Mid 19th-century quilt sold by Bonham's Auctions
In the last post I wrote about the consensus among quilt pattern historians that the name New York Beauty was a commercial pattern name originating with the Mountain Mist company in the early 1930s, rather than the vernacular name given it by the quilters who actually stitched the design in the 19th century.
And our surprise to hear from Vicki Betts that she'd found an 1854 reference to New York Beauty in a woman's diary. By putting in she meant she was putting the basted top in the frame.
29 Going to put in my New York beauty tomorrow if nothing
happens to hinder
Oct. 30th put in the New York Beauty but only began to
Apparently we are going to have to rethink our thoughts on the topic.
Quilt from the Bigham family of Tennessee
The new conclusion might be:
New York Beauty was among the vernacular names used for the pattern above in the nineteenth century.
The best evidence that a 19th-century quilt is associated with a name is the name on the quilt.
This sampler quilt dated 1862 with names from the Wortendyke family has one block signed "M.E."
and the words "The Swallow." I would assume that M.E. knew this popular pattern as The Swallow.
That name persisted into the 1930s when the agricultural magazine
The Rural New Yorker used the same name for the same design,
as seen here in BlockBase pattern #3099.
Other excellent evidence is a pattern name published with a picture in the 19th century. Unfortunately you don't see many patterns with pictures published until the late-1880s, so most earlier names went undocumented.
1889 Sun-Burst Patchwork pattern
Ladies Home Journal 1894
And too many of those commercial patterns are unaccompanied by a
vernacular name, as in the images above called
"A Simple Design"
"An Aesthetic Quilt".
Occasionally you come across a pattern name in a diary or letter that has been passed on with the quilt mentioned, a rare occurrence. I found a reference to the name Flowering Almond in an 1860 letter from Elizabeth Nessly Myer. The family had a quilt similar to the applique above.* In the early 20th century Comfort magazine published a similar pattern as Flowering Almond, a name that persisted into the 1980s when Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel did the research for The Quilts of Tennessee.
* Mill Creek Journal, Kay Atwood editor and publisher, Ashland, Oregon, 1987.
But lacking an image linked to the name, we shall have to remain skeptical whether the quilt in the 1854 diary was the pattern we think of as New York Beauty.
I think I will phrase the issue like this from now on: