Friday, December 9, 2022

Sexagon Quilt in Savannah 1828

Patchwork cover of 6-sided shapes, pieced over papers dated
1792-1803, Newark Museum

In her 1828 will, 57-year-old Esther Sheftall of Savannah, Georgia left 2 "sexagon" bed covers to her 17-year-old niece Perla Sheftall (Solomons) (1811-1897). We'd call these hexagons, but Esther dying in Georgia, called them sexagons when she made her will.

"unfinished sexagon bed quilt"

Esther was from a well-to-do Savannah family. She never married and seems to have spent some of her leisure time stitching quilts, a pastime shared with her mother Frances. One of the sexagon quilts was marked with mother Frances's name and age. None of their quilts has survived to be linked with the makers.

 "Sexagon" quilt possibly altered or finished decades after the date inscribed
Mary Jones, 1812

Esther also left a "china bed spread with fringe" to niece Rebecca B. Cohen, probably 30-year-old Rebecca Benjamin Bush Shaftell Cohen (1798-1881.)

Rhode Island project & the Quilt Index
Possibly similar to this one of indigo print fabric often
called China Blue.

An early 19th-century quilt of small stars

To her oldest brother Sheftall Sheftall: a "Bed spread made of small stars," because her mother had made it for him. 

Frances Freidel Hart Shefthall (1740 - 1820)
From a miniature portrait
During the Revolutionary War father Mordecai was Commissary General to the Georgia militia and was captured by the British. As a merchant in the import/export trade in the port city he was affluent enough to use his own money to buy rebels' supplies. When Savannah fell in 1778 Mordecai (1735-1797) and eldest son Sheftall were jailed on a prison ship then sent to Philadelphia.

Escaping Tory-occupied Savannah Frances took her children to Charleston where she wrote her husband she was "obliged to take in needle worke to make a living for my family.” Times became so difficult she took in laundry to get by.

Perhaps those small stars in Sheftall's bed spread were pieced of scraps left over from the wartime sewing business.

Small stars in an early 19th-century quilt

Mother Frances was born in The Hague in Holland, emigrated to Antigua in the West Indies and then to Charleston where she married a friend of her brother's in 1761. (Her wedding costume---a wedding girdle and buckles left to niece Frances Sheftall in the will---is in the Georgia Museum.) 

Patchwork is one of many traditions the United States shared with Holland at the time, so Frances may have learned her needlework skills there as a child.

From Natalie Norris's Collection, Inscribed 
1805 Rebeckah Morrison

Frances, her husband and eldest son were reunited in Philadelphia in 1781, returned to Savannah and prospered in the small Jewish community. Esther was their youngest, born in 1791 (when her mother was 51?) Esther's father died in 1797; her mother in 1820.

From Susan Mueller's collection, pieced over papers dated 1800-1808

Sexagon was an uncommon name for a hexagon. Sex meant 6 in Latin; hex the Greek word and that's the term that has become the standard.

1808 Old Sturbridge Village Collection
Hexagons or sexagons

But there are other references earlier and later. 
Linda Baumgarten & Kim Ivey cite an 1808 will
describing a Sexagon quilt.

As late as 1887 Mrs. Scholz's entry was described as a 
Sexagon Quilt in the San Francisco Mechanics' Institute Fair.

Perhaps she read this British magazine.
Read Esther's will here:

Cecilia Solomons's block

One more quilt link to the Sheftall family. Esther's niece Perla Sheftall Solomons and her daughter Cecilia signed blocks on an 1850s album quilt made for Eleanor Solomons, Perla's mother-in-law. Read more here:


Perla's chintz applique block is half out of the photo,

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