them (both boys and girls).

The Gilchrist farm at Hillsgrove, Illinois

While visiting in Illinois Miriam suffered an attack of malaria and died in November, 1865 at the age of 58. Her family described her as "a woman of very superior endowment, knowledge of human nature, great penetration of motives and character, and independent judgment... and was very tenacious of her generally well-founded opinions. She held in abomination the institution of slavery."

Helen Gilchrist also attended an academy in Westport in Essex County, New York
according to this family genealogy 

Detail of Helen Gilchrist's quilt
So it may be that she learned to stitch and received patterns at another school.
But she must have learned quite a bit of something at Aunt Miriam's Greenwich Village school.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Six Eagle Quilts

Eagle Quilt (Number 1)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of Mrs. Jacob Kaplan
Possibly Made in New England

A Pair of Twins

Quilt date-inscribed 1842 (Number 2)
From Knowlton, New Jersey
David Wheatcroft Antiques in Massachusetts

The quilts obviously have much in common:
  • One piece eagle with peaked shield
  • Bowknot and vine swag under the eagle
  • Spiky triangle border and zigzag border
  • Six-pointed stars (26 in one, 25 in the other with 4 additional stars in border)

Another characterstic is the feathers on the head
rather than a smooth, curved head.

We might guess that one woman made both or that two women shared a pattern or a teacher.

These eagles also seem to have some rather awkward cousins.

Braintree Historical Society, (Number 3)
Massachusetts Project, Quilt Index.
Attributed to the Van Alta family

This one has 29 stars of a different kind plus a fringe around the dogtooth triangle edge. Also a red dogtooth tail. Are those eggs under the eagle?

Also notice the birds along the sides, similar to Quilt Number 2

Massachusetts Project, Quilt Index (Number 4)
Attributed to the Garrison Family, Hartford (CT?)
This one has 32 stars and the eagle is flipped.

The four above seem to have New England in common.
The quilt below, also from the Quilt Index, is from the Illinois State Museum.
How many stars? 29 above the eagle,
6 in the gold field below
and 2 below that = 37 in all
plus 4 in the flag at the top

The family donated the quilt in 1966 and knew quite a bit
about the maker. They guessed it be made about 1848.

This picture of a mid-century quilt I found on line has no information with it.

Rather than being a medallion with a central focus
it's four repeated blocks.
The eagles are so belligerent they don't carry any olive branches---
just arrows.

More later.....