Thursday, September 21, 2023

Another Ohio Garden of Eden Quilt


Sylvia's grapes
And one more connection for a last post this week.

See previous blogposts about Sylvia Queen's quilts and other Garden of Eden quilts:

Those tightly stuffed grapes, likely of wool or mixed wool fabric, in Sylvia Queen's quilt in the Johnson County Museum reminded me of something I'd seen.

And then in the middle of the night (of course) I sat up and said
Olive Bachelor Wells, Spencer Museum.

The grape vine border---the Garden of Eden theme.
And Olive Bachelor Wells lived in Ohio, just a few miles from Sylvia Queen.

Olive Wells's Adam & Eve are "stump work," three-dimensional
 figures stitched to the surface.

As I recall the late Jean Mitchell came across this quilt in Kansas City and suggested that the owner, "the maker's great-grandson's wife," donate it to the Spencer, which she generously did in 1978.

The unusual dark background fabric was intriguing
and that is another design characteristic this Garden of Eden
shares with the Sylvia Queen quilt.

Jean and I spent some enjoyable time examining the Spencer donation. We communicated with Quilt Historian Ricky Clark of Ohio who was analyzing the Ohio Project's findings in Quilts in Community: Ohio's Traditions, published in 1991. 

Rhoda Wells Warner, Painesville Ohio.
 Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society
Each star represents a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Ricky had noted the Wells Garden of Eden's similarities to a patriotic-themed extravaganza by Rhoda Warner, summarized below by Aimee E. Newell in a footnote in her book A Stitch in Time.

Fading purple stuffed grapes in Rhoda Warner's quilt

These women all lived up by Lake Erie in eastern Ohio in Geauga and Lake Counties in the 1850s, within thirty miles of each other. Similarities in their quilts give us a glimpse of the influence of fair prizes, sharing of techniques and perhaps some professional quiltmakers. 

And a glimpse is all we have.
And that's the last post on the Garden of Eden quilts and the elusive Sylvia Warner Quinn (Queen.)

Rhoda Wells Warner's husband's grave:

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

More Garden of Eden Quilts


We've been posting about Sylvia Queen and her Garden of Eden quilts.



19th-century embroidered sampler
The theme is a popular religious image in the vernacular arts. 

Concrete Garden of Eden, Lucas, Kanas
S.P. Dinsmoor, early-20th-century

...Including quilts in a wide variety of imagery

Josephine Miller Adkins, collection of the 
DAR Museum, dated 1874, Maryland

But similarities in one group of quilts related to Sylvia Queen's pair raise many questions about patterns being passed around.

The Minnesota Historical Society attributes this quilt to Mary Worthington Walker Foster (1809-1907), born in Belchertown, Massachusetts. The caption implies Mary Walker may have sewn it in Massachusetts before her marriage, but this quilt that looks to date from the 1850s was probably made after Mary and her husband moved west, first to Wisconsin in 1846, then to Ohio and Illinois.

Do notice that Mary Foster's maiden name is Walker. Was she related to Sylvia Queen, who used the name Sylvia Walker before her marriage in Geauga County, Ohio to William Quinn?

Mary Walker Foster's son Addison Walker was a U.S. Senator from Washington state so we learn a little more about his mother. When he was a schoolboy about 1850 they lived in Geauga County, Ohio. (!)


Surely, the Great Geauga County Fair had something to do with
this mystery.

One more Ohio connection tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Who is Sylvia?


Johnson County Museum
Detail of Sylvia Queen's Garden of Eden quilt

Sylvia Queen is credited with creating an unusual floral applique
quilt. She also seems to have created herself.

See posts about her Garden of Eden quilts here:

The earliest record I've been able to find of "Sylvia Queen" is the 1880 census in LaPorte County, Indiana, in the town of Kankakee up by Lake Michigan about 20 miles west of South Bend. She is living alone at age 77, a "housekeeper," the standard occupation for women in the censuses of the time (employed or keeping house for herself?) She told the census taker she was born about 1803 in Connecticut of Connecticut born-parents.

Connecticut with her early 19th-century Puritan naming practices was home to more Prudences and Patiences than Sylvias, but her literate parents may have been influenced by Shakespeare's character in Two Gentlemen of Verona: "Who is Sylvia? What Is She, That All the Swains Commend Her?"

Soon after being counted in Indiana Sylvia moved to Olathe, Kansas near Kansas City, Missouri. She may have had relatives there, although finding her Kansas family is difficult as they are step relatives. The Marvin family is mentioned in her obituary when she died in 1896 a few days short of her 93rd birthday.

Sylvia also had relatives in the Edwin & Susan Sanford family who lived with her on Olathe's Lula (Loula) Street. Susan M. Hattery Sanford (1848-1945) was likely her step-grand-daughter. Susan and Edwin were from the community of Troy, Ohio in Geauga County, where Sylvia lived when her quilt made the newspapers in 1860.

Olathe about the time Sylvia lived there from 1881 until 1896
Sylvia seems to have made many friends in Kansas who celebrated her birthdays
with gifts & flowers. Sylvia, a poet, entertained them with her verses.

Sylvia had married Susan's grandfather William Quinn (1786-1862) in the late 1840s after the death of his first wife by whom he had several children. Susan, born about that time, seems to have seen her grandfather's new wife as important enough in her life that she was the one who cared for Sylvia in her old age.

Before her marriage Sylvia Walker paid taxes on her cow and sheep in Parkman, Geauga County in the late 1840s.
Parkman, Ohio in the 1880s

Records from Family Search

William Quinn, born in Ireland, was a farmer in Geauga County, Ohio after having owned a rope manufactory for a while. His biography in the county history book mentions his marriage to Mrs. S.S. Walker. After marrying William she became Mrs. S. S. Quinn, a name that evolved into Sylvia S. Queen. William died at the age of 76 during the early years of the Civil War. Sylvia Queen moved west to Indiana.

Detail from the quilt in the Johnson County Museum
in Overland Park, Kansas

Only his first wife is mentioned at William's findagrave site.

Sylvia's Midwest
Sylvia's move when widowed may have been because her only(?) child
Faber M. Walker (1829-1916) lived in Benton Harbor, 
Michigan, about 40 miles north of Kankakee.

Faber Walker was born in 1829 when Sylvia was about 26, married (perhaps) to Ephram Walker (1795-?) 

Ephram or Ephraim, a brickmaker in Livingston County, New York. The same guy?

In New York's 1855 census Ephram was married to a Mary Ann Walker, about 12 years younger than Sylvia. Their eldest was daughter Augusta,19, indicating they'd been together since about 1835, when Faber was six years old. Sylvia may have been married twice, first to Ephram Walker of New York---a marriage that ended in divorce in the early 1830s, then to William Quinn of Ohio. Faber looks like her only biological son.

Detail from the Smithsonian's quilt attributed to Sylvia Queen

Sylvia also had a niece Laura Marvin Hildreth (1836-1901) who remained in New York. Olathe society notes tell us that Laura Hildreth came to visit her aunt in the 1890s. Laura's family home was Gloversville, New York in Fulton County.

We've sketched out Sylvia's peripatetic life and name changes. She is rather elusive, as perhaps she hoped to be. Tomorrow we'll look at more Garden of Eden quilts.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Sylvia Queen's Second Quilt


Yesterday we looked at Sylvia Queen's Garden of Eden quilt in the Johnson County Museum in Overland Park, Kansas and a reference to that quilt at an Ohio fair in 1860.
Barbara Brackman's MATERIAL CULTURE: Sylvia Queen and the Garden of Eden Quilt

But the quilt described may not be that quilt in the Kansas museum because Sylvia is credited with a similar quilt in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.

Doris Bowman, long-time textile curator there (since 1959!) attributed this quilt to Sylvia Queen in her 1991 catalog of the collection The Smithsonian Treasury: American Quilts.

The similarities between the two quilts are remarkable. Here we
have Eve in a silk dress---an undergarment?--- before the fall.

Stuffed grapes and scalloped binding. Identical quilting.

Centers differ but the four vignettes of the Biblical tale are similar, although the Smithsonian's are depicted in larger size inside the border.

Adam is shown in typical mid-19th century silhouette in both,
notably looking as if he might be African-American. Did Sylvia want
to imply that Black & white races were descended from the Garden's inhabitants?

How Doris Bowman linked the two quilts is unknown but linked they are.

The Smithsonian's quilt has a more conventional white cotton background.

The Smithsonian's example was donated by Dorothy Carter Diffey Bledsoe (1899-1987) who was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas but spent much of her life as a newspaper writer and bureaucrat's wife in Washington D.C. She must have inherited the quilt. The attribution indicates that her grandmother Laura Doty Diffey (1852-1924), born in Ohio, was lucky enough to find it at a church bazaar in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1900. Is it signed or labeled with Queen's name in some fashion?

Details are similar or identical but the overall design differs in the pair.
The quilt found in Arkansas has a center featuring what we might call a solar system.
(Laura may have actually found that quilt in Ohio...we shall look at that point as we add more posts.)

The Kansas quilt has four florals, reworked in the Smithsonian's as subsidiary patterns.

"Who is Silvia? What is she?" asked Shakespeare.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Sylvia Queen and the Garden of Eden Quilt


We are not often lucky enough to find a link between a quilt in a museum collection today and a newspaper article describing it 160 years ago, but here we have a quilt reliably attributed to Sylvia Queen (1803-1896) in the Johnson County Museum in Overland Park, Kansas and a notice in an Ohio newspaper in 1860 describing what appears to be the same quilt:

“A very beautiful quilt, called ‘Garden of Eden’ ” by Sylvia L. Queen of Chagrin Falls in Geauga County, Ohio, up by Lake Erie not far from Cleveland.

 It was raining so hard in Burton, Ohio that Sylvia could not officially enter the quilt in the county fair but the newspaper reporter and the fair board decided to give her a diploma anyway.

And she deserved it. I recently got to see Sylvia’s quilt. It’s a four-block floral applique with four vignettes in the border telling us the Biblical tale of the Garden of Eden, in which Adam & Eve live in Paradise but an evil snake comes along to seduce them into eating the forbidden apple of knowledge and they are expelled from the garden. Our ladder was not tall enough to get the whole quilt in the photo.

The Biblical tale in the borders.

Adam & Eve leaving the garden for the toil and troubles we’ve all been cursed to inherit, according to Christian tradition. You know the story. Sylvia’s figures are quite unusual. Here they are newly clothed in shame with aprons over their private parts. Adam is a dark silhouette somewhat naked but seems to be wearing socks. Eve---no revealing female silhouette here---she’s wearing a white silk dress, a shift or undergarment indicating her nudity.

The pair have distinctive personal features. Adam is definitely diabolical looking with his purple face---two-faced? Who is the devil here? Adam or the snake??? (Sylvia, a single woman in her late fifties at the time had been married at least twice.)

Eve looks to be wearing the conventional ladies’ cap 
with a tight bun as a hairdo.

A few years ago textile conservator Harold Mailand spent a good deal of time stabilizing and restoring this quilt, adding silk over Eve’s shattered garment here, cleaning the piece and adding undamaged fabric over some of the cotton, wool, and linen details. He did a beautiful job.

The background is a reddish/yellowish tan, hard to capture in a photo in the workroom light, one reason the photos shift from pink to gold. Some fabrics like the grapes appear to be wool; the background---linen??? If so we have all four primary natural fabrics of the era here.

The grapes are an important part of the border, but grapes are not the "forbidden fruit," which is the apple. The many apples in the border are no longer red. Were they wool fabric that did not hold its color? We guessed the scalloped binding was once red too.

Did the red dye in the apples and edging bleed into the entire piece, coloring it that rather unusual pinkish/yellowish tan? Red wools were not meant to be washed…. But linen does not take color easily. Did she choose a tan linen as background? Many mysteries. 

Tomorrow and a few more posts: Sylvia Queen and a second quilt attributed to her.