Saturday, July 13, 2019

1837 Civil Disobedience in Canada

Blocks attributed to Fanny Riley, 1837
Niagara, Upper Canada

Collection: Niagara Historical Society and Museum 

These two patchwork blocks are attributed to Fanny Ross Riley Rowley (Possible dates 1831-1913). It's not clear how the museum has determined the year, but there may be dated papers on the back.

The lighter block design was published as Yankee Puzzle by the Ladies' Art Company at the end of the century. The black, striped silk block has no popular name.

The fabric looks to be silk. Triangles are pieced over paper, first basted and then whipstitched together, arranged in two different patterns of 16 HST squares, a common technique in North America and Great Britain at the time.

The story associated with the blocks is that Fanny pieced them during the Moseby Incident of 1837, also known as the Niagara Court House Riot. Solomon Moseby escaped from slavery in Kentucky and headed north to Canada, where he found a temporary refuge. His former owner David Castleman of Fayette County, Kentucky tracked him to Upper Canada and Moseby was jailed before awaiting his return to slavery.

Niagara on the Lake (Ontario) is just across the Canadian border
north of Buffalo, west of Rochester

Young Canadian family from the Archives of Ontario

Read about the blocks here:

David B. Castleman
Castleman sent bounty hunters to
Niagara while he waited in Lewiston, Canada

A group of resisters refused to let the Kentuckians take Moseby away, camping for two weeks around the courthouse and blocking any attempts by officials to enforce the law. A petition went to the Lieutenant Governor, signed by 131 citizens, 17 of them black. Many of the protesters were women. 

Supposedly, Fanny stitched these blocks while she camped.

The confrontation came to a head in September when protesters and officials clashed. The sheriff ordered the soldiers to fire, leaving two black men dead and Solomon on the run again. Killed were Herbert Holmes, a minister, and Jacob Green, who tried to jam a tree limb into the wagon wheels.

Anna Brownell Jameson (1794-1860)

Anna Brownell Jameson published a travel book the following year. Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada tells the tale as she heard it.

"Coloured people assembled from the adjacent villages, and among them a great number of their women. The conduct of this black mob, animated and even directed by the females, was really admirable...."
Jameson met one of the young women who led the protest. Sally Carter about 25 years old, had  "a kindly animated countenance; but the feelings of exasperation and indignation had evidently not yet subsided." A runaway from Virginia she had believed "nothing could touch us here, on your British ground, but it seems I was mistaken, and if so, I won't stay here."

International Underground Railroad Memorial.

Bronze sculpture by Ed Dwight at
Hart Plaza in Detroit, recalling the passage to Canada.

Moseby eventually made it to freedom in England and returned to Canada later in life.

Small scraps of dress silk basted to paper triangles

Were the blocks made by Fanny Ross Riley Rowley? The daughter of William and Fanny Riley (William was born a slave in Virginia) would have been six at the time of the protest. This was the kind of patchwork a young girl would have learned to stitch but whether she was camping with the adults is impossible to know.

Late 19th-century sketch from memory of the Riley home

Niagara Historical Society Museum

William escaped  to Canada in 1802

The 1851 census lists three Fanny Rileys in William's home in the city's "Coloured Village" framed by King, William, Ann and Butler streets. Wife Fanny was 57, daughter Fanny, 20, and granddaughter Fanny, 3. The middle Fanny born around 1831 is a likely candidate, although her mother born about 1794 is also a possibility. The elder Fanny was born in Germany and married in 1818, probably arriving in North America as an indentured servant.

The middle Fanny prospered in Niagara on the Lake. Husband Samuel B. Rowley, a Philadelphia glass manufacturer, built this Victorian mansion at 177 King Street that still stands, according to local history.
From King's Notable Philadelphians in 1902

I wonder if her husband is not Salmon Bostwick Rowley, President of the Hero Fruit Jar Company of Lockport, New York who patented glass preserving jars. 
See more about this guy here:

But that's a genealogical rabbit hole and we are supposed to be discussing QUILTS.

See a post on a similar protest in Detroit, Michigan with a Canada Star block of new design:

The blocks, like many small fragments of women's work, help us recall the lives of people almost forgotten.
Coincidentally Carrie Hall named a variation of the block at the top of the page
"Catch Me If You Can.".... Perhaps the perfect block for an Underground Railroad,
with some underpinning in fact.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Long Arm Tradition: All Over or Edge-to-Edge Quilting

Early quilt with variations of what is called Tea Cup or Wine Glass quilting

Last week we talked about feather quilting as a good traditional choice for reproduction quilts. That would be custom quilting, which costs more than what the long-armers call edge-to-edge---All-over designs.

Early quilts with an intersecting circle pattern

On point

On the Straight

Mavis Fitzrandolph in her book on British quilts showed these as filler patterns but they are also seen as over-all designs. Because they are curved, the patterns are easily done with long-arm templates. Curves are probably a good edge-to-edge design for a reproduction quilt. 

Shell quilting. We do not call it "Mother of Thousands"over here.

Long arm rulers and templates
I know nothing about long arm quilting but they
have their own tools that seem to work quite well.

Marie Webster also showed the scallop or shell design, which
evolved into the very American fans (sometimes call Baptist Fans,
although the Methodist church ladies and the Presbyterians did them too.)

Triple line fans. Fans were often done free hand.

The quilters at A Better Quilt do fans as edge-to-edge quilting.

The most common kind of hand quilting for filler or all-over utility quilting
was parallel lines, sometimes doubled, sometimes tripled.

Some of Becky Brown's gorgeous hand-quilted 
patterns on her Quintal Vases,
which won her a first prize in hand quilting at an AQS contest.

And then there are grids on the straight or on point.
The double grid is called plaid
and the horizontal crossed by diagonals is hanging diamonds.

Long-armers do not typically do these kind of designs because the machines do curves so much better.

But the pattern of close parallel lines now called matchstick quilting is a popular style, particularly with people quilting on a regular sewing machine. It's also a great hand quilting design as it is mindless and you mark it with masking tape.

Here's a period look you may want to ignore. 19th-century quilters very often quilted right over the applique.

Echo quilting and self quilting are probably a better choice.
Self-quilting or quilting in the piece goes around the applique patches, puffing them up.Echo quilting is the filler, the curved lines following the patchwork.

Self quilting with a grid filler

Echo quilting a 1/4 inch apart

How much time or money do you have?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

My Cooper Union Quilt & Samuel W. Bridgham

"School of Design
Engraving Class

I recently bought this sampler quilt that I believe was made to donate to the Union Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. The inscription indicates it was made by a quilting group who worked under the supervision of Gulielma Field, an engraving teacher in the School of Design at the Cooper Union art school.

The narrow quilt is 54" x 88",
made to Sanitary Commission specifications

See several posts about the quilt and Gulielma here:

The quilt descended in the family of Samuel W. Bridgham who may be in this wartime photo shot in front of the Cooper-Union building during the war. He might be the man addressing boxes to be shipped to hospitals or the one reading off the addresses. Bridgham's assistant was George Roberts described as a porter and we probably have a view of them doing what they did every day during the war.

S.W. Bridgham (1813-1870)

Samuel Bridgham became Secretary of the New York City branch of the Sanitary Commission, the Women's Central Relief Association, and head of their Supplies Subcommittee early in the war.  In a short biography of Ellen Collins who worked with him there Louisa Lee Schuyler said that Bridgham came "daily to the office to direct the work of porters and teamsters." The WCRA had offices in the Cooper-Union building.

In their History of Women's Work in the Civil War Brockett and Vaughn mention Bridgham, who "put his broad shoulders to the wheel." In 1863 the war intensified and the work become harder. 
"He had been a member of the board from the beginning, but not a 'day-laborer' until now....he was a night-laborer also. At midnight, and in the still 'darker hours which preceded the dawn," Mr. Bridgham and his faithful ally, [George] Roberts, often left their beds to meet sudden emergencies, and to ship comforts to distant points. On Sundays too, he and his patriotic wife might be easily detected creeping under the half-opened door of Number 10 [Cooper-Union], to gather up for a sudden requisition and then to beg of the small city expresses, transportation to ship or railroad. This was often his Sunday worship. His heart and soul were given to the work."
The Sanitary Commission itself had separate New York offices
 on the second floor here at 498 Broadway, the center building in this photo.
The Irving House Hotel is next door.

They hung a flag in the window.

Samuel Bridgham sounds like a very admirable man and it's a real pleasure to have his quilt and discover his story.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Long Arm Tradition: Feathers

Early calimanco wool quilt with a shiny surface

People have questions about how to quilt their traditional applique.
Perhaps the best answer is:

I took this picture at the Winterthur Museum of their early Quaker silk strip quilt:
Three fancy patterns and a diamond grid. The filler quilting pattern behind the feather on the
right is diagonal straight lines.

A feather quilted border is a classic from 1800 through the 1930s....

An important style in quilted petticoats of about 1800.
The filler pattern here is diagonal lines meeting in chevrons.

Filler quilting---a diamond grid

Mid-19th century
Filler straight lines

About 1830

Filler grid on the left of one inch squares

Dated 1904

Filler squares both on point and on the straight.
Do note how the feather covers three borders.
If you've left some plain areas for fancy quilting do consider feathers.

There are plenty of templates out there to
buy for hand quilting.

Turning corners is the hard part. Here's an old Mountain Mist
pattern with a good solution.

Just remember you have to decide upon a filler pattern;
you can't just quilt a feather and leave it floating by itself.

Many of you will hire the quilting done by a long arm quilter,
a very traditional solution (well, not the long arm, but the hiring the quilting.)

Barter not much done anymore though.

The hardest part about hiring the quilting is communicating what you
want done. It might help to have some pictures.


Do a web search for long arm feather quilting to see some style.

Feather quilting is quite fashionable now with prize-winning
long-armers like Jane Hauprich. But this remarkable trend often doesn't
replicate the old-fashioned look. The quilting dominates and you are
probably looking for something that plays supporting role to your patchwork.


Find a couple of pictures you like.

Trotting Stitches

Or hire these guys.


Angela Walters at QuiltingIsMyTherapy

Look at the filler behind the feathers too. I have heard it is easier for long arm designs to echo the curves rather than use the traditional straight line fillers.

Joy Voltenburg
Next week: Other traditional looks.