QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fanny Dickerson Bergen: Folklorist

Fanny Bergen published this circular design as Rising Sun in 1894


 Fanny Dickerson Bergen (1846-1924) showed pictures and names of 29 patchwork patterns in Scribner's Magazine in a romantic article titled "The Tapestry of the New World."


In 1894 few patterns had been pictured and Bergen's article is one of the earliest to collect names and designs from the quiltmakers. She was born in 1846 in Mansfield, Ohio where she interviewed relatives about many old customs. As she grew up she listened to her grandmother from Lake George, New York talk about quilts. Some of her patterns look as if they might be from her grandmother's youth but the Fool's Puzzle, Church Steps and Log Cabin look quite fashionable in 1894.
Later pattern purveyors copied her designs. The Vickery magazines of Augusta, Maine published the Tulip at the top of the page in the early 20th century. It's #43.83 in my Encyclopedia of Applique---an odd composition.
Yet I did find a sampler dated 1857 with a similar design.

For James Chauncey Murch
West Alexander, Pennsylvania, 1857


The first sketches in Bergen's article are two designs named Biloxi, which she collected from an ethnologist who had obtained them from a man of the Biloxi tribe in Mississippi. He had drawn them from quilts his wife had made.
Both Biloxi designs are in BlockBase

That's a long chain of information. One would rather read that Bergen had actually interviewed the quiltmaker, but she seems to have been handicapped by a spinal problem. I would imagine much of her information gathering was by letter.

Educated at Ohio's Antioch College, Bergen was a well-respected collector of folk sayings and beliefs who published extensively about superstitions and customs. She was particularly interested in horticultural beliefs. Her husband Joseph Young Bergen, another Antioch alum, was a botanist and they collaborated on several books. The Bergens spent much of their life in Cambridge, Massachusetts where John was a teacher. Their son Thomas Dickerson Bergen was also an author who wrote about Italian literature.


Many of the names in her article are common like Bear's Paw, Rising Sun and Job's Troubles but here's a name unique to her article as far as I can tell.


From the Iowa Project & the Quilt Index, by Mrs. Schrack or Mrs. Savage
About 1900

1 comment:

Wendy Caton Reed said...

I would love to have met Fanny and her interesting family. I'm guessing she had a lot of fun writing her "romantic" articles. In all my years of hunting in Maine antique (and junk) stores, I have found very few Vickery publications. I did find an interesting online article that you might enjoy - https://dll.umaine.edu/historytrail/site14.html . I have always loved the Rising Sun pattern and I particularly love Sue Garman's name for it - "Twirly Balls". I also find Fanny's name for the common Churn Dash - "Screw Plate", fascinating. We manufacture marine screw plates (we call them backing plates) and I searched to see if I could find a similar looking design. I found most to be simple and functional like ours so I hope to one day find one that looks like a Churn Dash!