Saturday, July 14, 2018

Kansas Troubles Fundraiser

This comforter fragment is not much to look at but it has a story.

The piece is about one-sixth of a tied bedcover. The blue is probably a calendered wool, a finish that gives it a gloss. It is tied with knots to hold the layers together and behind the knots are circular wool patches, presumably to keep the knots from popping through the top.

The fragment was donated to the Kansas State Historical Society with the story that it was made by the women of the Boston Emigrant Aid Society in 1855 and sent to the newly settled Kansas Territory.

The sign for the Aid Company in Lawrence

The Emigrant Aid Society was founded in 1854 to assist antislavery settlers who moved to Kansas to vote for a Free State constitution. Lawrence, Topeka and Osawatomie were the primary antislavery settlements in the new territory. Many proslavery voters were also headed for Kansas, primarily from adjacent Missouri, a slave state. 

The family of New Englander Dr. S. B. Prentiss believed the comforter to have been sent to be a fund raiser for a raffle in Lawrence. Dr. Prentiss was the lucky raffle winner in 1855. The homely bedcovering was distinguished by remnants of Revolutionary War uniforms. The brown circles behind the knots were said to be the uniform fabrics.

Dr. Prentiss's descendants reported that he impressed upon them the value of the piece. It was so valuable to the family that it was cut into segments so several children could inherit it. The Kansas Museum of History has two of the fragments.

Daguerreotype of Sylvester Bemis Prentiss from 1840-1860
Kansas Memory

Dr. Sylvester B. Prentiss (1817-1892)
I did some Photoshopping to see who
he was when he came to Kansas in 1855 at about 40 years old.

His papers are in the Kansas Collection at the University of Kansas. Their biography:
"Sylvester B. Prentiss was born in Chester, Massachusetts on May 4, 1817. He pursued medical study and began the practice of medicine in Coventry, New York, then in Jackson, Georgia. In 1855, he moved to Kansas, settling in Lawrence, where he continued his medical practice."

1862 ad for Prentiss & Griswold Drug Store and Fancy Articles

Prentiss was married three times:
His first wife was Louisa Brooks, married October 24, 1839 at Norwich, New York. Children: Joseph L. Prentiss and Louisa B. Prentiss Simpson
His second wife Mary N. Converse came to Kansas with him. Children: Ella A. and Frank. She died in 1865 in Lawrence.
His third wife Annie Julia Soule of Maine was also a Kansas emigrant. Children: Charles A.

Annie J. Soule Prentiss  (1842-1931)

After Sylvester Prentiss's death in 1892 Annie operated a store, the "Home Store," in the Prentiss house at the corner of 11th and Massachusetts Streets in Lawrence, Kansas. The Watkins Bank is across 11th Street in the background.  Annie is third from the right and her step-son Frank is on the right.

I count five children for Dr. Prentiss: Five pieces. Some of the Prentiss children moved to Colorado. We can hope the story of the Revolutionary War uniforms stayed with the odd piece of tied wool.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Half Done

A  look at model maker Pat Styring's design wall, Antebellum Album
Blocks 1-6

Other posts with setting blocks.




Dustin is making four of each and setting them side by side
with a central focus.

Becky's top with future blocks blocked out.

Congratulations to those who are keeping up...

Take a bow!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Elizabeth Moffitt Lyle's Union Quilt

Center of a quilt made by Elizabeth Moffitt Lyle Moffitt,
Kewanee, Illinois

We documented this quilt during the Kansas Quilt Project thirty-some years ago and were a little confused about its date---pre-Civil War or made during the War?

Constitution and Union Forever by Elizabeth Moffitt (1833-1893).
 Collection of the Smoky Hill Museum, Salina, Kansas

I thought I might revisit it in the internet age hoping to find more about when and why it was made. The quilt is in Salina, Kansas donated to the Smoky Hill Museum by Elizabeth Moffitt's Illinois relatives. The story that accompanied the quilt is that Elizabeth in her late 20s had help from younger brother John Leitch (Jack) Moffitt who cut the five-pointed stars for her. Elizabeth was a childless widow, having lost first husband Thomas Lyle after a year of marriage. He died at 29 in Denver, probably there for the gold rush.

Monument to the Moffitt brothers and friends near Beaver Creek

The Moffitts and Lyles seem to have been an adventurous bunch. Brothers Jack and Thomas Moffitt also traveled west in the spring of 1864, settling in Lincoln County, Kansas to raise cattle. They established a house on Beaver Creek, the first white-built home in the area. In August, 1864 ignoring threats from the local tribes who were furious about settlers hunting on their land, the young men went buffalo hunting with friends. A group of Native Americans engaged in a battle with them and people were killed on both sides, including all four young cattle ranchers.

Seeing this territory battle as an Indian massacre, later settlers erected several monuments to the Moffitt party as "first settlers."

The Moffitt party was only one group
of  settlers killed in Lincoln County as
the tribes tried to maintain their land.
This 1909 monument recalls others.

The brothers left fifty head of cattle sold in their estate sale.

The Moffitts of Kewanee, Illinois, which is northwest of Peoria, were Irish born. 

Grace Hill's Moravian Church survives

Elizabeth Nichol of  the Isle of Guernsey and David Moffitt of County Antrim had their nine children in Grace Hill in County Antrim, a Moravian settlement, and came to Philadelphia some time in the 1840s, perhaps with others of the Moravian religion. They moved west to Kewanee sometime after its development in 1854.

It is interesting to note that the younger Elizabeth's patriotic quilt was made by an immigrant who spent the first ten years or so of her life in Ireland. What is the quilt's date? Jack Moffitt died in 1864 so we will assume it was made before that date. 

Was it made during the Civil War or beforehand? The fabrics, all solids give us no help in dating. The quilt's style is similar to patriotic quilts made after 1850 or so. 

Union quilt of stars

Here's a post on a similar Union quilt possibly made before 1861.

Perhaps the sentiment in the quilt's center can help date it. The phrase "The Constitution and Union Forever" does not seem to have roots in any particular oratory in the years before or during the Civil War. Certainly there were many references to "The Union Forever."

The "Union Forever" on a photograph case

 a goblet

and a patriotic envelope.

A discussion on Slate of a similar phrase makes me wonder if Elizabeth had heard of  Hubbard Winslow's 1853 call to action in Massachusetts with the ideals in reverse order, "The Union and the Constitution Forever." But that is pretty obscure.

 See John Dickerson's discussion here:

The idea must have been in the air.

Our best clue to date might be the 33 stars. The U.S. flag contained 33 stars from July 4, 1859 when Oregon was counted as the 33rd state to July 4, 1861 when Kansas was added. Kansas actually became a state in January, 1861 before the war began but stars aren't added till the following July.

It is possible that Elizabeth counted her stars precisely and made the quilt sometime in those two years while she was getting over the shock of her husband's death. We don't know much more about her. She did remarry in May, 1865, curiously to another man named John Moffitt. This John B. Moffitt (1833-1891) was also Irish born and led an adventurous life. He might have been a relative; he first settled in Philadelphia, traveled around the world fighting pirates and came to Kewanee in 1863.

Jack and Thomas are buried near their mother.

All these Moffitts (Moffats) are buried in Kewanee. Here's a link to Elizabeth's page at Find-A-Grave.

In my book Quilts From the Civil War we did an updated pattern based on Elizabeth's quilt. Here is Nina Ashworth's  prizewinner made from the pattern, Dad's Quilt: The Constitution and Union Forever.

Read about second husband John B. Moffitt in the local history:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


5 Erica C
Some sunny yellow blocks in our Antebellum Album Series....

4 TeddyBear's Momma

6 Mark
Inspired perhaps by Mark's set of traditional red, green and yellow.

2 Mark

Basket quilt about 1880-1910
Yellows are hard to sell to quilters (as the fabric companies will tell you)
but every reproduction stash needs a lot of the color that's highest in value (chromatic value).

4 Kim

Peony quilt from about 1890-1920

Yellow is a challenge to use because as the highest color in the value scale
it's almost white. And you can't darken it too much because it becomes pea green.

Age has darkened the swatch in this old dye book to green.

So it takes a little work to get yellow into the composition. 

3 Billie Ann

5 Annette B's mini

4 Susan V
1 Ellen

And Sunny D.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Call For Quilts: Cutters

Two women sewing, about 1860
Photo from the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection:

Hundreds of calls for quilts and bedding went out during the Civil War.
This article from an Ohio newspaper in the first year of the war is quite specific:

"Sheets and quilt are wanted...7 feet long, 4-1/2 feet wide, and may be made of odd calico or delaine, with cotton firmly quilted in, so that it will not lose its place in being washed.... It must be remembered that hospital cots are very narrow, and second hand bedding, if sent to us should be cut over into proper size. Two half worn quilts of ordinary size can be altered into three hospital quilts.."

I still recall my growing horror during an AQSG paper by Ginny Gunn years ago in which she explained how many quilts were consumed during the Civil War---destroyed accidentally in battle, mud and laundry or deliberately burned after a soldier's death. It's nothing compared to the lives that were lost, but it is still a loss.

Looking at the newspaper request suggesting that one could cut two half-worn quilts into three hospital quilts I started imagining....

Let's say I'm an Ohioan with two "half-worn" quilts inherited from
my late mother-in-law. 

I was never that fond of her and I am indeed less fond of these medallion quilts, which are so out-of fashion. But dear Hubby insists we display them in the extra room. I'll appeal to his patriotism by showing him the newspaper.

A little binding and I have three bedcovers for the Soldiers' Aid Society plus I can put a new red and green applique on the bed.
It's a win/win situation for everybody except the future quilt historian.

Read Virginia Gunn's ground-breaking paper "Quilts for Union Soldiers in the Civil War " in Uncoverings 6 at the Quilt Index:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Antebellum Album #6 Madame's Star

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Pat Styring

Southern girls educated at Northern boarding schools risked "imbibing habits and manners not perfectly congenial with those of the people of the South," warned an Alabama parent. Cautious planters and urban aristocrats had the option of pricey schools closer to home. Among the elite academies was Madame Talvande's French School for Young Ladies, L'École pour Demoiselles, in Charleston, South Carolina, run by a family of Haitian refugees.

Madame Talvande's school building still stands,
 known today as the Sword Gate House.

Mary Boykin Miller (1823-1886) soon after her marriage to 
James Chesnut in 1840.

Mary Miller, a student in the late 1830s, recalled Madame as,"the Tyrant of Legare St." who was forced to seek U.S. asylum by revolution in Haiti, then called St. Domingue.

The Haitian uprising (1791-1804) was the most successful of
the slave revolutions, creating the second 
independent country in the Western hemisphere.
"She wasted no time in vain regrets, or in thoughts of what was due her by God and man---on account of her social position---before the social earthquake; but she at once took measures to utilize her rare accomplishments, and to make them pay." 
Madame's accomplishments: She was a native French speaker and a force to be reckoned with. The Eastern U.S. was dotted with what were called French Schools run by exiles from Europe and the Caribbean with just those gifts.

Unknown school. Class picture with Madame?
About 1860

Mary was a favorite student, invited to sit at Madame's table during meals, conversing skillfully in the required French. (English was forbidden.) Classmate Susan Petigru was not so favored. Sue did not thrive in French and believed that girls in her elite position wasted time and tuition on education.

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Denniele Bohannon

Sue and Mary had much in common besides social class. Both were gifted writers and conversationalists, witty and outspoken. But Mary knew the limits for Southern womanhood. Sue never accepted the conventions, earning a lifelong reputation as a "fast woman."

Sue published popular novels pushing those limits in the 1850s. Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut wrote novels too, but she's remembered for her Civil War diary, while Sue Petigru King is forgotten except by those who relish a scandalous life story.

Older sister Caroline Petigru Carson (1820–1892)
 enjoyed her years at Madame Talvande's
more than Sue did. The 1841 portrait is by Thomas Sully,
Collection: Gibbes Museum of Art

Chintz album quilt. Signatures from
Columbia, Charleston, Savannah, Danbury, 
Connecticut & New York
sold at Skinner's Auctions.

Quilt dated 1848, Eudora F. Davis,
Sumter District, South Carolina. Online auction.
Other names include Clark.

Finding antebellum South Carolina album quilts with pieced blocks is almost as hard as finding Yankee pupils in Carolina girls' schools.

Cut-out-chintz applique is the dominant style in pre-Civil-War
South Carolina signature quilts but here are some familiar pieced designs.
(We are not going to do the pale blue sunburst!)

Madame Talvande's "had two or three distinct cliques," wrote Mary in a thinly veiled novel about school days. She classified herself (and probably Sue) as among the English girls---those "of Cavalier stock" (meaning descended from English aristocrats). There were "The French speaking [Catholic] refugees from St. Domingo of whom Madame was a distinguished representative. wonderfully handsome girls... gayer and less studious than Charleston proper...." Then the "Huguenots...not ashamed then to be both American and protestants." She lists their traits: piety, thrift, industry, energy and worldly wisdom, "stiff necked, with somewhat of a hard narrowness." The always observant Mary could bite.

Mary's parents removed her from Madame Talvande's after gossip she was seen walking with James Chesnut, six years older.

James and Mary married when she was 17.
He was a clerk in Sue's father's law office.

Once the Millers met Mary's callers in frontier Mississippi, a temporary home, they sent her right back to Charleston. Sue's stay at Madame Talvande's was short. Hoping perhaps for more polish, her parents enrolled her in a French School in Philadelphia, which she didn't like any better than she did Philadelphia or the North.

Mix of chintz and calico styles in an album dated 1843
from the Philadelphia/NJ area, 
made by Hannah Nicholson Grave's Quaker relatives.
Collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

See a post on Hannah Grave's three quilts here:

Links between Carolina students and Philadelphia schools seems to have been one agent of design transmission. Girls like Sue (if Sue noticed needlework at all) would have brought new Philadelphia fashion back home.

The Block: Madame's Star

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Mark Lauer

Blocks from an undated mid-19th century 
New Jersey album from Stella Rubin Antiques

Simple nine patch stars often served as signature blocks. This month's design gives different effects with different shading.

On the reverse of an 1843 quilt from Swedesboro, New Jersey
in Mary Koval's collection.

It's #1634 in BlockBase, published in
the 1930s by Nancy Page as Mosaic.

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Mark Lauer

Cutting a 12" Block

A - Cut 2 dark & 2 light squares 4-7/8" Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 8 large triangles.

B - Cut 1 light, 1 dark & 2 medium squares 5-1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 16 medium-sized triangles.

C- Cut 2 squares 2-7/8" Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 4 small triangles.


D - Cut 1 square 3-3/8".


Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Denniele Bohannon

A Sentiment for June

A scroll with a bouquet from a set of blocks dated 1843 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Civil War & After

Mary and Sue kept up an edgy relationship through the Civil War. Through her husband Mary was  Confederate elite. Sue married Henry King, a Charleston lawyer who was neither ambitious nor sober. By the time the War came and Henry joined the Sumter Guard they were living apart. Henry was killed in the Battle of Secessionville in June, 1862. 

Susan Dupont Petigru King Bowen 
(1824 - 1875) perhaps about 1870

Sue's Southern family was outspoken against Secession. During the War sister Caroline found that Charlestonians thought so little of her opinions she was obliged to obtain a pass to move to New York and then Italy. Sue remained in Charleston and Columbia, suspected of spying, treason and hiding Yankee fugitives and growing more rebellious and combative as the years passed.

The former classmates met at Columbia's 1862 Gunboat Fair. In her diary Mary noted Sue's escort,  an infatuated soldier 12 years her junior, and called her "fast." "People talk of her flirtations and keep out of her way because she is so quarrelsome." Two years later Mary had the nerve to accuse Sue to her face of dressing provocatively in search of a new husband. "And yet I am as afraid of her as death."

In January, 1865 Sue was talking of her engagement to Confederate General Pierre Toutant Beauregard. Mary was indignant. "She showed his letters and his photograph. Incredulous we were and openly pronounced the photograph proof worth nothing. Anybody can get that for a small pile of Confederate money. It is in every shop window."

Paper photos like this carte-de-visite of  
P.T. Beauregard were collectibles, apparently advertised in 
"every shop window" in Columbia right up to the end of the War.

Sue was perhaps delusional as well as bad-tempered. Well, I could go on as it's so much fun to read Mary Chesnut's diary. She is a 21st-century woman in a 19th century-milieu. 

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Becky Brown

Read previews of recent editions of both Mary's and Sue's novels.

Sue enjoyed financial success with several of her books in the 1850s. See Busy Moments of an Idle Woman (1853) and Lily: A Novel (1855). Gerald Gray's Wife and Lily: A Novel have recently been republished. Here's a preview:

Mary Chesnut's novel Two Years or the Way We Lived Then was not published till recently.

The introductions are the best part.