Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Rosina Valette's Quilt Block


An elaborate cut-out chintz block about 9 inches square in an album quilt inscribed 1843.

See the whole quilt in Stella Rubin's shop:
156 blocks!



Beautiful fabric, handwork and inking combine to make a gift of friendship from Rosina A Vallette (1808-1889). Miss Rosina Adelaide Vallette was about 35 when this block was made. Rosina's paper trail is a little vague but she seems to have been the daughter of a well-to-do naval family.

Elie Vallette and Elizabeth Brogden by Charles Wilson Peale, 1774
Apparently Rosina's grandfather refused to pay Peale for the portrait, a dispute that
wound up in the newspapers. The older boy here is probably Rosina's father,
another Elie.

Her father Elie Vallette was born in Maryland in 1768, her mother Ruth Nice Vallette (1781-1843)  of Trenton, New Jersey was U.S. Navy chaplain Vallette's second wife. 

Rear Admiral Elie La Vallette (1790-1862) in 1841,
born in Virginia. He changed his surname's spelling about 1830.

Rosina's half-brother Elie Augustus La Vallette was an important Admiral in the Navy, commander of the U.S.S. Constitution. Vallettes were living in Philadelphia in 1843 and Rosina may have been living with an aunt or brother Washington Vallette. Her mother died the year of the quilt.

The year after the quilt was made Rosina married, which makes one wonder if there was any connection between the quilt and her wedding. Records indicate she married Samuel B. Hood (1808-1885) on March 28, 1844 in a Philadelphia Quaker Meeting. (The Naval link makes this Quaker connection odd.)

Rosina was about 36; Samuel was 54; he'd been married before and had several children. What interests me is that Rosina's new husband was in the fabric business, something I often find when tracing quiltmakers of some skill.

1867 bill from Hood, Bonbright & Company,
eventually sold to Wanamaker

In his early 30s Samuel had established a wholesale dry goods business as Hood & Company, which prospered and evolved into Hood, Bonbright & Company after Samuel retired in 1857 and turned it over to son Thomas. Their "magnificent store front looms up from the north side of Market Street, above Eighth," according to Samuel's 1878 obituary.

Library Company of Philadelphia

Rosina outlived Samuel by over ten years but did their marriage fall apart? Her 1889 obituary tells us she was "wife of the late Samuel B. Hood" but this is not the kind of press a woman associated with the Dry Goods Hoods would merit. We also learn she was buried at Philadelphia's society Laurel Hill Cemetery but finding her grave has been a futile search.


Samuel's grave there looks appropriate for his business success and two wives are listed, neither of them Rosina. Perhaps she was married to a different Samuel B. Hood. Or perhaps without any children of her own her stepchildren preferred to forget her.

We return to Rosina's block, applique skillfully secured in what looks to be a blind or applique stitch over chintz images carefully trimmed from various fabrics. The edges might be raw but they look to have been turned under.

In 1843, the year the quilt is dated, the fashion for such high-style album quilts was rather novel.
Blocks in similar quilts date as early as 1841 but 1843 seems to be the year when "everyone" in the Delaware Valley in Philadelphia and New Jersey was making them. And when you consider the quilt has 156 nine-inch blocks, it seems everyone was making a block.

Trying to understand the context of the time, I wonder how one got 156 friends up to speed on a difficult needlework technique.

It makes much more sense to consider these blocks as a commercial
endeavor, stitched by professional seamstresses in workshops and
sold to men and women who probably could also pay extra for a professional looking

More circumstantial evidence of a workshop is in the fabrics used in Rosina's block.
The floral container, a footed metal bowl, is cut from a chintz quite often used in these quilts.

The same silver urn is the center focus of a similar quilt
dedicated to Sarah V. C. Quick in 1844. On the left the chintz repeat from which it was cut.
Probably an English print.

Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum

And in the center of the 1844 Boardman Presentation Quilt by 
Ladies of Philadelphia's Third Presbyterian Church

Quilt dated 1844, Anna E.W. Sterling, Trenton, New Jersey
from Nancy & Donald Roan's book Lest I Shall Be Forgotten.
Yardage with the footed urn must have been in demand.

And as we can see in Rosina's block there wasn't enough of
it to go around.

Carolyn Ducey noted in her dissertation on these chintz quilts
that fragments of the metal urn are seen.

In the 1843 quilt Rosina's isn't the only
block with a partial vase. These two use the top with the handles

Initials are printed on the vase, perhaps the designer's.

Top of the vase used in a better photo of a block in the album with Rosina's block.

This frugal and clever use of fabric does not speak of individual amateurs making little masterpieces
for a friend's project but more of a workshop diving into the cabbage basket of the smallest scraps to supply the fad. Did the workshop buy the vase fabric wholesale?

See more about the vase/urn fabric at a post here.

1 comment:

  1. The dry goods store went bankrupt, so perhaps that influenced wanting to be associated with it in Rosina's obit. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-philadelphia-inquirer-brief-history/45312787/?cj_pub_cid=5250933&cj_pub_name=Microsoft+Shopping+%28Bing+Rebates%2C+Coupons%2C+etc.%29&cj_pub_site_id=100357191&cj_link_id=11456162&cj_pub_sid=oc5A05L8E_cFrofF6SHThA-244Qja-5AURTPuJ_t6I7tjjjWA3FZrTaeSrkUcmfk&cjevent=c14116b9d80511ee826680300a1cb827