Sunday, October 7, 2018

Political Patterns #1: 1852 Reference

"Old Zack"
Collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

In May, 1852 the Lancaster (South Carolina) Ledger published a humorous feature in dialect, a fictional letter from Hosher Storrins to his Kuzen Stukely. Few dialect stories were complete without a "regular quiltin" and this one included a short political discussion about the quilting pattern.

I'm translating here:
"It was sometime before they could decide how to make the quilt. Some wanted Clay, and some wanted Old Zack, a few wanted Polk quilted in the center; but Sue insisted to have your Moody hat put right in the center."
I don't know what a Moody hat is but the tale went on about the hat contrasting it with a flamboyant Kossuth hat with a feather. Too bad they abandoned the political quilting.

The political references are mysterious and anachronistic in 1852, a Presidential election year.

Scott on the North of the Mason Dixon line; Pierce on the South

Opponents were the successful Franklin Pierce versus Winfield Scott. By May of that year the three politicians discussed at the quilting were no longer viable choices at all. President Zachary Taylor had died in office in 1850; James K. Polk had been dead for three years while Henry Clay was on his deathbed, expiring in June, 1852.

Album quilt shown at the Virginia Quilt Museum in 2016

The figure of President Zachary Taylor as a war hero is cut from the
rainbow print at the top of the post.

Set of album blocks once in 
Julie Powell's collection of political textiles

Polk must have been more inspirational as a few Polk quilts survive. 
See this post on some possible Polk symbolism:

Winfield Scott, another Mexican War hero and the unsuccessful 1852 nominee, leaves no partisan quilts that I have seen, although his purported signature is on a few.

"Frank Pierce"
Hexagon quilt dated 1850-1856 by the Cronmiller sisters of
Baltimore. Documented in the Maryland project.

Franklin Pierce was also fairly uninspiring, if we take quilts as evidence.

Virginia Ivey's quilt with a quilted representation
of a Henry Clay statue, Kentucky.

Henry Clay who never won a Presidential election but was a perennial candidate motivated more quiltmakers than any other mid-century politico. 

Detail from Mary Worrall Perry's 1844-1845 album
Freeman's Auction

 For the rest of the week I'll be focusing on political quilts from the mid-19th-century. Politics has never been pretty but the quilts are.

Read more about Virginia Ivey at this post.

See the South Carolina reference to political quilting at the Chronicling America site:



  1. Love seeing these, although I'm closing my ears to current politics. ;)

  2. Hmmm, I can think of two politicians right now whose heads could be appropriately placed on turkey and a really big CHICKEN!

  3. you had me at "political prints" love these posts.
    that little inking of the cabin is wonderful.
    ha ha loved Wendy's commnet