Friday, December 7, 2018

Lucinda Ward Honstain's Civil War # 1

Another messy celebrity divorce!

Quilt dated 1867

You may be familiar with Lucinda Ward Honstain's pictorial quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum thanks to Ardis & Robert James. The quilt holds the record for the most expensive quilt ever sold.

Imagery is obviously related to the Civil War.

"Jeff Davis & Daughter"

Lucinda did not leave us many text messages.

"Master I Am Free"

So the 41 blocks are open to interpretation based on what we know about Lucinda. 

In 2003 Melissa Stewart Jurgena and Patricia Cox Crews published "The Reconciliation Quilt: Lucinda Ward Honstain's Pictorial Diary of An American Era" in Folk Art the magazine of the American Museum of Folk Art. Jurgena's research into Lucinda's life gave us much information.

IQSCM has two quilts by Lucinda, this one dated 1867
and initialed E.B., probably for Emma Honstain Bingham.

"ICE Cream
Done Nov th. 18, 1867"
Does the date refer to her finishing the whole quilt or just to the block
with the ice cream vendor?

Lucinda was "born in Ossining, [Sing Sing at the time] Westchester County, New York on July 24, 1820 to Thomas and Phoebe (Edsell) Ward. Her father's family had lived in the City now known as Lower Manhattan. Her father become involved in the dry goods business and eventually owned his own company...in Manhattan and Brooklyn.... Lucinda married John B. Honstain, probably in mid-1842...had one child Emma C. Honstain, born June 2, 1843."

See the link to the Folk Art magazine article below.

And in the IQSCM's recent catalog Quilts in the Industrial Age, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Jonathan Gregory found more information, including a record of the Honstain's divorce in Cuyahoga County, Ohio in March, 1866.

Jonathan also found clues to the meaning of the man on the right
in an image from the New York Public Library--- a street
entertainer like an organ grinder with a hurdy-gurdy instrument
hanging from his neck.

It's easy to trace someone with the unusual name of John Baptiste Honstain in the military records  and we find that Lucinda's husband did indeed serve in the Union Army. And here is where the plot thickens. Suzanne Antippas, who comments on this blog with helpful genealogical information, found out quite a bit about Lucinda's husband. She read his military records, pension records, etc.

We also found out quite a bit about the Honstains' post-War marital woes. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published at least five accounts of the end of the marriage in 1865 and 1866. It was not pretty, involved the whole neighborhood and a few arrests.

1866 map with the Honstain home a red star on Leonard Street between 
Devoe and Ainsley in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The corner is still there and the house may be too.

The newspaper gossip column took notice in August, 1866. About six weeks after John was mustered out of New York's 132nd Infantry Regiment in North Carolina and returned to his Brooklyn family he wrote a check for $600 on an account at the Williamsburg Savings Bank. The account must have been in Lucinda's name and he probably forged her name on the check. She and her son-in-law had him arrested.

The New York papers across the East River also took note of the arrest.

More tomorrow.

Folk Art magazine article.

See a large photo of the IQSCM quilt here:


  1. Lori Lee Triplett and I have been surprised about how many people "disappear" but then turn up with a new life some place else in this sort of time period. Life takes a bad turn, just head to a new area and start a new life. We have researched a lot of quilts over the years, but it never fails to surprise me. You could just tell your friends that your husband was killed by Indians, and remarry. Son guilty of embezzlement? Just move to a big city and blend in! Pregnant without benefit of marriage? Just get married, move, and no one is the wiser. The divorce rate was very low then, but I am pretty sure the bigamy/polygamy rate was much higher. Great to see all the research people like Susan and Jonathan have contributed to this quilt. Thanks all!