Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Silk Eagle Quilt #1: To London?


In 1927 an artist depicted a Kentucky quilt sent to London's 1851
 Crystal Palace Exposition. The artist did not know much about quilts---
patchwork of simple rectangles did not get invited to international fairs.

Five quilts appear to have been sent to represent the United States in London's Exposition, four from Kentucky. One honoree was Ellen Clay Anderson (1828-1902) who'd been winning local prizes with a silk Henry Clay quilt honoring her great-uncle the Kentucky politician. 

Hers is typical of Kentucky's high-style quilts at the time. Kentuckians made elegant silk mosaic designs with a good deal of embroidery. Prizes for silk quilts at the county and state fairs were extravagant and standards were high. Calico quilts seem to have been too common to merit much comment in Kentucky fair accounts.

The center hexagons are cut from campaign ribbons.
Unfortunately Ellen's quilt has disintegrated over the
years but fragments are in the collection of the
Henry Clay home, Ashland.

See more about the Clay quilt here: 

Collection of Historic New England

New Yorker Theresa Baldwin Hollander also displayed a small abolitionist quilt she'd commissioned but hers was a commercial display promoting her clothing business (and her antislavery sympathies.)

The Great Exhibition of 1851 on cloth

The other three quilts were made by one Kentuckian. Ann Mary Crittenden Coleman had been cleaning up in premiums at Bourbon County fairs for several years.

"Mrs. Coleman has been very successful....Now she
has got the first again. It's about time for her to stop and give
others a chance."

It did not hurt, I would imagine, that Ann Mary's father John J. Crittenden was Governor of Kentucky at the time. But her quilts must have been impressive. Unlike the two quilts above we have no surviving examples credited to her.

One was a silk quilt with an eagle framed in borders in which
there were "the insignia of the Republic," patriotic symbols.
Other borders featured fruits, animals and beautiful flowers.

See a post about Ann Mary's Civil War here:

We know a lot about her due to her social position.

But perhaps one quilt does survive....

An eagle in the center

Could this be her lauded masterpiece?

More eagles in an outer border

Fruits in the corners

Charlene Bongiorno Stephens took this photo.

Floral corner with a red fringe. Notice the red tassels rather out of place. They
may once have hung off the corners but were detached
and resituated, perhaps to protect them.

This certainly may be Ann Mary Coleman's quilt as it fits the description
closely. The tassels in the corners are quite typical of fancy Kentucky quilt
as are the borders of mosaic silk patchwork.

A few other Kentucky silk quilts with similar design characteristics.

Kentucky Historical Society
Attributed to Mary Elgin Stewart

Winterthur Museum
Attributed to Elizabeth Walker Stone

Kentucky Project & the Quilt Index
Attributed to Mrs Pierce of Maysville

University of Louisville
Attributed to Emma & Mary Warren of Louisville

Kentucky Historical Society
Attributed to Eliza Hoskins Farris of Garrard County

Kentuckians enthusiastically adapted the crazy quilt fashion in the 1880s, continuing to finish edges with tassels and cording and doing a world-class job in embroidery.

More about the eagle quilt this week.

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