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?

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Alice Catlett Vance & Her Quilt


Quilt dated 20 August 1879 with initials MAC in lower left corner here
Attributed to Mary Alice Catlett Vance
Documented by the North Carolina project & shown in
North Carolina Quilts on page 118.

Mary Alice Catlett Vance (1863-1948)
Alice married in November, 1879 when she was 16.

Her quilt is an unusual design, but not unique. The center "Wheel of Fortune" or "Sunburst" was a popular Southern pattern and this striking version with the "white petals," as Kathy Sullivan described them, is also occasionally seen. 

Attributed to Lois Cordelia James Wright Jarrel
Example from about 1900 recorded by the Arizona project.

Kathy Sullivan's chapter in the North Carolina book tells us a bit about Alice Catlett Vance who married David Mitchell Vance (1852-1926? ) of Asheville, North Carolina, son of  Confederate General Robert Brank Vance and nephew of North Carolina's Civil War Governor Zebulon Vance. 

The quilt must have been her wedding quilt. 

The Asheville Citizen teased the 27-year-old groom, noting the
bride (and her quilt) were from South Carolina.

From Anderson north to Asheville is about 75 miles on today's roads.

Alice was from Anderson, South Carolina, one of six children of Lucy Tucker Catlett and John Pinkney Catlett. Her father owned a livery stable in the town of Anderson.

Anderson on market day a few years before Alice left for North Carolina.

Alice & David Vance had three children: Robert B. Vance (1881-1908), John Catlett Vance (1883-1963), and Lucy Mary Alice Vance Twiford (1888-1974). Lucy was the keeper of her mother's wedding quilt; her descendant brought it in for documentation in North Carolina.

Alice's match into a prominent Confederate family may have seemed promising but the groom disappears from the public record after baby Lucy's birth. Family history is muddled (Find-A-Grave has Alice married to her father-in-law.) David Vance (1859-1926) looks to have had a first cousin who was as elusive as he.

The North Carolina quilt book tells us Alice and her husband separated some time after Lucy's birth. In early-20th-century directories she is listed as a widow.
 "She owned and operated...a drygoods store in Asheville, and was the first female member of that city's chapter of the Retail Clerks International."

1909 City Directory

City Directories tell us that Alice was vice-president of the Peerless Dry Goods Company at 51 Patton Street. They sold dress goods, ready made clothing and Ladies's Home Journal patterns to make your own.

1912 Advertisement

A later name was Peerless Fashion Company. Alice seems to have prospered.

1912 photo of her house at 147 Haywood Street, 
designed by Thomas E. Davis. Women posing may have been daughter Lucy 
and friends in their early 20s at the time.

Alice lived near the Vanderbilts in the 1909 city directory (if not in real life) with two unmarried children Lucy and son John, a plumber. Son Robert had died at 27 in Idaho working for a mining company a year earlier.

1908 state tax records  for the Peerless Dry Goods Co. indicate a worth of
 $10,000 in stock, and another $10,000 in real estate and other property.

Lucy Vance married Lloyd Delton Twiford

The 1930 census finds Alice still living with her two children, Lucy's husband Lloyd and daughter Sylvia plus a boarder. The Great Depression was just beginning but Alice was worth a good deal of money.

Ten years later we do not see what Alice is worth. Children John and Lucy still live with her on Haywood Street but Lucy's husband Lloyd D. Twiford has disappeared (moved to California perhaps.)

Alice died at in 1948 at 85.

Her obituary, a gem of her contemporary culture, tells us who her husband's relatives were
and what church she attended but nothing about her work or career. (Better forgotten that she was forced by circumstances to work?)

We might add a sentence or two:
"Finding her husband of little help she raised her three children well by running an Asheville dry goods store at which she was quite successful."

Memorial to three generations of Lucy Catlett's North Carolina descendants

More about family quilts tomorrow.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bay Area Black History Quilts

Frederick Douglass Quilt, about 1950,
Historical Quilting Club of Marin County, California
Emory University. Robert Woodruff Library

In 1968 California's East Bay Negro Historical Society interviewed local activist Frances Albrier, who recalled her 1957 display for Negro History Week at San Francisco's Emporium department store, a rather ground-breaking celebration of Black history.

Frances Mary Albrier (1898-1987)

She described making a cold call, asking to see the store manager and "told him about a quilt that we had, the Frederick Douglass quilt, that had been made during the war years by a black and white historical society in Sausalito, and it was quite a work of art."

He gave her a window on Market Street for her display, which was so successful she organized a second display at Capwell's department store in Oakland.

Frances saved photos in her scrapbook, now in the Frances Albrier collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The display on the left with the quilt draped is from the February
San Francisco exhibit; the other is Capwell's window in Oakland.

The story of the pair of African-American history
quilts made by Marin County's Historical Quilting Club
 has been told often, but it's interesting to see
the way they were designed and used to celebrate Black History Week.

The club began the first quilt portraying Harriet
Tubman in 1951.

Sue Bailey Thurman and designer Ben Irvin in 1968 pictured in the 
San Francisco Examiner at a Unitarian Church. 

That article tells us the club planned a third quilt honoring Sojourner Truth but never really began it. The quilts were actually made for such display, often shown in Bay Area churches and fairs in the 1950s and '60s. Black History Week (now February's Black History Month) was the 1926 idea of historian Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) who realized the effectiveness of such a promotion in education. The quilts were undoubtedly an effective visual.

Sue Bailey Thurman  (1903-1996)

Sue Bailey Thurman, another Bay Area activist, purchased (?) the quilts and arranged for displays. She and her husband headed the Howard Thurman Educational Trust Foundation, which exhibited the quilts in venues such as New York's 1965 World’s Fair. She donated both quilts to Emory University's Robert Woodruff Library in Atlanta.

Where they are on permanent display outside the Archives Center
(Not to scare any curators---let's hope it's low light conditions.)

Read Eve Goldberg's post on the Negro History Quilt Club 

I did a post on these quilts several years ago:

See the interview with Frances Albrier:


The Smithsonian's Albrier collection also has in  Box 4:12 an unscanned photo of "Martha Johnson, Mr. Irwin and members of the Historical Quilting Club of Sausalito sitting beneath Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman quilts [043] circa 1960s."