Wednesday, December 11, 2019

DAR Seminar Papers 4: 1850s Immigration Crisis

My talk at the DAR Museum symposium in November was
Star Spangl'd Patriotic Quilts of the 1850s

I'd noticed a group of patriotic eagle quilts dated 1853 and wondered
about the inspiration? What wars, rebellions, politics?

A casual look at the cultural and political context told me only that Franklin Pierce
was inaugurated that year, not something to excite this much patriotic display.

More than patriotic---some of the eagle quilts of the decade were rather aggressive,
with several birds holding no olive branches of peace.

The U.S. was not at war with any other country in the 1850s.
Our own Civil War was unimaginable at the time.

A deeper look into politics of the 1850s  reveals that there was a strong
third party electing many to local and statewide offices.

And in the 1856 Presidential election winning 21% of the popular vote.

The Know Nothings or American Party had one plank in their platform;
they were anti-immigrant.

"Americans Will Rule America!"

The Irish and the Germans

I've written about the eagle quilts and the ugly nationalism of the 1850s on this blog.
Here are links to five posts.

The Know-Nothings with only one hate-filled principle 
were not a viable political party for long. By 1859 they were gone
and the memory of the anti-immigration movement faded.

Quilt labeled "Fancy Know Nothing" at the Indiana State Museum

Did their politics inspire these eagle quilts?
More mind-reading.

Quilt dated 1856 from James P Julia auctions.

There were other papers which I'll tell you about in the next few weeks.


  1. Fascinating! I love the single eagle block! Is that a full size quilt?
    Hard to think of the USA without the Irish or Germans!

  2. Lori, That eagle with no olive branch is in an album sampler.

  3. It is hard to imagine a party or an administration that is anti-immigrant. Oh, wait...

  4. The Know Nothings! At least they admitted their short comings. They couldn't have come up with a more appropriate name for themselves! Thanks for the links, this fascinates me.

  5. Thank you for your continuing bits of insight into the past! So interesting.