QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT By Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman Above: Moda's Baltimore Blues

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Quilt #3 for Henry Clay

Appliqued quilt by Elizabeth Schultz, 1847
Collection of Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate

In 1847 Pennsylvanian Elizabeth Schultz sent this quilt to her hero Henry Clay who was campaigning to become the Whig party nominee for President in the 1848 election. Kentuckian Clay had unsuccessfully run for the office in 1824, 1832, 1840 and 1844.

Clay's major issues, particularly during his early career, centered on free trade and taxes on imported items. His position as "Protector of Home Industries" encouraged support among Northern manufacturers large and small, while alienating Southern producers of raw goods who looked to Europe for manufactured goods and did not want to pay the 20% taxes on imports.

Displayed on a bed at Ashland in the 1970s.

The appliqued piece was forwarded to Clay with a letter from Thomas B. Stevenson, a Whig newspaper editor who described it:
"cloth, thread and every thing of home production, and every stitch of it wrought by Mrs. Schultz of Pennsylvania, a venerable lady of seventy-six years of age....a spontaneous offering of the heart's homage."
I mentioned this quilt on a blog post a few years ago in a discussion of tariffs, trade and fabric after the War of 1812:
"One might understand that Schultz produced the fabrics by home spinning and weaving but what was meant was that these were factory cottons produced in the United States."
87" x 101"

Ashland loaned the quilt for the American Textile History Museum's recent exhibit Home Front and Battle Field and you can see a good photo of it in their catalog on page 14.

Schultz appliqued roses cut from chintz with green and red leaves in
conventional applique of domestically-produced cottons.

In 1988 family of descendant Robert Pepper Clay donated the quilt to Ashland.

Henry Clay (1777-1852)
Photo of Clay taken in 1850, two years before he died
of tuberculosis. Born during the Revolutionary War, he
was 70 years old when Schultz sent him the quilt.

A Clay flag from the collection of the New York Historical Society. Various candidates and parties were represented by American animals--- Whigs by raccoons. Clay was known as That Same Old Coon (some kind of a compliment to his reliability if not his age).

Clay wrote Stevenson a letter asking him to thank Schultz in July, 1847.

I am not the only observer to notice a plethora of quilts for Clay. A few years earlier a joke about quilts and Henry Clay was republished in numerous newspapers.

"One of our contemporaries gives the following as an appropriate inscription for the next counterpane presented to Henry Clay.
Beneath this quilt lies Henry Clay,
Whom locos put to bed one day,
Be quiet, Hal---to rise is vain,
Press'd down by many a counter pain.You're well tucked up---cease then to scoff---
You cannot kick the kiver off!"
Locos were a faction of the Democrats---the Whig implication was they were crazy, but the Locofocos took the name as a rallying cry.

Read more about Henry Clay and quilts:


patty a. said...

I made a quilt for Obama. I sent him pictures and a nice letter, but apparently he doesn't want it as I received a letter back that did not even refer to it. Oh, well, it will just sit in my closet. I have made many quilts for rock stars and they have always gladly accepted them. Curious.

Barbara Brackman said...

You know Presidents cannot accept gifts now. I think one reason there might be so many surviving Henry Clay quilts is he was never actually President. The family kept them.