Saturday, March 3, 2018

Eagle Qults #3: Presidential Politics

Quilt from the Christ collection, attributed to the 1850s
An eagle with no olive branches in the talons.
(Olives might be growing below)

I've been showing eagle quilts dated in the 1850s, a curious burst of patriotic imagery
a few years before the Civil War.

Buy a pattern from Arlene here:

The Christ collection's repeat-block eagle is one of the more aggressive birds with arrows of war
in both talons.

To remind you---the usual American symbol grasps both
the olive branch of peace and the arrows of war.

Eagles between stars

From a sampler dated 1860

Who were we threatening in the 1850s?

During that decade the United States was at relative peace with the rest of the world. The war to annex Mexican territories was over by 1848. California became a state in 1850 and further southwestern territory was peacefully purchased in 1853.  Any of our continuing scuffles with England were temporarily over with Canadian boundary settlements for the Oregon Territory.

Admiral Perry's uninvited incursions into Japanese territory were handled through diplomacy rather than war. 

If we were not at war with a foreign power perhaps we were at war with ourselves.

I was re-reading the Maryland Album quilt book and came across some ideas in the discussion of an eagle quilt made by Margaret Buckey in 1857.

Quilt by Margaret Buckey, Frederick County, Maryland, 1857.
Collection of the Historical Society of Carroll County.

Joanne Manwaring of the Historical Society of Carroll County speculated that this quilt might have been inspired by the Know-Nothing Party, formally known as the American Party. She noted the Know-Nothings were popular in Carroll County in the 1850s and pointed out their use of an eagle symbol in their advertising.

Advertisement for an 1856 political event.

1856 was a Presidential Election year. The winner was Democrat James Buchanan.

Nathan Currier poster for the Democratic ticket
Buchanan & Breckenridge

The Whigs had gone down to final defeat and the
new Republican party nominated John C. Fremont
and William L. Dayton.

But there was a very viable third party The American Party
that nominated former President Millard Fillmore and
running mate Andrew J. Donelson.

Notice that each of these Currier prints
uses an eagle above the candidates' portraits

Millard Fillmore: American Candidate
The party were also known as the Know Nothings.

So attributing an eagle quilt to enthusiasm for a particular party
seems futile.

Unless there is more evidence like a political print.

Someone brought this Maine quilt with the Fremont/Dayton print
to a meeting of the Studio Quilt Study Group in 2003.

You may have noticed in the Fremont/Republican poster
above that the eagle is holding nothing but arrows.


Lydia Stafford's quilt at the Shelburne.

The Democrat/Buchanan eagle seems to have
 vague olive branches in the background behind
arrows clutched in two talons.

While the American Know-Nothing/Fillmore poster features
an eagle who is all vegetation and no arrows.

What's it all mean? Maybe nothing. 
It may just be Nathan Currier's opinion of the candidates rather
than any official party imagery.

The cover of the Magazine Antiques in 1933

Me? I Know Nothing.
But I will speculate. More tomorrow on the Know Nothings.

1 comment:

  1. The Fremont/Republican poster has both of the eagle's feet to one side and the tail to the other side, like the Christ collection quilt.