Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Cooper Union Sanitary Commission Quilt #1: Style

Not the most elegant quilt in the world.

But it jumped out at me when I was scrolling through
Stella Rubin's online shop, looking for something else.

Pieced sampler of mid-19th-century cottons with narrow white sashing.
And only half a quilt? Indeed it is 54" wide by 88" long.

Piecing is quite accurate

Just the size for a hospital bed.

Maria Hall on a cold day in a field hospital.

Could this be a quilt made by a Soldier's Aid Society during the Civil War?

I checked my files of quilts thought to have been made specifically for the Sanitary Commission, the Union soldiers' aid society that asked for quilts of inexpensive cottons about 50" wide and 84" long. 

Susannah Pullen made this narrow hospital quilt with her 
Sunday School students. She asked to have it returned if not used up 
after the war and she got it back. It's now in the Smithsonian.

In an American Quilt Study Group paper on quilts made for Union Soldiers Virginia Gunn estimated that 125,000 quilts and comforts were distributed by the Sanitary Commission during the war. But they were used in the dirty business of hospital bedding, washed repeatedly and discarded; any survivors probably sent home in hard times and used up. 

Scholars have found fewer than 20 thought to have been made for the Sanitary Commission in museum and private collections today.

See a post on surviving Sanitary Commission quilts here:

Fussy cut flower, not an inscription

The quilt at Stella's just looks like a Sanitary Commission quilt. I decided to gamble on my instincts and buy it, mainly so I could have the fun of researching it. It arrived in short order.

Several of the survivors have a stamp of some kind, indicating
the source of the supplies.

Jan Dodge found this nine-patch in a thrift store decades ago. 
The stamp on the back, which I recall said "San.Com.", 
meant it had been stitched for a soldier.

 I was hoping there were other inscriptions--- and oh! for a smoking gun as evidence, the Sanitary Commission stamp.

It is in great condition.

I was a little disappointed to find no Sanitary Commission stamp. There was just one rather obscure inscription in embroidery. But I was certainly not disappointed in the quilt, which is pieced of fabrics likely from the 1840-1865 years.

The obscure inscription wasn't obscure to me. I'll tell you why in the next few days.

Friday, June 14, 2019

String Quilts #2---Dated Examples

String star pieced over a newspaper dated 1899

String quilts aren't often dated or signed. I've got a small file of dated examples that can help pinpoint when the style began and how it evolved.

Silk quilt dated 1883
The earliest date-inscribed example of a string quilt that I have in my picture files.

Probably started as embroidered silk squares in 1883 and finished years later with string
blocks along the edge. Does it count as a dated string quilt?

Collection: International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Crazy quilt dated 1883-1884 with some blocks I'd call more
string than crazy.

1885 Made in Athol, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Project & the Quilt Index

A few of the blocks look like string piecing to me.
Also one of the earliest cotton crazy quilts I've seen.

Collection: International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Crazy quilt with some string-pieced blocks and some regular patchwork.

String Star dated 1886
Several of the diamonds are indisputably string pieced.

1889, Collection of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum

Now, this is a string quilt but it is interesting how the strings rotate
around a center in many of the blocks.
Detail of the quilt above

1893, Collection: International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Similar style but centers feature pictorial cretonne prints

1893, same year as above, a string-pieced star.

1894, covered with names, a fundraiser.

1897 by Felicia O Dessie Law
Noble Co. Ohio

I'd call it a Rocky Road to Kansas pattern.

1897 Mary Feldsend

See a post on Rocky Road to Kansas here:

 1898, Rocky Mountain Quilt Shop inventory

1898, Laura Fisher's shop inventory---a sampler of string
quilt styles.

1905, maybe silks

1905 Clara Wigman

1906, structure is getting looser

Wool embroidery

1909, first one I've found in the blue and checks and stripes style.

Made by Isa Salmon, Partridge, Kans.
Collection of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum
Is it really a string quilt if the strips are cut to the
same size?
Rhetorical question. We each have our own opinion.

Another 1917 string star
of velvet with pom-poms.

1918, Julie Silber's Inventory

1925, Pat L. Nickols collection at the Mingei Museum


I'd have guessed 1910

1926 - a taste for pastels showing up.


1928---wools and combination fabrics

1932, for Alfred

It's kind of surprising how late some of these utilitarian examples are dated.
I'd have guessed ten or twenty years earlier.


1943, rather old-fashioned for 1943

1944, Deb Rowden's collection


The date-inscribed examples indicate the string quilt fashion paralleled the crazy quilt style,
beginning in the 1880s. Both are stitched to a foundation. String quilts, not so fancy, continued on
their own tangent and were probably most popular in the early 20th century.