Thursday, March 16, 2017

Needlework at the Bazaar: Horribly Uninteresting

Fair in Philadelphia, 1864
Knitted and crocheted blankets hanging in the fancy work area.

Here's why you don't take some 17 year olds to needlework shows:

Julia Rosa Newberry (1853-1876)
 about the time of the Bazaar

Julia Rosa Newberry kept a diary. She was living in New York. On April 20, 1870 her friend James Hooker Hammersley tried to interest her and sister Mary Louisa in working for the poor orphans of Brooklyn.

Sheltering Arms Nursery

The administrators and board held a spring "Bazaar" or "Fair" to raise money to run the school and feed and clothe the children.
April 20, 1870
"The judicious Hooker Hammersly was very anxious Sister & I should be on his committee for the 'Sheltering Arms' a great bazaar just opened & which is to last ten days.---we went to see it, there was a fine collection of pictures, & tons & tons of fancy work, which was horribly uninteresting. I saw a number of the 'swellest' young men of New York."

James Hooker Hammersly was a New York swell. He and Julia were wealthy and priveleged; Julia was just to young to see anything but the boys.

Another view of that 1864 Philadelphia Fair.

After the Civil War fairs continued to be a successful method for women to fund causes. The Library Company of Philadelphia has many photographs of the Great Central Fair in 1864. Click on the green highlighted categories and see a picture:

Julia Newberry's Diary was published in 1933.

The Sheltering Arms Nursery is still helping people in its current incarnation as Brooklyn Community Services. Let's hope they are so well-funded by the city's caring citizens that they don't have to sell needlework to raise money for social services.


  1. I'm sure you and most of your blog readers have owned a reprint copy of one of the "encyclopedias of fancy work." First published in the late 1800's, they were reprinted in the 1970's. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se_de_Dillmont) Not only were the instructions a challenge to decipher (and the reprinted engraved illustrations rather hard to make out), how many penwipers did one need? Though we don't make penwipers nowadays we still have an abundance of craft ideas. Online tutorials and YouTube instructions are easier to follow and to see than Mme de Dillmont's.

  2. That is funny! Some things never change 😀

  3. To give Mme Dillmont and Ms. Caulfeild & Sward their due---there was so little opportunity to illustrate anything they tried to describe things in a thousand words when one picture would have sufficed.

  4. Ah how the elite can disdain anything handmade. I remember reading that opera singer and Opera Director Beverly Sills had an apartment full of folk art that was mocked by the investment banker elite here in NYC as though she was a fool and the art was trash. Sigh.

  5. And 17 year old girls are still more interested in the boy-men than in needle crafts. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    While drawings in the old books and instructions may not be quite as clear as today's color close-up photos, I admire those who had the talent and patience to undertake all those illustrations. Pen wipers must have been the old version of "make a pillowcase" or "make a simple scarf" today's needleworkers are told.