Friday, June 28, 2019

Gloria Vanderbilt's Patchwork Interior

Celebrity artist and designer Gloria Vanderbilt recently died at 95. Her greatest accomplishment may have been her estimable son journalist Anderson Cooper, but the second most memorable was her patchwork interior.

About 1970 you couldn't have enough pattern.

Or maybe you could.

In fact this interior design might summarize all the proverbial excess of the 1970s.

Now, some of it was wallpaper

And some of it was antique quilts hung on the walls.
Those framed paintings are Gloria's collages.

But a lot of patchwork had to die for this look.
Apparently the floor was blocks, fragments and fabric
varnished over.

Sunbonnet Sue, ok, cut her up for upholstery
but a signed, dated Pennsylvania-German fraktur album!!!!

(My learned correspondent tells me:
"Gads... it’s a William Gross! He’s the fraktur artist that draws flower pots for the recipient’s name." )

Well, it's all about marketing. And this apartment got Gloria's name in the papers.

Gloria Vanderbilt's story is a chapter in a classic American family tale. You can talk about events such as the Civil War, Reconstruction, the abdication of King Edward VIII and the Jazz Age through family biographies.

One of Dena's Dixie Diary tops. 

A few years ago we did a block of the month quilt called Dixie Diary, based on the Morgan/Vanderbilt family's Civil War story and the diary of Sarah Morgan. I concluded it with:
"Every thread of genealogy leads to impressive achievement in their real-life American saga. Cecil Morgan (Sarah's nephew Howell) tried unsuccessfully to impeach Louisiana Governor Huey Long. Howell himself and wife Thisba worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Sioux reservations and Cecil donated their collection of Sioux arts to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. In France, Warrington (Sarah's son) was friends with authors Josef Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the Theodore Roosevelts. During World War I he worked at the American Embassy in Paris. As noted in an earlier post, Sarah's brother Philip's descendants include Thelma Furness, Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper."

Gloria's mother and her twin sister
Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and Thelma Morgan, Lady Furness.

A recent picture of Gloria Jr.'s bedroom. Taste changes.

Read about the Morgans here:

Monday, June 24, 2019

Antique Quilt Exhibits: Summer & Fall 2019

Most shows won't let you touch.

Here's a list of shows worth visiting and meetings worth attending through fall 2019.

Alabama, Tuscumbia
Belle Mont Mansion,  The annual quilt show at this museum: Antique Quilts from the Tennessee River Valley. October 2 - 31, 2019

Arkansas, Little Rock
Old State House Museum. A Piece of My Soul: Quilts by Black Arkansans. Years ago the late Cuesta Benberry curated this exhibit of quilts from the collection, now rehung, up through Fall, 2019.

Historic Arkansas Museum. Stitched Together: A Treasury of Arkansas Quilts (from the collection)
July 12 - October 31, 2019

Colorado, Golden
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Hawaiian Quilts: God in Expression. From the Henry and Angela Hite Collection, curator: Elizabeth Akana. Through Aug. 2
Plus Amish and Mennonite Quilts from the Collection. Through July 20, 2019

Connecticut, Hartford
Connecticut Historical Society, Connecticut Quilts, curated by Lynn Z. Bassett.
Opening October 11, 2019

Florida, Sarasota
Ringling Museum of Art, The Fabric of India, 140 pieces from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
July 7 - October 13, 2019

Georgia, Atlanta
September 27 -29, 2019. Atlanta Quilt Study Symposium. 

Iowa, Winterset
Iowa Quilt Museum, Stitched Through Time: A History of Quilting
July 9th – September 29th, 2019

Illinois, Burr Ridge
Robert Vial House. Quilts from the Depression
Thursdays & 1st  Sunday of each month through October.

Maryland, Baltimore
Maryland Historical Society. In conjunction with the exhibit Hometown Girl: Contemporary Quilts of Mimi Dietrich the museum will show some of its many Baltimore style quilts. Through 2019.

Massachusetts, Lowell

New England Quilt Museum. In Praise of Silk: The World's Favorite Fabric in ​Quilts and Clothing. Through August 4, 2019
And AQSG's 19th Century Basket Quilt Study is up through August 18..

Missouri, Kansas City
World War I Museum, Color of Memory: Fabric Art of WWI. Through September 2, 2019

Minnesota, Minneapolis
MIA Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, The Art of High Style: Minnesota Couture 1880-1914, curated by Linda McShanock & Nicole LaBouff.
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
150 Years of Red & White. Through September 8, 2019. Quilts in Nebraska colors. You have to know Lincoln to know why.

Whimsy. Through November 30, 2019.

Old World Quilts. The earliest quilts in the collection. September 6 - December 11, 2019.

October 9-13. American Quilt Study Group's Annual Seminar is in Lincoln this fall.

New York, Cherry Valley
Rabbit Goody and her Thistle Hill Weavers Studio is hosting the annual Textile History Forum 2019, July 27 & 28, 2019

New York, Manhattan
American Folk Art Museum, Lincoln Square. Made in New York City: The Business of Folk Art. The famous Honstain quilt is on display.
Through July 28, 2019.

Wall Power! Quilts from the Karen and Werner Gundersheimer Gift,August 6-September 19, 2019.

North Carolina, Raleigh
North Carolina Museum of History, QuiltSpeak: Uncovering Women’s Voices Through Quilts
Through March 1, 2020

September 28: Bed Turning: Diana Bell-Kite, Curator of Cultural History & Paige Myers, Textile Conservator,  will show you unusual and fragile quilts from the museum collection not in the display. Register here:

Catalog available for $20 at the museum's shop:

Ohio, Bellville
Aug. 2-4, 2019 Midwest Fabric Study Group 10th annual quilt study weekend exploring the history and chemical analysis of madder. Sharonpinka@yahoo.com

Ohio, Kent
Kent State Museum. Ohio Quilts from the collection.
Opens July 18.

Pennsylvania, Lancaster
Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Decorated and Plain: A Mennonite and Amish Sampler.
Up now till when?

Pennsylvania, Lewisburg
Packwood House Museum, Pennsylvania Quilts: Made in Union County.
Through October 5, 2019 
Quilts must be viewed with a guide, 1 pm daily. Other times arranged in advance.

Pennsylvania, Pennsville
Schwenkfelder Heritage Center. Signature Quilts from the collection. 
Through November 8, 2019

South Carolina, Charleston
AQS Exhibition. The antique quilt show: From Hands Alone: Selected Quilts from the Collection of Chris Moline. September 15-27, 2019.

Texas, Lubbock 
The Museum at Texas Tech, Cotton and Thrift: Feed Sacks and the Household Fabric of Rural America. 
Through December 15, 2019

Vermont, Bennington
The Bennington Museum displays its famous Jane Stickle quilt annually---this year from August 31-October 14, 2019.

Vermont: Shelburne
Shelburne Museum,  Ink + Icons: Album Quilts from the Permanent Collection. Nine quilts.
Through October 31, 2019

Virginia, Harrisonburg

Virginia Quilt Museum, Treasures From the Vault: Virginia Stars. Through July 13, 2019
       From the Hills and Hollers of West Virginia. July 23– December 14, 2019

Washington D.C.
DAR Museum. A Piece of Her Mind: Culture and Technology in American Quilts
Through December 31, 2019
November 15, 2019. “Culture and Technology in American Quilts: A Symposium.” Tickets go on sale July 31.

National Museum of American History, Everyday Luxury: Silk Quilts from the National Collection. Opens July 30, 2019.

England, Birmingham.
Annual Festival of Quilts, August 1-4, 2019. The antique quilt shows: Baltimore Albums from the collection of Nebraska's International Quilt Museum and The Quilters’ Guild Collection: Forty Years.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Cooper Union Sanitary Commission Quilt #3: Samuel Bridgham & The WCRA

My new quilt descended in the family of Samuel Willard Bridgham, according to the antique picker who found it in New England and sold it to Maryland dealer Stella Rubin.

S.W. Bridgham (1813-1870)

There are several generations of Samuel Willard Bridghams,
but I am guessing it is this man with the pleasant air 
who had something to do with the quilt.

I was already pretty sure by the quilt's style and inscription that it was a Sanitary Commission quilt made for a hospitalized Civil War soldier. Looking into Samuel Bridgham's life confirms my guess. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, he was heavily involved in charity work for Union Soldiers during the War in New York City.

 A retired banker, he must have been aware of  the initial call from Henry Raymond of the New York Times who called for a city soldiers's aid society to meet in his home a few days after Fort Sumter. Within a week the group multiplied as Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and Louisa Lee Schuyler booked the Grand Hall of the Cooper Union School to organize the Women's Central Association of Relief for the Sick and Wounded of the Army.

Reports said 4,000 women showed up in the Grand Hall on 
April 26, 1861. The engraving is from Harper's Weekly.

Is the room that big?
Anyway, a lot of interested people showed up.

Samuel Bridgham became Secretary of the WCRA and  head of the Supplies Subcommittee.

Because women had few legal rights and fewer perceived organizational skills men were chosen to run the agencies.

Founders of the national Sanitary Commission, a Brady Studios Photo.
Dr. William Van Buren, George T. Strong, Henry Whitney Bellows, 
Dr. Cornelius R. Agnew, and Dr. Oliver Wolcott Gibbs

More men became involved in a second group headed by New Yorker Henry Bellows, a minister who received personal permission from President Lincoln to form the Union Army's "fifth wheel," a civilian agency to supply the hospitals. Socially prominent New Yorkers like Secretary Frederick Law Olmstead designer of Central Park, and Treasurer George Templeton Strong, a lawyer, added gravitas to the national agency that would rely heavily on women's volunteer services.

Forceful and authoritative management

Local branches sprang up all over the Union with names like the Northwestern Branch of the Sanitary Commission in Chicago or the Ladies' Soldiers Aid Society of Columbus.

Office of the Soldiers' Aid Society of Northern Ohio, Cleveland
with crates and barrels of supplies going to Leavenworth,
Kansas, Louisville and Tennessee.
Photo from Case Western Reserve Collection

The Women's Central Relief Association had a territorial problem with being absorbed by the larger Sanitary Commission (described as a more “forceful and authoritative" group) and they retained their initial name, acting as an arm of the national agency as lettered on their office window.

Crates on the sidewalk

Peter Cooper and his family must have been interested in the aid work as the WCRA set up shop in first floor offices of his school building. Rent may have been cheap or free at 7 & 11 Cooper Union.

The offices were behind the arched windows on the street, probably on the west side of the building.
My NYC geography is too rusty to say anything about location with any assurance other than it's in Greenwich Village.

Maybe the east side view on 3rd Avenue.

Women working in the office behind the window above.
The woman in the center is Ellen Collins, second to 
Bridgham on the supplies committee.

Agents in the field

The major jobs of the Sanitary Commission were to motivate civilians to donate supplies like clothing, bedding, food, wine, etc., to collect those supplies, to ship them to field hospitals and long-term care facilities for soldiers, then to distribute them in the field. As head of the WCRA's Subcommittee on Receiving and Forwarding Supplies Samuel Bridgham must have collected and crated up many quilts made by soldiers' aid groups throughout the state.

In just two weeks in August, 1861 (after the Union's Bull Run loss)
Bridgham collected hundreds and hundreds of items, including 2 bed quilts,
 all documented with thanks in the local newspapers.
Do note however, one "Box unknown, from whence"
with 6 shirts, 4 drawers, 11 wrappers, etc.

I noted yesterday the women students in the Engraving Department of the Cooper Institute made quilts in a soldiers' aid society managed by instructor Gulielma Field.

My guess on this particular quilt is that it was finished late in the war and sent downstairs to the WCRA offices. The Commission disbanded in the spring of 1866 and I have seen indications that the remaining supplies and equipment were sold for funds to buy U.S. Bonds. The bonds' interest paid for soldiers' post war relief.

Perhaps Samuel Bridgham bought this quilt after the war. Or it may have been a gift from the students in the Engraving Department. In any case, it went home to Providence eventually, where it looks to have been treated with a good deal of respect over the past 150 years, a souvenir of his war work.
The back is a small star print in chrome orange and madder.
I am quite pleased with my purchase.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cooper Union Sanitary Commission Quilt #2: The Cooper Institute

"School of Design
Engraving Class
Cooper Union"

When I read the inscription on this sampler quilt I knew what it meant. I'd done a little research on quilts made in the Cooper Union building in New York City during the Civil War. I realized this is likely a rare Civil War survivor---a quilt made there to donate to the Union Sanitary Commission.

Peter Cooper (1791-1883) with a granddaughter

The Cooper Union was (and is) an art school in New York City. Wealthy entrepreneur Peter Cooper founded The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1859. The beautiful building housed offices, classrooms and studios and a Great Hall seating almost a thousand people in one of the city's tallest structures at the time.

The Cooper Union building about 1890

Cooper's liberal ideas included a free education not only for talented men but for women. Once accepted students  paid no tuition. “To better the condition of woman and to widen the sphere of female employment I have provided seven rooms to be forever devoted to a Female School of Design.” The Engraving Class prepared art students for a career in commercial art. One acceptable female occupation was wood engraving, the process widely used to illustrate publications.

Wood engraving picturing students learning wood engraving at the 
Cooper Union, 1883 

They drew and cut images on the end of blocks of boxwood.
Small hands, acute near vision, a talent for drawing, and attention to detail
were qualifications that made it a good job for young women.

The Engraving Room was in a well-lit studio...

Probably on the fourth floor on the side behind those Gothic arched windows

The inscription is beautifully embroidered in blue thread.

During the Civil War the Cooper Union building housed the offices of the New York Branch of the Sanitary Commission, called the Women's Central Relief Association, organized by the elite of the city. A founding member was Sarah Bedell Cooper, Peter Cooper's wife.

Sarah Bedell Cooper (1793-1869)

The Association's offices were on the ground floor of the building. In this Civil-War-era 
photo men address crates of donated hospital supplies to be sent to 
Sanitary Commission agents in the field.

The quilt is 54" wide by 88".
Sanitary Commission guidelines asked for
long, narrow quilts to fit hospital beds.

Women's groups all over the North donated supplies to comfort wounded Union soldiers. The supplies included bed quilts.

The New York organization alone reported that in its first two and a half years
they received 20,444 quilts to distribute to hospitals.
The war dragged on for over another year.

Quilts were gathered and shipped by the Subcommittee on Receiving and Forwarding Supplies. My quilt descended in the family of Samuel W. Bridgham, who was chair of that committee.

Engraving by Guilielma's student Alice Donlevy

Quilts were not only stored in the building but were stitched in the building. Gulielma Field (1814-1875) who taught wood engraving also knew how to quilt. Alice Donlevy, one of her students, recalled:
"Under her guidance many patchwork quilts were made during the Civil War, in an upper room in the Cooper Institute, where the students of the Art School came to quilt for any half hour they could spare after lesson times....Every student that I remember had to learn to quilt."

Skylights on the top floor may have provided light for quilting.

Alice also recalled that Gulielma opened "the every day quilting bee with poetry" and she was a "diplomatic teacher."
"One of her warmest admirers was a young Southern girl. Gulielma would cut off her criticisms of President Lincoln with a question about books, and succeeded in keeping the atmosphere of that quilting bee restfully sympathetic."
The blocks are well-pieced. Gulielma must have been
an exacting teacher in quilting as well as engraving.
I'd guess you pronounce her name Julie-Elma.

The products of the Engraving Department's restful quilting bee went to the Sanitary Commission offices on the first floor. My new quilt must have been one of many stitched at the Cooper Union.

More about this quilt tomorrow.

See a post from 2016 on the Cooper-Union soldiers' aid society:

Read Donlevy's biography of her teacher Gulielma here: