I've been looking at the popularity of the Know-Nothing or American party in the 1850s when so many eagle quilts were made. In May, 1854 they counted 50,000 members. Six months later they numbered a million, controlling eight state legislatures in 1854 and 1855.
Quilt with initials LH & SAH, dated 1856, and eagles in border
James D. Julia Auction.
We know of the tradition of political names for patterns with Whig Roses
and Democrat's Fancy.
Marie Webster pictured this "Whig Rose" in her
1915 book Quilts:
Their Story and How to Make Them
Applique quilt with the name "Fancy Know-Nothing" inscribed on it.
Collection of the Indiana State Museum
I wonder if there were more Know Nothing's Fancy quilts out there.
Songwriter Howard Paul's 1857 song Uncle Sam pictured a young
American in a patchwork jacket.
The song from his musical Patchwork boasts that the U.S.
could beat Russia, Prussia, Belgium etc.
The Know-Nothings had many names. They began as a secret society The Order of the Star Spangled Banner opposed to foreigners and immigration. When asked if one belonged a member was required to say- "I Know Nothing," which is where one name came from. A code name for members was Sam.
"Uncle Sam's Youngest Son, Citizen Know Nothing."
The sheet music covers are from the Library of Congress.
Border from a quilt dated 1854
The original Order of the Star Spangled Banner's
slogan was "America for the Americans."
Another intriguing pattern popular in the 1840s and '50s is the design
we call Star Spangled Banner, an elaborate Feathered Star.
The name comes from a quilt in the collection of the Shelburne Museum,
which has a verse from the National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner quilted into it.
Here's an 1850 reference to a "star spangled quilt" by Mrs. M Bowers
of Baltimore who showed it at the Maryland Institute Fair that year.
We have no idea if her quilt looked like the familiar pattern. And it may be that the popular design referred merely to the popular song rather than a secret society.
But I don't think we should underestimate the effect of
the Know Nothings on the country in the two decades before the Civil War.
Eagle block in Benoni Pearce's album quilt, dated 1850.
Smithsonian Institution Collection
Know Nothing Polka
From Stark County, Ohio