Sunday, September 25, 2022

Pearlie Caddell's Intriguing Quilt


64" x 54"
Here is a bad photo of a small quilt from an old eBay listing. I found
it while looking for Alabama quilts from Worthpoint, a website that collects old
auction photos.

The seller knew something about it, writing that it was a:
"1930 African American Christmas Quilt... from the South Alabama estate of Pearlie Caddell--the only Christmas Quilt I have ever acquired from an African American estate…..12 blocks. The first is "Behold" and their family names embroidered. All embroidery work was done in brown. ….Pearlie married Ludie Caddell they had several children."

We can check each of the facts presented:

1) 1930. Really no way to date this quilt from the photo; the prints aren't too visible, BUT the rather limited colors (gray, brown, red and wine-red on white) are not the more vibrant colors seen in typical 1930s quilts. Could it be earlier? Or later?

2) African-American. Pearlie Wilson Caddell was indeed African-American. See her biographical information below.

3) Christmas quilt.---I'm not buying that. Biblical quilt might be a better term as it includes what looks to be a crucifixion scene.
Anyone interested in quilt history might be struck by the resemblance of one block to a block in the  Harriet Powers quilt in the Smithsonian. Georgian Powers exhibited her pictorial quilts at fairs, this one as early as 1886. Might Caddell have seen it?

4) Maker Pearlie Caddell. There are many Pearl Caddells in Alabama genealogy but here's one married to Ludie: 

The 1930 census recorded Ludie Caddles (?), a 32-year-old Black farmer living in Hale County with wife Pearl. In 1930 they had 2 sons and 3 daughters from 10-years-old down to 1. Pearl was 33, born about 1897 in Alabama. Ola Belle listed as 10 here was actually born in 1903 according to her wedding record in 1936 when she was 19, so the numbers are suspect. Ola's mother was listed as Pearl Wilson Caddell on that marriage record from Family Search. Ludie Jr.'s Social Security Death Index record indicates he lived from 1921 to 1965, indicating that his age of 9 here was accurate.

Hale County highlighted here. 
Georgia to the east.

They likely lived near Havana, Alabama in Hale County between Tuscaloosa---about 30 miles north--- and 60 miles north of Boykin, what's called Gees Bend today---famous in terms of 20th-century quilts.

 Harriet Powers quilt, 1880s
National Museum of American History

Pearlie Wilson Caddell was of a younger generation than Harriet Powers (1837-1910). The Powers quilt shown, one of her two surviving Biblical quilts, dates from before Pearlie's birth.

Text for the listing indicates the seller had bought several quilts from Pearlie's estate but I couldn't find any others.

The listing:


A curious coincidence?

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