Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Quilt Exhibit Johnson County Museum


Flying Geese quilt made by Louisa Ellin Milligan Rennick
in Lexington, Kentucky, about 1860

The Johnson County Museum in the Kansas City area has an exhibit
of eleven quilts up until January 2021. Each tells a story about families
who lived there in the past.

Today Johnson County is an affluent Kansas City, Missouri suburb (in Kansas)  and it's hard to see its rural past but the quilts and their stories remind us of the farms and small towns under the
housing developments.

Quilt made for Mary Barkley Harkey in 1894
by her Sunday School class

The Harkeys came to Johnson County after the Civil War

The oldest quilt in the exhibit is probably this North
Carolina Lily by Julia Ann Smith Douglas, born in Virginia in
1829. She married in 1856 and the quilt was probably made
before that. 

Julia Ann Smith Douglas (1829-1904)

The Douglases brought the quilt to Iowa where a son was born
and then to Kansas where they prospered as farmers.

Several of the later quilts were made in Johnson County 

Goose in the Pond by Mildred Bigelow of Gardner, 1900-1920

A favorite is Estella Smith Graves's political cartoon quilt from
the 1932 Presidential election. See a post about it here

Estella Bell Graves-Smith (1871-1963), Olathe, Kansas
As you can see the installation and labels are elaborate,
very impressive.

This friendship quilt from the Rudy/Macklin families
has an intriguing story and a date embroidered on it.

Jennie H. Mitchell

Now in 1843 the land was home to the Shawnee and a few smaller tribes. Missionaries were permitted to live there and these Anglo-Americans might have made quilts, but I'm a skeptic.

The quilt is worn and the fabric is hard to see but it looks
like Turkey red, wearing in the way Turkey red often does.
How old are the Turkey reds (1840-1930?)

The patchwork pattern could be 1843; in fact it's one of the
popular early friendship quilts blocks. Do notice that the corners
on the Duck's Foot or Bear's Paw are appliqued over a white square,
not pieced in.

But all in all, I am very doubtful the quilt or even most of the
blocks were made in 1843.

The best clue might be the signature style, embroidered Turkey red (or a faded
imitation) stitched in chain stitch.

Very much like the inscription on the 1894 Sunday School quilt.
In 1843 the signers would be more likley to have used one of two popular signature styles

Cross Stitch

or ink

I'd guess the  Rudys, the Macklins and the Mitchells made this quilt
sometime after 1870, signed it and for some reason Jennie Mitchell
put the date 1843 on it---perhaps her birthdate.

It was probably made in Johnson County as many people by those
names lived near Spring Hill.

The show is up until January 23, 2021.
Here's a post at KCUR about it:

The museum's Facebook page:

Quiltmaker Nedra Bonds is going to do an online talk in January. 

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