Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Maggie and Emma: A True Story

In 1860 Maria Jane McIntosh published a new book
A Year with Maggie & Emma: A True Story

Maria Jane McIntosh (1803-1878)

McIntosh was a novelist, born in Georgia, living in New York. The book, finished in 1859, was typical of her work, moralizing stories for children:
"This little volume contains the simplest story of simple country life in a remote, northern village...the incidents are, without a single exception, true."
The girls (the McKays) live in a town by Lake Ontario in upstate New York. In November they went to the county fair where quilts are displayed.
"One in particular, I remember, had a large eagle on the top drawn in Indian-ink, and a ribbon in his mouth, with 'Forward our country,' written in large letters in it--then underneath this eagle were very large clouds, made very black and threatening with plenty of the same ink. Then under these was a representation of Noah's ark....
Wait a minute: I know that quilt.

Quilt signed Mrs. L Converse, 1853
The threatening inked clouds are unforgettable.

Ms. McIntosh goes on:
"On either side of [Noah's ark] two trees, one containing all sorts of insects, and the other all sorts of birds that could be made from calico. These, and all the other things I shall mention...were all cut from different coloured calicoes and sewed on to the white muslin, being stuffed, to make them stand out, and formed and shaped very accurate and well...."

Birds on the left, insects on the right.
She described
"Noah and his family...dressed just as we would dress now."

"At the bottom were people at all sorts of work, to represent the wicked people God punished by the flood."

The quilt was auctioned and is in a private collection.
"Now can you think of anything funnier than taking this solemn scene from God's word, and with great pains and much ingenuity, making this strange and ridiculous picture of it on a quilt?...[The McKays thought it] the drollest, queerest thing they ever saw in their lives. But they took great care not to laugh when any one would be hurt by their doing so, for the person who made this quilt was very, very proud of it, I can assure you."

Maggie and Emma

Let's hope Luthera Rogers Converse never read Maggie & Emma. 

McIntosh may have been snide but she was accurate in describing the Noah's Ark quilt and probably in describing the town of Woodville, New York on Lake Ontario---a "remote, Northern village." I'm guessing the "strange and ridiculous" quilt was displayed at a Jefferson County fair in the 1850s.

The eagle at the top that McIntosh described is mostly missing now.

The inscription is not "Forward" but "Onward Our Country." I wonder if all that ink did not damage the "white muslin" so much that someone trimmed and rebound the top.

The quilt has been attributed to Lutheria Rogers Converse of Woodville. Her name was also spelled Luthera (probably her spelling) and Lutherea (all making one guess she was baptized a Lutheran).

Rufus H. Converse
Died Mar 10, 1885
Age 69 Years
Luthera Rogers
His Wife
Died Aug 7 1902
Age 82 Years

She and her husband Rufus Converse are buried in Jefferson County, New York, although she died at the home of a nephew Erwin Rogers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to her obituary in the Jefferson Journal she was a native of Vermont but spent most of her life farming near Woodville. In 1896 she moved to Grand Rapids.

When you look at the Noah's Ark quilt you guess this is not her first quilt. She must have made others, and indeed the Rogers family in Michigan apparently inherited others. In 2012 New York's Skaneateles Historical Society Museum showed a whitework stuffed Lord's Prayer quilt and a pieced Sunburst by Luthera. She also did hooked rugs.

Detail of her Glen Haven painting

The family inherited paintings. which have been displayed in Skaneateles. The family history records that Luthera had tuberculosis and in 1853, the year of the quilt, she spent eight weeks at the Glen Haven Water Cure hospital on the shores of Skaneateles Lake, attributing her recovery to the Water Cure diet, writing a testimonial for their newsletter, The Letter Box:
"Well do I remember what people said of me when I went to the Glen. I was gone, far gone, with consumption, it was said, and I should die at any rate in the fall when the leaves dropped...." A year year later she "pronounced myself cured. I lived strictly on the Glen Haven plan, and ate no butter, salt, or spices meat or pastry, drank neither tea or coffee."
She and her husband built a house after her cure and she outlined the painting and wall papering and carpeting she'd done. "I can tire out all the neighboring women at day's works."

She painted a picture of the place that was displayed at Glen Haven and announced in the Letter Box in 1859 that she felt well enough to work as an interior house painter, doing wall papering, wood graining and other painting for the neighbors. (I hope more than one neighbor just told her to paint the parlor with any images she could imagine.)

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  1. This is extremely interesting. I have seen photographs of this quilt for years and just assumed that the dark "inked clouds" was some sort of stain! I never saw a close enough photo to realize it was intentional. Thanks for clearing that up. No pun intended!

  2. Wonderful painting.It is so natural because the clouds

  3. Just adore any combination of quilts and history...storytelling at its very best.
    thank you, Barbara!