Thursday, August 19, 2021

My Crazy Dream


Center of a Crazy Quilt by Mary M. Maynard Ricard (1838-1915)
Haverhill, Massachusetts

74" x 69"
International Quilt Museum
In the center a pavilion or pagoda---
A fair, a resort or a fantasy home?

A self-portrait with daughters Julia and Caroline?

"Mary M. H. Ricard
My crazy dream" 
is embroidered in a corner.
Mary left us many clues to her identity, some misleading.

Begun 1872 - Haverhill - 1912
UPDATE: See Louise's comments on reading the date. Is that a 7 or a 2. (2 with a dot?)

A portrait of the artist (?) printed on silk signed
M. Hernandred Ricard
This looks like a professional portrait of an entertainer.

Is Hernandred, as the word has been interpreted, really the word Mary wrote? Hernandred is not a name. Family Search kindly checked 28 million files for me and found not one person named Hernandred. Hernandez yes, but that word is not Hernandez. However, I found out what she meant. Scroll down.

Penny McMorris featured Mary's quilt on the cover of her 1984 book Crazy Quilts.

Looking for a Mary M. H. Ricard in Haverhill, as her embroidered signature reads, gives us many clues to the maker, born Mary M. Maynard in Reading Vermont in 1838. She married French Canadian Hubert Ricard (1836-1903) in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1858. 

1860 Census Manchester

Two years later the census finds her a "Landlady" running a boarding house for textile mill workers in mill town Manchester with a one-year-old daughter and a blacksmith husband. It looks like she has two Irish-born servants Mary Caughlin and Bridget Cone to assist in housekeeping. 

A Boarding House 
Manchester Historical Association

During the early 1860s they moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts where Hubert prospered as a manufacturer and a retailer.

In 1870 the city directory lists Hubert as a machinist and die cutter
with a partner George Eaton
They were doing well as Hubert's "h," their home, was at 22 Winter Street.

A short block here of substantial houses...

Winter Street seemed to have residences on one side of the street
and businesses on the other, among them Ricard & Eaton
in this early 20th century picture of the block from the Haverhill
Library. The first doorway they say is Ricard & Eaton.

The late-19th century local history tells us "He was a progressive and enterprising merchant of unusual ability and he acquired a competence [not a huge fortune but enough.]"

The 1870 census doesn't list him as unusually well-to-do and their big house is again full of boarders,
perhaps people who work for him. Mary is listed as keeping house (but that doesn't mean she didn't earn money outside the home---married women's census occupations are not a reliable report.)

The 1900 census lists them as living by themselves, the children have grown, the boarders are gone and Hubert's occupation is landlord, Mary's blank.

Social note from Ludlow, Vermont, 1902
Mary's husband Hubert died the following year.

From the Cutter local history of the area in the early 20th century.

Mary finished her crazy quilt in 1912 and died three years later.

The hen and chicks at the top here may be cut from a pictorial
cretonne like this cotton chicken print....

quite a popular idea in New England quilts for the 1880s and '90s

Mary attached a variety of needlework scraps. The sitting child might
be cross stitch embroidery, tiny wool Berlin-work.

Her beginning date of 1872 embroidered in a corner may refer to some of the embroidery she incorporated. We just don't see the crazy quilt idea till 10 years later.

She included a sunflower, a necessary nod to the
aesthetic movement and Oscar Wilde.

Mary's quilt is now at the International Quilt Museum in Nebraska,
a treat for visiting crazy quilt fans like Allie Aller and Valerie Bothell.

I became interested in Mary Ricard's quilt because there was some reference to her being a professional seamstress, a milliner. I found no evidence of that but it remains a reasonable possibility. Occupations included boarding house keeper and a landlady at different points in her life. I wonder if she was a mill worker before her marriage and that's how she came to Manchester from Vermont.

Daughter Carrie Brooks lived in Missoula
where this was published in April, 1915.

And her obituary described her as an "elocutionist and reader." This is a clue worth following. Here we have Madame Hernandred Ricard, an entertainer advertised here in the Boston Globe in 1878.

She was a "Great Dramatic Elocutionist"
also described in other ads as an impersonator, elocutionist and a reader.
She impersonated celebrities.

A review in the Globe in 1879.
Would have liked to have seen that (I think.)

Marie Selika (1849-1937)

Daughter Carrie accompanied her and they seem to have achieved some success as here they are performing with Marie Selika, a well respected soprano invited by Rutherford & Lucy Hayes to perform at the White House the following year.

A review of Marie Selika's voice and the Ricard's entertainments
from that 1880 performance.

My Crazy Dream indeed!

Some links:




Look up Madame Hernandred Ricard in the New England newspapers. Her career seems to have thrived from about 1878 to 1882 when she was in her early 40s.


  1. Absolutely remarkable detective work! So happy we have wonderful researchers like you to solve these mysteries for us! Thanks!

  2. According to Werner's Directory of Elocutionists (1887) Ricard, Mme. Hernandred, 25 Holyoke st., Boston, Mass.

  3. I think the dates on the quilt are 1877 and 1912. The is a 'period' after each of the dates, making the 1877 date appear like 1872. I agree that some of the pieces may have started in 1877. The earliest ad I found for her performances is from June 1876, with more following in 1877. By 1914 she was "confined to an invalid's couch with long hours of pain" due to rheumatoid arthritis. Maybe that is why she never finished the quilt.

  4. What an amazing Crazy Quilt! So many things to look at and ponder about.