Quilt signed C.A.C., 1853
Collection of the National Museum of American Art
I spent some time last year gathering pictures of quilts with dates inscribed on them and filing them on Pinterest pages by decades or years. The eagle quilt above is on the 1853 page.
I'm only up to 1860.
We recognize the spread eagle with olive branch
and arrows as a symbol of the United States
My goal for this year is to analyze all those images before I go on to the post-1860 years. How did quilts change over time? How did quilting's popularity ebb and flow? How did trends in trade, technology and taste affect that? And in the case of the political imagery like the eagle how did politics influence quiltmaking?
Quilt dated 1853
See more about these eagle quilts with Washington on horseback at this post:
If you look at that 1853 page you will notice an enthusiasm for eagles.
Quilt dated 1853
Collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Each pieced star represents a state. Here is Maryland's.
What happened in 1853 of political importance? Franklin Pierce was inaugurated in March, 1853. The Pierce presidency, recalled as one of the worst ever, was a slow-motion train wreck as the North and South became ever more divided. Pierce's inauguration was not likely to inspire such lively images.*
Other current events in pre-Civil War politics tend to be recalled as rather dull. Senator Stephen A. Douglas started working on the Kansas/Nebraska act, which would become a flashpoint in 1854 but that was next year. Senator Henry Clay's death in July, 1853, however, was not just the quiet passing of a politician but an occasion for national mourning. Is that the key?
Quilt signed Phelps, 1853.
Sotheby's assumes it was made in Phelps, Ontario County, New York
"INDUSTRY" above the eagles head and in the ribbon: "WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS, THERE IS MY COUNTRY," attributed to Benjamin Franklin. The word Industry referred to American production, implying support for tarrifs, protectionism that was a Clay motto.
Clay ran for President unsuccessfully three times.
Quilt dated 1853 by Lucy Shephard Loomis (1825-1907) Baltimore
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum,
Quilt commissioned by Maria Theresa Baldwin Hollander
Collection of Historic New England
This small silk quilt with an antislavery message is not dated but it was shown at the 1853 Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York City where it received national attention, perhaps inspiring a surge of eagle quilts.
See a post here:
I thought I'd examine the politics of the 1850s and more eagle quilts over the next few days.
Look for a post tomorrow.
*I was reading antislavery activist Hannah Ropes's letters in Civil War Nurse the other day and here's how she described President Franklin Pierce: "the most unmitigated calamity Heaven ever suffered upon the earth." I doubt he inspired many quilts.