Thursday, November 17, 2022

Pennsylvania or Maryland: A Mathematical Star


I saved these pictures from a 2015 auction and looked
at them again recently because I was interested in names for this
very popular design.

This one with a double scallop border and corners of conventional
applique looked Maryland style. They did quite a few variations
on that appliqued strip border.

Similar border from a Baltimore album in the
collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
You cut a strip, slash it and turn the edges under
into curves as you stitch it down.

But the quilt in question was sold at a New Jersey auction
and it had a note on the back from the quiltmaker's daughter 
who lived in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

The note indicated that Dr. Kate W. Leatherman of Greensburg
had exhibited it at a show, mentioning that it was made by her
mother in 1854. (The date sounded reliable.)
 But best of all she  called it a Mathematical Star.

Published names for the star

The popular design has a variety of names,
some generated to sell patterns, but others
appear to be traditional names in the vernacular.

Mathematical Star is one of the traditional names, found in Maryland fair records.

In 1880 industrious little Clara Day entered a
"mathematical star quilt" in a Maryland fair.

A 1950 sale ad in Frederick County shows the
persistence of the name in Maryland.

A Mathematical Star in Pennsylvania? Western Pennsylvania? Greensburg is southeast of Pittsburgh. Interesting, hmmm. With all the internet genealogy available now I could find out more about Dr. Kate W. Leatherman who neglected to give her mother's name.

Kate Wissler Leatherman and her husband had a medical practice in Greensburg. Father Henry W. Wissler (ca 1833-1889) was a native Pennsylvanian, a minister in the German Reformed religion. His wife was Cornelia Amanda Everhart Wissler (1836-1921) who died in Thurmont, Maryland, a town between Taneytown and Hagerstown in Frederick County, about 10 miles from the Pennsylvania line.

The 1880 census tells us that the Wisslers were living in Frederick County, Maryland with their 5 children born in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, evidence of Henry's frequent repostings. But Cornelia herself was born in Carroll County, Maryland of Maryland parents and that is the likely reason her "Mathematical Star" quilt with it's scalloped borders looks like she learned quilting style in Maryland.

Apples Church

The family came back to Maryland where Henry served at the Apples Church in Thurmont from 1875-1880.
A mystery solved. But the plot thickens. Cornelia Everhart Wissler made at least one other quilt.

In the collection of the DAR Museum in Washington DC and shown
in their exhibit Eye on Elegance.

See the sampler here at the Quilt Index:
And better photos at the Eye on Elegance website:

Dr. Kate Wissler Leatherman (1861-1950) donated the quilt and she must have told the museum that she'd quilted the 1857 top in 1907. The notes also give Cornelia's first name as Carmelia, but later DAR volunteer genealogists corrected that.

A few family members are buried in Thurmont.

The mystery now is how many other quilts did Cornelia Everhart Wissler have a hand in?

These two from the 1850s would seem to indicate
a practiced needleworker.

More biography of Cornelia who lost two of her seven children.

From an Everhart family history

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely Mathematical Star quilt!
    Have you ever thought of doing a post on how you do the ancestry research related to quilts you show? I'm not asking for all your secrets, but some starting points would be wonderful.