Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bay Area Black History Quilts

Frederick Douglass Quilt, about 1950,
Historical Quilting Club of Marin County, California
Emory University. Robert Woodruff Library

In 1968 California's East Bay Negro Historical Society interviewed local activist Frances Albrier, who recalled her 1957 display for Negro History Week at San Francisco's Emporium department store, a rather ground-breaking celebration of Black history.

Frances Mary Albrier (1898-1987)

She described making a cold call, asking to see the store manager and "told him about a quilt that we had, the Frederick Douglass quilt, that had been made during the war years by a black and white historical society in Sausalito, and it was quite a work of art."

He gave her a window on Market Street for her display, which was so successful she organized a second display at Capwell's department store in Oakland.

Frances saved photos in her scrapbook, now in the Frances Albrier collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The display on the left with the quilt draped is from the February
San Francisco exhibit; the other is Capwell's window in Oakland.

The story of the pair of African-American history
quilts made by Marin County's Historical Quilting Club
 has been told often, but it's interesting to see
the way they were designed and used to celebrate Black History Week.

The club began the first quilt portraying Harriet
Tubman in 1951.

Sue Bailey Thurman and designer Ben Irvin in 1968 pictured in the 
San Francisco Examiner at a Unitarian Church. 

That article tells us the club planned a third quilt honoring Sojourner Truth but never really began it. The quilts were actually made for such display, often shown in Bay Area churches and fairs in the 1950s and '60s. Black History Week (now February's Black History Month) was the 1926 idea of historian Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) who realized the effectiveness of such a promotion in education. The quilts were undoubtedly an effective visual.

Sue Bailey Thurman  (1903-1996)

Sue Bailey Thurman, another Bay Area activist, purchased (?) the quilts and arranged for displays. She and her husband headed the Howard Thurman Educational Trust Foundation, which exhibited the quilts in venues such as New York's 1965 World’s Fair. She donated both quilts to Emory University's Robert Woodruff Library in Atlanta.

Where they are on permanent display outside the Archives Center
(Not to scare any curators---let's hope it's low light conditions.)

Read Eve Goldberg's post on the Negro History Quilt Club 

I did a post on these quilts several years ago:

See the interview with Frances Albrier:


The Smithsonian's Albrier collection also has in  Box 4:12 an unscanned photo of "Martha Johnson, Mr. Irwin and members of the Historical Quilting Club of Sausalito sitting beneath Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman quilts [043] circa 1960s."

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Starlight Guild's Suffrage Challenge

The Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center in the Kansas City area has two quilt exhibits up until January 23, 2021. One shows a dozen antiques from their collection and the other 36 blocks made by Starlight Quilt Guild members.

During the Women's Suffrage Centennial this year the nearby museum Shawnee Town made a copy of Alice Paul's suffrage flag that she finished in 1920. 

Alice Paul (1885-1977), leader of the National Women's Party, sewing a star on 
her banner for each state that ratified the Suffrage amendment. Purple and yellow
were their symbolic colors.

The museum then cut up the 36 stars and gave each to volunteers to make a 12" block. Here are a few of the results.

Sorry I don't have the block-makers' names.

Pamela made a block. Here's her post:

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Catch the Encyclopedia Discount


You've only got a day or two to buy the Third Edition of my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns at a 30% discount price of $41.97. After November 24 the discount expires and it will cost you $59.95.

Click here:
The new BlockBase will be out in 2021

And if  you order the book at the discount you'll also get a 40% discount off the companion BlockBase computer program next year when it is finished.

To encourage you to BUY NOW! I am doing a shameless promotional post here.

Watch a video I made on the History of the Encyclopedia:

What if you gave every quilt block a number?

A post on How to Find a Block by Jenny who did a lot of the digital block drawing:

Elizabeth had a Give-Away (The contest is over now) but there will be many
more Give-Aways!

And as my dear friend ModaLissa says: "Merry Christmas to me!"

And just as I finished writing this I hear from EQ that the books arrived from the printer on Friday and they'll be shipping them soon. And they are ordering a second printing!

UPDATE---Mine arrived on Saturday---overnight express. Festive packaging. Thanks, EQ!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Backwards Flag?

The Lanford Album Quilt
Cargo Collection, Birmingham Museum of Art
Circa 1900?

Every time I post a picture of a patchwork flag I hear from those wondering if the maker ( block inscribed O.W.W.S. here) had reversed her flag to show distress. Another concern is that my picture is backwards, which it is not---O.W.W.S. wrote her S the correct direction.

1900 perhaps?
The field on the flag is on the right, an image found quite often in antique quilts.

From a quilt sold in an online auction from Massachusetts.

Silk flag in a crazy quilt about 1890

Many times the starry square is on the left as in this 1864 block in an album by
Mary Nevius Potter of New Jersey.

Crazy quilts often had small silk flags tacked down and embroidered.
If they were identical on the back and front you might tack them down either direction.

Quilt attributed to Martha Meeker, Connecticut

Directionality seems rather arbitrary. Quiltmakers showed the flag as viewed
from both sides.

Before the 1910s there was no "backwards."

So why do we think it's backwards?

My guess is a movement about 100 years ago to make "Flag Etiquette" into law. The American Legion, a new group of veterans of the European war, advocated many rules. The above advice for proper display is from one of their magazines in 1922.
 On the list of "Don'ts" in that article they tell us:
"Don't sew the flag onto a sofa pillow."


I collected these patriotic pillow covers for years and let me
tell you a lot of stitchers and commercial companies ignored that rule.

Library of Congress
The American Legion Women's Auxiliary was founded in 1919.
These groups emphasized teaching flag etiquette in schools.

Rules from an Oklahoma teachers' periodical in the early 1920s.
"The flag must not be used in whole or in part as a costume...."


Another rule people were only too glad to ignore.

"nor may it be used as a toy, fan, parasol, paper napkin or sofa cushion."

The are no penalties for using a flag as a paper napkin or putting it on a pillow.

So who were the arbitrators who wrote so many rules?
The American Legion, still active, tells us:
"On Flag Day, June 14, 1923, The American Legion and representatives of 68 other patriotic, fraternal, civic and military organizations met in Washington, DC for the purpose of drafting a code of flag etiquette. The 77th Congress adopted this codification of rules as public law on June 22, 1942."

Other patriotic organizations supported rules, advocating legislation of flag etiquette. In 1924 the Daughters of 1812 published a pamphlet encouraging laws prohibiting "printing or letters on any kind of Flag."

Political flag of the 1840s

Flag desecration?

Ohio Daughters in the teens

The Daughters of the American Revolution have been handing out Flag Code leaflets at least since the 1920s. During World War I the DAR lobbied to get an "Iowa Flag Law" enacted. One goal was to remove a  floor design depicting the American flag in the state capitol building in Des Moines.

Floor under the rotunda

Apparently they succeeded in 1915 as there is a large glass circle on the floor today (recently replaced) and no memory of any flag today.


More outrage occurred at the Iowa State Fair that year when a quilt with a woven flag design was exhibited.  The state Attorney General's office declared it a violation and shipped the quilt back to the man who made it (a penitentiary inmate---apparently a hopeless recidivist.)

From an album quilt in the Pat Nickols Collection at the Mingei Museum

So why do we think the field on the right is wrong?

I guess it's because those of us raised in the nationalistic post-World War II classroom were eager to follow the rules. And there were people eager to make them up.

Mary Maxtion, Greene County, Alabama
Cargo Collection at the International Quilt Museum