QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Leila Utter's Dressed Pictures


Dressed pictures: free-standing paper dolls attached to a crazy quilt...

attributed to Leila (or Lelia) O. Johnson Utter (1853-1931)

Dated 1898 in the lower right corner




The early name for these raised figures in stumpwork.

The figures are often paper, "clothed" in actual fabric and trim.

Leila's quilt has survived well as the doll bodies are a stiff fabric. Figures dressed over paper often
deteriorate.
See a post about a dressed picture quilt about a hundred years older than Leila's here:


The Brooklyn Museum also has a British quilt with dressed pictures
from about 1790.

George Wickham and Lizzie Bennett from Pride & Prejudice?


Leila Utter lived in in the vicinity of Oneonta, New York. The censuses find her and her husband in both Otsego and Delaware counties. The 1870 census lists her as living with James Utter, 23-year-old shingle maker. She is 17; they were probably married November 16, 1869. James later became a farmer and Leila remained a housekeeper.


Sandi Fox researched Leila Utter's life for her book Wrapped in Glory: Figurative Qults & Bedcovers 1700-1900.

Sandi found Leila was adopted. Her parents are listed in an obituary source as Henry Johnson and Mary Ann Raymond but whether these are her birth parents is unknown. She is also listed as Leila Butts Utter. Leila and James apparently had no children but Sandi found she informally adopted a daughter Elizabeth who married Harlow Munson when she grew up. Today's genealogy records give us no further information. Between the adoptions and the lack of descendants to keep track of her she is rather elusive. All we really know about her is in the quilt attributed to her.


The 1910 census taken about 12 years after she finished her quilt shows James and Leila D. Utter living with S. Anna Stuart, a schoolteacher about 12 years younger than Leila. Anna is listed as a boarder.

Elizabeth Utter Munson and her children visit
Leila and James in Davenport Center, 1922.


James died in 1929, Leila on October 22, 1931. She and James are buried in the Davenport Cemetery Davenport Center, New York.

Where is the crazy quilt today? When it was hung at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1990-1991 it belonged to Kathy & Fred Epstein who also owned the John L. Sullivan crazy quilt in the same exhibit. The quilt came up for sale in 1993 handled by America Hurrah. The Sullivan quilt and others from the Epsteins' collection went to the Art Institute of Chicago. No clue as to where Leila's quilt is.

The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian
owns a Kentucky fan quilt with dressed pictures dated 1893. See a post here:

The East Tennessee Historical Society owns one by Lillie Harvey of Knoxville.
In Lillie's the bodies seem to be completely attached
to the background but the clothing and other details are loose.
See a post here:

1 comment:

QuiltGranma said...

What an unusual quilt. Or should I say quilts.