Friday, April 9, 2021

Cut-Throat Competition in Kentucky #4: Embroidery Teachers?


Here's a masterpiece quilt from Julie Silber Quilts.
She sold it awhile ago; found it in California.
Silk template patchwork bordered with skilled floral embroidery.

She has no information about the maker or the region but me being a Know-It-All guesses it's a Kentucky quilt. As we have seen over
the past few days there is a certain style....

Elizabeth Helm Walker Stone, Madison County, Kentucky
 Winterthur Collection

Winterthur 2008.0023

The style appears about 1850, the year Elizabeth dated this quilt...

One eye-catching characteristic is the elaborate floral embroidery, usually done on a black
silk background.

Collection of the D.A.R. Museum

Style continues into the last years of the century as
in this one dated 1876 by Arkansas Katherine Shely Fretzlen (Fritzlen).

Katherine lived in Nicholasville, Jefferson    Jessamine County, Kentucky

Kentucky style persisted in the silk Crazy Quilt years 1880-1900,
adapted to the national fad.

Crazy quilt by Leviann (Levina/Levian) Gist Webb (1831-1899)
New Castle, Henry County, Kentucky
Collection of the Filson Historical Society

Unknown maker, two sided Crazy quilt with corded edge & tassels,
looks Kentucky.

International Quilt Museum
from the James Collection, perhaps Indiana
(across the Ohio River from Kentucky)

The difference between these crazies and most is the use of large areas of
filled embroidery rather than the outline embroidery  
usually a crazy style characteristic.

Far more typical outline embroidery in the animals here.
Crazy quilts featured new embroidery fashions---
outline and linear, seam-covering patterns.
Less work, less skill.

Collection of the Smithsonian

Lida Finnel Allin's embroidery is old fashioned.
See more at this post:

I began wondering about this style when I noticed a few similar quilts in 

Mary Ann Hall Fletcher, Missouri project

Hockaday Smithsonian collection

Did these Missourians with Kentucky roots go
to school in Kentucky and learn some ornamental needlework?

Another Tumbling Blocks, this one in the collection
of the Brooklyn Museum. Attributed to a woman with
the wonderful name of Victoria Regina Royall Broadhead,
who was a Missourian.

Unusual embroidery but typical cording and tassels.

I have guessed that the common thread in these exceptional quilts is a needlework teacher with high standards, good teaching methods and pleasing patterns. Some of the needlewomen (competitors and otherwise) mentioned in the past few days were proud of their attendance at local female academies, mentioned in biographies and obituaries, where they would have learned ornamental arts and fine sewing.

1843 sheet music
The Nazareth Academy, run by the Sister of Charity
in Bardstown, had quite a reputation.
I hoped I might find one common school but there were dozens and in fact Kentucky & Tennessee are reported to have boasted the most female seminaries of any of the states mid-19th-century. Kentucky also claims the oldest female institution (Paris, 1806.) As with any “first” that account is dubious. However, claims like that reflect the state's pride in the schools.

Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio from Cincinnati
had 10,000 people in 1850.

Discussing the many Catholic academies a 19th-century Kentucky historian described female schools "in which young ladies are taught not only the elements of English education, but also the varied accomplishments which fit them for the most refined society."
With female seminaries common in small towns like Harrodsburg and Bardstown competition for students may have been fierce and the needlework teacher(s) bragged upon---but no names come up.

Harrodsburg Female Academy, Mercer County
The town had about 2,500 people in 1850 and at least two female schools.

1861 advertisement

A couple of the competitive embroiderers attended
Daughters College in Harrodsburg.
It seems more likely that it was the system of girls’ boarding schools that encouraged the style, rather than one individual school or teacher. This is the work that defined a sophisticated Kentucky school girl (even if she came from Missouri) and the elaborate silk template quilt seems to have been a standard there while Kentuckians ignored the national fad for appliqued or pieced cotton album quilts in the 1840-1860 period--- style in short supply in Kentucky.

 Funk Seminary School
Oldham County Historical Society
LaGrange in Oldham County near Louisville
had about 7,000 people in 1890 when this photo was taken

Unknown source with corded edge & tassels, must be Kentucky---
could be Missouri.

Louise Tiemann thinks that's Oscar Wilde
in his velvet suit there. (She's the Oscar expert.)

There definitely seems to be a Kentucky style of embroidery that extended into the crazy quilt era.

Even when the quilt is found in another state
like this one from the Florida project...

Made, the family said, by Sallie Pinnick of
Columbia, Kentucky

That would be Sallie Murrel Garnett Penick (1866-1955)
She married in Kentucky in 1887, perhaps the occasion for all that embroidery.

And that's it on Kentucky embroidery. (For now.) 

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