Mary Ann Rouse Thomas
Blount County, Alabama
Quilt made perhaps 1890-1920
Mary Ann Rouse Thomas (1842-1930)
She would be in her 50s in the photo
Bob Cargo also inherited a photograph taken in 1898. It looks like
an itinerant photographer came by the William Mabrey Thomas farm
and suggested the family show their proudest possessions in the yard.
Mary Ann has dogs and chickens around her but also a group of her quilts.
The Cargos also donated the photo to the Birmingham Museum of Art.
We can presume her husband is standing on the left
and her nine surviving children are in the photo.
Thomas children according to Find-a-Grave
Three of the quilts in the photo went to Bob and are now in the Birmingham Museum.
Also being shown off: a horse and a banjo and a granddaughter.
A little Photoshopping
Seven Sisters, before 1898
Goose Chase, before 1898
Bob quilted this top, which may be the one in the photo
or a copy of it. He attributed it to his mother Mildred Thomas Cargo (1909-2004),
Mary Ann's granddaughter, born ten years after the picture was taken.
One quilt visible in the photo is unaccounted for.
An odd pattern, sort of a vase or tree, sort of a star.
This tree quilt is not in the photo.
It looks like Mary Ann enjoyed the pattern variety available in the turn-of-the-century publications.
Perhaps she bought patterns from the Ladies Art Company in St. Louis, which offered this one as Tree of Paradise as early as 1889.
The pattern the family called Snail's Trail was published three times in 1931,
long after the photo.
Here's a post from last year on the pattern:
Spider Web Star
These Thomas quilts are classics of Southern style:
- An emphasis on chrome orange plain fabric (so much of it woven and dyed in Southern mills must have been available.)
- Blocks separated by strong sashing with contrasting sashing squares, we call them cornerstones.
- No borders except the sashing brought out to the edge.
- Fan or arc quilting.
Here's a star that the family thought was made in 1928
And a Carpenter's Wheel done in similar style.
Red sashing squares seem to have been a late favorite.
What color was the tan sashing originally?
The quilts were made in Blount County, north of Birmingham but
Mary Ann had lived in various Alabama counties when younger.
Her children commissioned a formal grave marker but I like the one below better:
BO 1842 DI 1930
AGE 88 10 M
FISHER UND (ertaking?)
Link to the Cargo quilts at the Birmingam Museum of Art:
See another post about the Cargo collections here:
Looking at the Cargo quilts got me interested in Southern style in general so I started a Facebook page QuiltHistorySouth. See it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2427588900863781/
Ask to join.