Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Visiting the 1876 Centennial Fair

Quilt made of souvenir textiles from the Centennial celebration

What we'd call re-enactors showing old time crafts in costume
at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. The woman playing
Cat's Cradle with yarn wears a patchwork pocket.

Many quilts were influenced by the fair and its
textiles, but we know little about the displays
actually at the Exposition.

Mary Bayard Devereaux Clarke (1827 - 1886), a Raleigh, North Carolina native, visited the  Exposition in 1876 and wrote a series of articles for an unidentified home state newspaper, which she clipped in her scrapbook.

Ye Olde New England Log Cabin
adjacent to The New England Modern Kitchen
"September 24, 1876
I dined in the New England log house....and could hardly realize there were people who had never seen cotton-cards, a spinning wheel, or a quilt in a frame; but the crowd at the door of this house is so great that a policeman stands at the gate to keep them back, and only admit so many at a time. 

Photos are from a series of stereographic views of the fair showing the
"quaint architecture, antiquated furniture and the epochal costumes of the attendants."
"Inside it is just such a house as may be found anywhere in North Carolina, only the articles furnishing it are more battered and ancient than those found in our log cabins...

Costumed re-enactors in the yard for a photo, knitting and
perhaps stitching patchwork

Working with silk
The crib featured so prominently in the photos is now
in the collection of the Wadsworth Athenaeum. At
the time New Englanders liked to think it was brought over on
the Mayflower but it is of American wood.

"Beside the fire place is the quilting frame, and a young girl dressed in the costume of 1776 sits slowly quilting a patch work quilt which, like Penelope's robe, never gets done.
"What is this?" asked a fashionable dressed lady---just then---"An old fashioned ironing board?...To take up as little room as possible, the quilt was rolled up till not wider than an ironing board.
Shelburne Museum Collection
She may also have seen a whole cloth
quilt with this popular 1820s print
of the first Presidents or something similar.
 "On the bed in one room is a quilt that was stamped in France shortly after the Declaration of Independence, on it America is represented as laying on the altar of Liberty a number of medallions each bearing the likeness of a signer of the Declaration; the likenesses are all good."

Or perhaps this late 18th century toile memorializing
Benjamin Franklin

The Fair also had a large Women's Pavilion where quilts
were exhibited.

An Atlantic Monthly correspondent  described the log cabin with the same reaction to the quaint building as Mary Clarke
"It looks much like the log cabins with which any dweller in the Middle West is familiar...At the corner of the deep and wide fire-place sat Priscilla spinning---or some young lady in a quaint, old fashioned dress, who served the same purpose."
 Apparently log cabins weren't either quaint or historical to some people.

The New York Public Library has many of the stereocards on line:

Read a review of Mary Bayard Clarke's collected writing Live Your Own Life edited by Terrell Armistead Crow and Mary Moulton Barden:

See a preview here:

Friday, April 3, 2020

Quilt Style: Mad About Madder

Quilt in madder colors about 1860-1880
Last post was about Washington prints and they did madders too.

Bolt Label for Washington prints
"Full Madder Colors"

Madder is a vegetable dye that must be mordanted with metal salts. Different mordants produced different shades ranging from orange to brick red to dark, chocolate brown.

George Haworth's recipe for a madder-style printed plaid, late 1830s.
Connecticut Historical Society

Madder style prints were popular in the 19th century due to many factors.
  • It was an inexpensive (if complicated) dye process that produced a range of color.
  • The dyes were colorfast.
  • The colors were considered quite appropriate for women's clothing (as Turkey red or Chrome orange were not.)
  • Madder calicoes were a mid-19th-century fashion fad for clothing perhaps because these were the colors in the equally fashionable Kasmir (paisley) shawls of India

Ad from a dry goods store in Canandaigua, New York, 1859

When you see these madder style quilts think 1840-1890 for dates.

Pennsylvania auction

Read more about madder-style prints here:

Madder print that survived a ship wreck in the Missouri River
in the 1850s from the Steamship Arabia Museum in Kansas City.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Washington Prints

Green calicoes are hard to date but here's a classic star to help us out. It's signed "Clara 1906," maybe a little later than I'd have guessed although one observation is, "The pinker the quilt the closer to 1900 it is."

Sorting through my pictures of dated quilts from about that time
I find many with these green calico florals including two Double Irish Chains
dated 1893.

"J.D.M. Louwers 1894"

Another star. It would seem these old-fashioned quilts in old-fashioned red and green
come from quilters in southeastern Pennsylvania's German Anabaptist sects.

"1906 Shirk"
Fabric vendors must have catered to their tastes and perhaps the mills did too.

Collection of Michigan State University

One mill that marketed a line of traditional calicoes was the S.H. Greene Company
of Riverpoint, Rhode Island in the area of Warwick.

Bolt Label from the Library Company of Philadelphia

S.H. Greene & Sons was founded in 1865 by a family who'd been in the fabric business in Rhode Island since the 18th century. Simon H. Greene founded the Clyde Bleachery & Print Works in 1828. At first they focused on indigo prints but as the century wore on expanded to a variety of specialties, including Turkey reds, kerchiefs and bandanas and these small-scale florals, which they marketed as Washington Prints.
One of their plain bleached cottons, the lining to Emily
Hollingsworth's 1835 silk dress.

A 1908 statistic: They continued to bleach cotton, producing one and a half million yards a week and printing one and a quarter million yards of that.

Turkey red bandanas at the end of the century, also branded
as Martha Washington

Bolt Label from the Library Company of Philadelphia

They printed many traditional cotton calicoes around the same time, the kinds of prints advertised in the 1898 Montgomery Ward's catalog as "Oil prints, green ground, yellow and black small figures; canary with red and black small figure; red ground with yellow and black figure."

And Turkey red robe prints, for comforters

1888 ad in the Omaha Bee
"oil-boiled" refers to the old Turkey red process.

From Cindy Rennel's inventory

They undoubtedly had much competition for these old-fashioned prints
but S.H. Greene certainly supplied the fabric for thousands of quilters at the time.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Leila Utter's Dressed Pictures

Dressed pictures: free-standing paper dolls attached to a crazy quilt...

attributed to Leila (or Lelia) O. Johnson Utter (1853-1931)

Dated 1898 in the lower right corner

The early name for these raised figures in stumpwork.

The figures are often paper, "clothed" in actual fabric and trim.

Leila's quilt has survived well as the doll bodies are a stiff fabric. Figures dressed over paper often
See a post about a dressed picture quilt about a hundred years older than Leila's here:

The Brooklyn Museum also has a British quilt with dressed pictures
from about 1790.

George Wickham and Lizzie Bennett from Pride & Prejudice?

Leila Utter lived in in the vicinity of Oneonta, New York. The censuses find her and her husband in both Otsego and Delaware counties. The 1870 census lists her as living with James Utter, 23-year-old shingle maker. She is 17; they were probably married November 16, 1869. James later became a farmer and Leila remained a housekeeper.

Sandi Fox researched Leila Utter's life for her book Wrapped in Glory: Figurative Qults & Bedcovers 1700-1900.

Sandi found Leila was adopted. Her parents are listed in an obituary source as Henry Johnson and Mary Ann Raymond but whether these are her birth parents is unknown. She is also listed as Leila Butts Utter. Leila and James apparently had no children but Sandi found she informally adopted a daughter Elizabeth who married Harlow Munson when she grew up. Today's genealogy records give us no further information. Between the adoptions and the lack of descendants to keep track of her she is rather elusive. All we really know about her is in the quilt attributed to her.

The 1910 census taken about 12 years after she finished her quilt shows James and Leila D. Utter living with S. Anna Stuart, a schoolteacher about 12 years younger than Leila. Anna is listed as a boarder.

Elizabeth Utter Munson and her children visit
Leila and James in Davenport Center, 1922.

James died in 1929, Leila on October 22, 1931. She and James are buried in the Davenport Cemetery Davenport Center, New York.

Where is the crazy quilt today? When it was hung at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1990-1991 it belonged to Kathy & Fred Epstein who also owned the John L. Sullivan crazy quilt in the same exhibit. The quilt came up for sale in 1993 handled by America Hurrah. The Sullivan quilt and others from the Epsteins' collection went to the Art Institute of Chicago. No clue as to where Leila's quilt is.

The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian
owns a Kentucky fan quilt with dressed pictures dated 1893. See a post here:

The East Tennessee Historical Society owns one by Lillie Harvey of Knoxville.
In Lillie's the bodies seem to be completely attached
to the background but the clothing and other details are loose.
See a post here: