Friday, January 26, 2024

Hannah Callender Samson: Her Diary & Her Friends


A colonial couple

We are revisiting the long-ago marriage of Samuel Sansom, Jr. and Hannah Callendar Sansom,
a well-to-do Quaker couple who wed in 1762.

We really cannot know much about the relationship except for Hannah's diary entries. See the last post for her pleasant-enough references to her husband over the years.

Hannah was not alone in her group of friends in keeping a diary. Close friend Betsy (Betsey) Sandwith also wrote a journal that survives as The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, lengthy enough to require three volumes. Hannah's and Betsy's diaries tell us much about how well-to-do Quaker women, born in the 1730s, spent their time together in colonial Philadelphia.

Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker (1735-1807) & Henry Drinker (1733-1809)

Quakers, disdaining vanity, did not have their portraits painted in Hannah and 
Betsy's time but silhouettes were permitted. Hannah's son
 Joseph Sansom became a silhouette artist.

Hannah Callender Sansom (1737-1801)
Joseph's late-18th-century portrait of his mother
is in the collection of the American Philosophical Society.

We can read Betsy Sandwith Drinker's diary for references to Hannah and her husband throughout their lives but find nothing revealing---except that there is nothing revealing.

(Illustration depicting late-18th-century fictional characters.)

The young women spent their days doing fancy needlework, alone and together, calling on
neighborhood friends and accepting calls for tea and meals from men and women in their circle.

Independence Hall Collection
Detail of the whole-cloth silk quilt Hannah and her cousins stitched,
perhaps for her wedding.

One can identify members of their large social group. Mutual friends of Hannah's and Betsy's included Betsy Moode, the Rawle sisters and brother Francis Rawle, all often mentioned. The women walked about during the day and visited "sundry shops" such as the Smiths who sold "wosted" and "cruels" for their embroidery and they dropped off silk yardage at milliners to make them bonnets. 

In the evenings neighborhood men of the same age called--- as Betsy Sandwith liked to write---"chez nous"(French for our house.) Men often mentioned were Henry Drinker, Samuel Sampson, Jr. and Samuel Emlen. 

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Volume of Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker's dairy

Considering the age of the group and parallels through time it is not surprising to find that they used the day's "social media" to share intimate details of their lives, entertaining each other by reading (sometimes aloud to the group) their diaries, although Hannah's and Betsy Sandwith's seem to be the only diaries to survive. In May, 1760 Betsy S. spent the day with the Sansoms and the Callenders and "read part of Samy Sansom's journal, which he lent me."  A few days later she was reading Hannah's.

Several of the group witnessed the Drinker's 1861 wedding,
 including Hannah's father and husband.

Hannah's "blue Taffety" quilt (silk taffeta is a plain weave, crisp fabric)
Close filler quilting in diagonal parallel lines emphasizes
the florals.

In the manner of young adults various couples paired off over time and married, "passing" Quaker meeting as they announced their intentions: Betsy Sandwith and Henry Drinker, Hannah Callender and Samy Sansom and Betsy Moode and Samy Emlen.

Once married, the friends' social life changed dramatically although couples continued to visit occasionally before the Emlens moved to England. Diaries were now filled with worry about childhood diseases and consequences of the 1776 revolution in Betsy Drinker's case. (Hannah left no diary kept during the war.)

Children grew up; prosperous merchants moved to the country and occasionally a second generation visited their parents' old friends.

Reading Elizabeth Drinker's diary over the decades reveals very little about the Sansom marriage other than it was unremarkable and she always seemed glad enough to see the Sansoms. Of course, Betsey was not the type to gossip.

I may remind you these people were 18th-century Quakers and looking at the "transparent" suggestions of their inner feelings with our sensibility is an error.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Hannah Callender Samson: Her Diary & Her Quilt: 2


I finished Hannah Callender Sansom's diary and read the editorial analysis. 
I was quite confused as to some of their assumptions.

The problem may lie in the basic structure of the editing. Klepp and Wulf's title is The Diary of Hannah Callender Sansom: Sense and Sensibility in the Age of the American Revolution. Hannah born in 1737, died in 1801. While she did live through the Revolutionary War there are two issues I see here as far as time and context in reference to the title and to the structure of the analysis.

1) The diary has no entries written during the American Revolution of 1776 to 1783. If Hannah recorded her days during those trying times the pages have not survived. Accounts before the war cover January, 1758 to November, 1774. The journal records an almost 20-year period when she was a contented subject of George III who became King when she was about 23 and then four years after the war as her children grew up. 

2) Sense and Sensibility alludes to Jane Austen's English novel published in 1813 when Hannah had been dead for a dozen years. The novel's sixteen-year-old heroine Marianne Dashwood would have had very little in common with Hannah, a generation or two older and of a different culture in a different country in the 1790s when the novel's events take place.

Reading the diary entries and then the editors' interpretive comments reveals to me an anachronistic disparity between what Hannah wrote and how her sensibilities have been interpreted.

An early Philadelphia Quaker Meeting house

We must begin with her husband Samuel Sansom II, her next-door neighbor in Philadelphia who was a year or two younger. The pair had much in common as well-to-do and apparently pious Quakers. Their fathers were in trade: Retailers, wholesalers and shippers of English goods (and in the Callenders' case enslaved people) with the Sansoms thought to be wealthier family. Samy, as Hannah called him when they were young (she seems to have had many friends named Samuel all nicknamed Samy), grew up to manage a prosperous retail store. 

Sammy Sansom apparently was not
moved to speak at Quaker meetings.

He described himself in his only surviving letter as diffident, averse to speaking in public---perhaps a shy man but one who had no trouble carrying on the family's retail business successfully.

Fashionable Europeans in 1764 with 
an open fronted gown showing a fancy petticoat.

Hannah spent her days before her marriage sewing alone and with family like Caty Smith and friends such as Betsy Moode and Betsy Sandwith, primarily occupied with leisurely fancy work such as embroidering pictures and gift pocketbooks and quilting, but also plain sewing of clothing. 

"Morn: Put in a blue Calimanco quilt for Betsey Lovet." September 1760. Again, probably clothing.

As far as housework --- she recorded a considerable amount of ironing for a wealthy woman with servants. Twice a week, First and Fourth Days in Quaker accounting (Sundays & Wednesdays) she attended Quaker meetings where she often recorded the names of those moved to speak to the congregation. She sometimes went 3 times a day.

Quaker Meeting, detail anonymous painting from 1790

In the evenings she and friends, both men and women, drank tea and talked, read to each other and kept up with neighborhood and city events. In July, 1759, for example, Henry Drinker and Sammy Sansom came over in the evening. Reading between the lines---we don't want to do too much of this---but she seems at first to have been interested in Henry Drinker who eventually married her good friend Elizabeth Sandwith. He may have upset her by telling her of his interest in Betsy one evening that month as the next day she recorded a rare event: "Suffered a great deal from my temper."

A 1797 quilting soiree in Europe

Henry's friend Sammy continued to call. The next month he "supped" with them talking of his intended voyage to England. He seems to have had no trouble with "discourse" at the Callender table. Sammy's English adventure was terminated when the ship sprung a leak at sea. On his safe return he ate "some water melon with us" before she and Caty "run together calico for a bed quilt, which is to be quilted by Caty and I." The women spent a good deal of August working on the bedcovering and Sammy set out again for England with Henry.            

Colonial Williamsburg Collection
Tea at a tilt-top table, mid-century England.

A year later (after a six-month gap in the diary) Sammy was again part of her social life. After attending meeting in August, 1760, "Sammy Sansom came home with me." She was ill that month but Sammy called a few times in a two-week period. They announced their intentions at Meeting (a rather rigorous Quaker prenuptial vetting) and married in the spring, moving to a house they'd been fitting up.

Sammy outlived his wife by over 20 years dying in his 80s in 1824. He never remarried. Hannah's short entries over the years seem to record a pleasant, "agreeable" life together with their four surviving children (a young daughter died after a smallpox inoculation.) Hannah never complained of her husband's meanness (either temperamentally or financially) or any money anxieties. She spent a good deal of social time with his parents noting that with Mrs. Sansom she had two "Mame's" (pronounced Mommy to match her frequent references to her Daddy?) Numerous entries during their marriage read like this:

After a visit to Burlington: "Sammy returned in the evening, all well."

"3 o'clock Sammy returned from Burlington, spent the evening at home very agreably, worked a bunch of stalks in my second Cushin."

"At mames [Callender] running a pair of Stockings, afternoon there again, with Sammy, & we staid the evening."

"Morn Sammy, [daughter] Sally & myself took an airing.

Quakers taking an airing, detail of
a painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If anyone was temperamental it was occasionally Hannah who was sorry enough about this rather rare behavior.

The editors in a short description of their book have this to say:
"While this arranged marriage made financial and social sense, her father's plans failed to consider the emerging goals of sensibility, including free choice and emotional fulfillment in marriage. Hannah Callender Sansom's struggle to become reconciled to an unhappy marriage is related in frank terms both through daily entries and in certain silences in the record."

Open-front skirts of the last half of the 18th-century. Hannah
quilted several fancy petticoats for herself and others.

Arranged? Sammy courted Hannah for years. Her father may have favored the uniting of two mercantile families but if she'd been opposed wouldn't she have discouraged Sammy from calling once she perceived his interest in her? Unhappy----"certain silences in the record." These people were Quakers. It's the 1760s.  Effusive passion was not going to replace: "Spent the evening at home very agreeably."

Her mother hated him? After Hannah's father died in 1763 mother Katherine Smith Callender (1711-1789), who may have disliked Philadelphia if she had strong feelings about anything in her domestic life, moved back to Burlington, New Jersey, the smaller community where she'd been raised and where many relatives remained. 

Schoolgirl map of the Delaware River. Philadelphia is situated where the
 Schuylkill River meets the Delaware on the left.

Sammy seems to have traveled frequently to Burlington, possibly picking up his mother-in-law for Philadelphia visits, delivering Hannah to see her (particularly when her Mame was ill) and perhaps checking on family there. Do remember that women could not travel alone---even in groups---so cooperative men were required to take time to chaperone and ferry them for the sake of appearances.

Burlington's Quaker Meeting House built in 1783
a few years before Hannah's "Mame" Katherine Callender died.

Sammy has been further slandered by interpretation of references in a young Quaker woman's accounts. Anna Rawle (ca. 1757-1828), was the daughter of a friend. As the editors phrase it:
"Sammy apparently had too little to do during the Revolution as well. Early in February, 1781, he began hanging around twenty-three year old Anna Rawle, insisting she meet with him for hours every day in order to learn French....She soon tired of his constant attention, writing to her mother...'I have said a great deal about taking up his time and proposed ....to go seldomer." 
Anna then continued to meet with Sammy and wife Hannah. These "transparent" references have now become so distorted that Mary Ellen Snodgrass in her 2017 book American Colonial Women and Their Art tells us he and Anna had an illicit dalliance.

See Anna Rawle Clifford's diary in the Rebecca Shoemaker Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
One more post tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Hannah Callender Samson: Her Diary & Her Quilt: 1

Center detail of a silk, wholecloth quilt in the collection of the National
 Park Service's Independence Park with a quilted inscription:
“Drawn by Sarah Smith Stitched by Hannah Callender and 
Catherine Smith in Testimony of their Friendship 10 mo. 5* 1761”

This Philadelphia quilt may be the earliest surviving date-inscribed quilt made in what would become the United States. We are fortunate to know quite a bit about Sarah, the quilt marker and her sister Catherine and her first-cousin Hannah who quilted it because Hannah Callender kept a diary that has also survived.

Over forty years ago I pictured it in my book Clues in the Calico and this is about the best picture you are going to see of the entire bedcover, which is quite old and kept in long term storage.

Hannah's published diary pictures a detail on the cover
in a rich blue---the silk may have once been that color
but it is pale now.

Library Company of Philadelphia Collection

Peter Cooper's panorama of the river with building 22 on the center horizon the Bank Meeting, Hannah's Quaker meeting (actually the gray building between the 3-story brick buildings).
The Delaware divided Philadelphia where Hannah and Caty lived about 20 miles south of Burlington, New Jersey where Sally lived. All three cousins were born in Burlington.

Does this detail in the quilt's center picture the Delaware River?
The big house on the left Hannah's & Caty's in the city with ducks; the small one
Sally's in Burlington with its sheep?

Wait a minute! I made that up. It's always hard to resist the temptation.

It's the conventional landscape view seen in the period's needlework, seen 
here in a sampler by Mary Benezet Woods of Philadelphia in 1817. 
She was great-granddaughter of Anthony Benezet,
Hannah's school master who remained a life-long friend.

I tried placing the quilt's center scene to scale in the center of the
 black & white photo. You can see it's a small part of the design.

Photography after 1840 or so is an enormous
help in understanding the world of 150 years ago.

It's fairly easy to read about 19th-century lives and with some practice understand how people lived---the context of the times---the 18th-century is more obscure. Yet, with Hannah's quilt and diary we certainly get a good view of a well-to-do, religious Philadelphia Quaker's life 250 years ago.

Long familiar with Hannah's and her cousins' quilt I sat down to read the diary. Let me tell you, though, how I think you should read it.

I usually do NOT read the editors' prefaces, introductions or analyses until I have read the actual diary. I do not want any suspense spoiled (Don't tell me all three of a diarist's children died of diphtheria in one week---I'd rather find out for myself after having got to know them.)

And more than spoiler alerts:
"No editor can be trusted not to spoil a diary,'' according to British diary authority Arthur Ponsonby in 1923.

I was quite pleased to see how much of her leisure time Hannah spent on needlework, which she often described in some detail. Quilts are mentioned. Most of her quilting, often done with cousin Caty, is probably layering and decorating clothing such as quilted petticoats. 

Colonial Williamsburg
A silk petticoat from a Philadelphia Quaker family, much like Hannah's silk bed quilt
in fabric and design.

The petticoat with undulating florals 

Hannah's bed quilt detail

In April 1772, shortly before Hannah's wedding: 
"Caty and I put a purple sprig calico bed quilt in the frame."
"Quilt" at the time meant clothing. Bed quilts were distinguished by the use of a longer term. This bedcover matched a "suit of curtains."  They were stitching the bedding for a bed in her new home, what we'd call a four poster. The cotton bed quilt was undoubtedly of whole cloth as we have no real evidence of Americans making patchwork at the time. 

Purple bed curtains and bed quilt---a little photomanipulation. 
Spoiler alert---do not tell those Philadelphians how purple prints
faded to brown over the decades.

"Anna Bringhurst was hear in the afternoon and we were looking at 2 pieces of my work, one a blue Tafaty stitched bed quilt, drawn by Sally Smith, and worked by Caty & I." March 27, 1862. 
In the margin of this entry:
"Sammy Sansom entered his Twenty third year---."

Tomorrow, another post on Hannah.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Better Living In The World of Tomorrow, 1939

Embroidery with the fair's symbol

The New York World's Fair in 1939 was continued into 1940, open from spring to fall each year. In the second year the Fair sponsored a quilt contest America Through the Needle's Eye. See information about that official contest at the last post:
Barbara Brackman's MATERIAL CULTURE: Quilt Contests: 1939-1940 New York World's Fair

The year before Good Housekeeping magazine and Macy's Department Store had sponsored a contest on the Fair theme of Better Living In The World of Tomorrow.

Reba Grice Simms (1905-1972) entered that contest 
with her original design quilted by her mother Lulu Grice's 
friends in Headland, Alabama. This is one of the few published
references I can find about the contest but no idea of what
Reba's original design looked like.

Family from FindaGrave: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/213010522/reba-g-grice

Original designs were required---an innovation at the time when for years contests had focused on antiques and the "oldest quilt" entered.

I do not have a good copy of the magazine's announcement of the winners in their August, 1939 issue.
This is Merikay Waldvogel's. She indicates that Good Housekeeping sold patterns for these three.

Needlework designer Anne Orr wrote the article so she must have had something to do with the contest (and drawing the patterns?)

Gladys Bean Smith made a copy of the third-place winner.

Mary Gasparik of Chicago entered her original design Road to Prosperity (at the right), on exhibit here  this winter at the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Somewhere I came across this photo of a quilt
attributed to Emma Hoerner of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

She must have made her original design for that 1939 competition.
Portraits of George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt and
appliances of the era...

Transportation progress
Her inspiration may have been the many quilts made for the
1933 World's Fair in Chicago where the theme
 included A Century of Progress in Transporation.

Mamie Lettie Moore Andrews (1879-1945)

Susan Price Miller remembered this entry pictured in the book Mississippi Quilts

Thanks to Susan and her impressive memory.