QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Friday, December 4, 2020

Alice Catlett Vance: More Family Quilts

 

Quilt associated with Mary Alice Catlett Vance (1863-1948)
with her maiden initials MAC Age 16
& date August 20 79, the year she married.
Made in Anderson, South Carolina.
Photo from the North Carolina project & the Quilt Index.

Yesterday we looked at this quilt.

The blocks are 23-1/2" square and all pieced work, according to the worksheet. The repeat does not seem to be a square block but rather a curved pink shape pieced into the white lobes or petals. The background is probably a double pink print and the other fabrics are solids.

One looks at a quilt with this level of needlework skill and wonders what other quilts the maker might have made. Only one of Alice Vance's quilts was recorded in the North Carolina project. She lived much of her life in Asheville, moving there after she married at 16. Alice was in the fabric business running a drygoods store to support herself and her three children. See yesterday's post for more about her:  

Can we believe that this quilt was finished, bound and labeled by a 16-year-old as her descendants heard the story?

Alternative idea: Her mother made it for her.

Quilt attributed to  Lucy Tucker Catlett (1834-1897)
Anderson, South Carolina
Collection of the South Carolina State Museum

Alice's mother was Lucy Tucker Catlett
Lucy's grave: 

This unusual quilt is inscribed:
"MACV from your mother"
Mary Alice Catlett Vance.
Estimated date 1890-1900
82" wide by 72"

Alice's mother was born and died in Anderson, South Carolina. When Alice married in 1879 Lucy was 45, mother of three daughters and a son ages 20 to 6. Two young boys had died in the mid-1860s. Lucy's 51-year-old husband John Pinkney Catlett came to Anderson from Tennessee when he married Lucy in 1856. He ran a livery shop, supplying town and country with horses, mules, harness, wagons and carriages.  Her mother, another Lucy Tucker died in Anderson when she was two; she and her siblings were raised by stepmother Sallie.

Anderson in 1889
South Carolina Digital Collection Postcard

We might assume Lucy was middle-class, supported by her husband, a quiltmaker as a hobby rather than an occupation.

Museum number is SC 79.34.3

The South Carolina Quilt History project documented
this quilt. Worksheets tell us the needle work is excellent.

It was probably donated to the South Carolina State Museum by a descendant. A note associated with it says, "Quilt was in great grandmother's wedding chest." Accession numbers indicate the donation was in 1979.

82" x 70"
Collection of the South Carolina State Museum
Again the needlework is said to be excellent.

The quilt looks never used but one wonders if some of the background fabrics have faded, particularly the long strip along the baskets. Some of the diamonds may have faded to brown.

That donation probably included several quilts. The quilt above in the pattern commonly called North Carolina Lily is initialed M.A.C. and was said to have been made by Lucy's North Carolina daughter Mary Alice Catlett (Vance) about 1880, perhaps another quilt prepared for her 1879 wedding.

One more Catlett quilt documented by the South Carolina project:

Crazy quilt attributed to Mary Alice Catlett
Collection of the South Carolina State Museum
Date inscribed is 1895 in the block initialed M.A.C.
(In 1895 Mary Alice Catlett was Mrs. Alice Vance?)


It might better be described as an embroidered string quilt but that could
be nitpicking. Center blocks show family affiliations with the Masons
and the Christian Church.

The embroidered quilt does not display the same needlework
skills as the pieced quilts.

Initials inscribed on the blocks:
"MAC", "LNC", "LTC", "JCV", "LV", "JGC"

Initials seem to be of people in Lucy Catlett's immediate family, particularly younger daughters Alice & Nettie.

MAC: Daughter Mary Alice Catlett (Vance) living in Asheville, North Carolina after 1879
LNC: Daughter Lucy Nettie Catlett, known as Nettie, who also lived in North Carolina
LTC: Mother Lucy Tucker Catlett of Anderson, South Carolina
JCV: Grandson John Catlett Vance of Asheville
LV: Granddaughter Lucy Vance of Asheville
JGV: Probably Lucy's husband John Catlett. The G is part of the Masonic image.

It's interesting that Alice's maiden initials MAC are on here. By that time she was separated from Mr. Vance.....


We see four quilts associated with the Catlett family at the Quilt Index but here is another in a familiar pattern in the South Carolina State Museum, shown in a 2000 exhibit. Again Lucy Tucker Catlett is assumed to have made it for Alice.

Another was pictured in Carter Houck's book American Quilts & How to Make Them.



Apparently the quilt has the initials M.A.C.V. on it with a date 1851.

As Mary Alice Catlett wasn't born till 1863 and didn't become a Vance till 1879 the date must be wrong or interpreted incorrectly. The quilt with it's strong sashing and fan quilting certainly doesn't look that old, perhaps 1890 or later.


This one was also passed down by Lucy Vance Twiford. Her grandmother Lucy Tucker, who seemed to enjoy piecing circular patterns, may have made it before her death in 1898.

A scenario: In 1979 one of Lucy Tucker Catlett's great-granddaughters (Sylvia Twiford Carr Fogg?), donated a trunk full of quilts to the South Carolina State Museum. The quilts were made by Lucy and given to Alice Catlett Vance whose daughter Lucy Vance Twiford kept them together and told her only daughter they were made for Alice's "wedding chest." 




I count five in the trunk and this one dated 1879, which went to another descendant to be recorded in the North Carolina project as made by Alice.

Alice had three children and a big house in Asheville full of beds and yet these give quilts appear almost unused. We are fortunate to have the surviving evidence of her mother's quiltmaking skills.


There may once have been many more. Lucy Tucker Catlett had three daughters. Eldest Victoria Catlett Barton (1858-1895) married James E Barton in the 1870s. Did she receive as many quilts as sister Alice? Victoria died in Anderson at 38 leaving ten children the same year the crazy quilt was dated. 


The 1880 census taken after Victoria and Alice married records just two children at home. John Pinckney (known as Pink) and Nettie the youngest. Lucy Nettie (1873-1964) never married but taught school and lived in Asheville near her sister Alice. Pink married twice.

A visit to Alice in the summer of 1890.

What other quilts have survived?

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