Years ago when Merikay Waldvogel and I drove through Kentucky looking for information on the Kentucky winner of the 1933 World's Fair quilt prize we were struck by how the older ladies bragged on Kentucky quilts. Kentuckians seemed to have the reputation for America's best quilts.
I thought I'd revisit that idea after I noticed this reprint of an 1881 Missouri fair account.
"Articles exhibited by the ladies [at the Buchanan County Fair] ...would reflect credit upon the best fairs in Kentucky."
That confirmed an idea our mentor Cuesta Benberry used to expound upon. Kentucky Fairs were the most competitive arena in quilts and Kentucky quiltmakers would enter and win fairs all over the country. You did not want to find them competing with you in Missouri, Indiana or Tennessee.
With all the current internet access to newspapers and genealogy I have identified a few women I wouldn't want to see coming at the AQS show in Paducah (which my friends and I are going to win hands down in the group quilts category whenever it's held again).
I'm going to focus over the next few days on the years 1885-1900.
Let's see if we can identify some of the talented competitors in Kentucky at the end of the 19th century. Those years were the heyday of the embroidered silk quilt, with American mills selling scraps of their relatively inexpensive silks cheap.
"Lydia Pearl Finnell was born March 3, 1867, to William and Sarah Irvine Finnell in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. At the age of three, she was sent to live with her Aunt Lize (Eliza Finnell Terhune) and Uncle Boley (William Terhune). They taught her the social graces as well as housekeeping skills, cooking, animal husbandry, and some rudimentary doctoring skills. At the age of 14 or 15 she attended Daughters College in Harrodsburg, where she received an excellent education for the time. This included plain and fancy needlework and the fine arts of canvas and china painting. Lydia married Bushrod Allin (1871-1942) of Harrodsburg on November 8, 1899."
Her husband's obituary spells her name as Lyde, as does her tombstone. She was born and lived in Harrodsburg, a town in the Blue Grass region. Father Bush Allin was a successful politician and lawyer and the Terhunes must have been well-to-do also if they could afford to send her to Daughters College.