Saturday, December 8, 2018

Quilts "In War Time" #4: Prices Per Pound

National Museum of American History Collection, Smithsonian
"Three cheers
for the 
Red white & blue.

Except for the rousing inscriptions it's a dull quilt, perhaps reflecting the state of the Union family  scrapbag in the final year of the war.

Cotton growing areas in 1860, map from
The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American South by Andrew Frank

The 1863-1864 season for cotton was the most expensive during the Civil War, with this table indicating that cotton costing 13 cents per pound beforehand averaged $1.02 per pound in New York, more than nine times the pre-War price.  Pre-war cotton at about 10 to 13 cents would make a bale worth $45 to $50. The highest price recorded was $1.89 a pound the winter of '63-4. If a bale weighed 450 pounds: $850.50. Certainly speculators and blockade runners were making money. The price stayed high through the last winter in 1865.
"King Cotton Diplomacy," 1931 paper by Frank Owsley.
His numbers appear to be the standard for the history of 
cotton production in the South.
That 1861 figure is 4,500,000 bales.
The 1854 figure 300,000 bales.

After 9 months of war J.P. Kratzer still offered
Delaines, Cashmeres, Merinos, Prints, Ginghams, Chintz and Muslins---
cottons, wool and combination fabrics

I read the Clearfield (Pennsylvania) Republican, looking for dry goods ads and found, as to be expected, quite a few more during the war years in Pennsylvania than one would find in a North Carolina paper, but like the Southern papers the tempting descriptions of dress goods and household cottons disappeared.

In April, 1863 Dry Goods was the extent of the description at Kratzer's.

Clearfield about 1910.

After the war was over prices inevitably crashed. Mrs. H. D. Welch could advertise that she had purchased Fall and Winter goods in 1865 "during the present decline, and ... enabled to sell very cheap." She had wools of various weaves and cotton prints and ginghams.

Set of blocks dated 1864, Mass Quilts and the Quilt Index.

Montanye's Store in Pennsylvania offered fabric at "Peace Prices" six months after the war.

From a set of blocks dated 1863, Massachusetts

The price of wartime cotton seem to have an inverse relationship to the number of dated quilts. The higher the price, the fewer quilts dated that year---with 1863 the most extreme.

What's cotton cost today?
Between 70 - 80 cents a pound---less than it did in 1863 and 1864. (I assume you know you have to adjust prices 150 years ago for inflation. See the comments. An 1865 dollar is worth over $15 today.)

You'll be glad to know the price of cotton has dropped since a June, 2018 high of 97 cents per pound.

Some recent books on the history of cotton during the Civil War:
Food and Agriculture during the Civil War By R. Douglas Hurt
Empire of Cotton: A Global History By Sven Beckert

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2019 BOM Here: Hospital Sketches Applique

We have one block to go in the 2018 Antebellum Album BOM at CivilWarQuilts. Time to announce the 2019 BOM here starting at the end of January.

HOSPITAL SKETCHES ::::::::::::::::::: Applique!

In 2018 we did 12 popular antebellum pieced blocks. Next year we will do 9 popular antebellum applique florals, often seen in albums.

Detail of a block by Becky Brown, 
stitched in hand dyes from Vicki Welsh

Becky Brown and I started this project with my file of fashionable blocks. She drew patterns for 18 inch blocks and appliqued them in hand-dyed brights. Then she started adding shapes for fun.

I took her patterns and subtracted a few things, appliqueing mine in reproduction reds, greens and chrome orange.

Then Denniele Bohannon got the patterns and bemoaned what with the five grandchildren---was she ever going to get them done? So I subtracted a lot more for her and made some 8-1/2" blocks. Applique Sprouts.

Thus the patterns will be about addition and subtraction. You can make them as complex or simple as you like. We encourage you to make them your own.

Janet Perkins is making a model in prints with an Arts & Crafts flair.
And Bettina Havig is making one with a class--but I haven't seen it yet.
She's coming over for lunch today. I hope she brings some blocks.

Civil War Hospital Flag from Steve Rogers Antiques

The Civil War narrative theme is Hospital Sketches (the name of Louisa May Alcott's book about her experiences in a Union hospital.) The stories will not be about nurses---although that was my intent when I started reading diaries and letters for this quilt. Women like Louisa were not actually what we would consider nurses ---assisting doctors in surgery and carrying out medical procedures.

China Beach, army nurses in Viet Nam

Our idea of wartime nursing is very different from theirs,
based on later wars (and later television.)

M.A.S.H., army nurses in Korea

Civil War hospital workers played other roles: matrons, social workers, suppliers of food and bedding, bedside visitors, laundresses, cooks and orderlies. The stories will focus on hospitals and people who worked in them.

Julia Wheelock Hires during the Civil War
I'll include photos from the era and try to identify the women in them.

The first block will be posted here on Wednesday, January 30, 2019.

We had so much fun with the Facebook Antebellum Album group this year I'll create a HospitalSketchesQuilt group.

See a short summary of Civil War nursing here at the New York Historical Society at this post:

And a preview of a recent book on the topic: Jane E. Schultz's Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America

Hand dyed cottons from Vicki Welsh:

Reproduction reds, greens etc. from Barbara J. Eikmeier's Manzanita Grove collection at Paintbrush Studio.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Quilts "In War Time" # 3: Yardage Prices

Quilt dated 1864-1865, Charleston, South Carolina, 
North Carolina project & the Quilt Index

It is likely that this chintz quilt dated in the last years of the Civil War, while finished or quilted then, was begun in the 1840s or '50s when English chintzes were abundant in peacetime Charleston. The wartime Cotton Famine in the U.S. resulted in increased prices for a yard of calico, the once-inexpensive mainstay of the American wardrobe and the American quilt.

Quilt dated February 5, 1865, made by Sophronia Clark and friends, from 

Yates Center, Orleans County, New York. 

Collection of Janet Garrod Chinault.

In my first book on quilts and the Civil War I wrote about prices in the Confederacy where banknotes were so inflated that "$200 was required to buy a calico dress" (about ten yards). Cornelia Peake McDonald recorded twenty dollars a yard for calico that had a pre-War price of twenty cents. $20 a yard seems to be the high price recorded at the time, but in memoirs written after the war the price went higher. Virginia Clay-Clopton remembered "Calico of the commonest in those days was sold at twenty-five dollars a yard." I haven't found much in a higher price per yard since that research.

In late 1861 Davis, Abrahams & Lyon of  Petersburg, Virginia
 found it profitable to advertise as far away as Raleigh, North Carolina.

Looking through wartime North Carolina newspapers at the Library of Congress's Chronicling America website one finds a change in advertisements for "dry goods." 1861 ads enticed customers with descriptions but by 1862 the term dry goods was enough.

And most of the ads after 1862 were for wholesale goods. Retail shops did not have to advertise if they had any dress goods for sale. Word of mouth was probably enough to create a market. 

North Carolina ads like the one above offer "desirable goods...very cheap" to those interested in setting up a retail business. In June, 1862, McCubbins & Foster still had access to New York merchandise shipped south before the war.

In January, 1863 Bell, Faris & Co., retailers in New Bern, advertised dress goods (mohairs, calicos, delaines, alpacas and trim) "just received from New York and Boston." We can assume these were goods that ran through the Union blockade.

Wilmington, North Carolina was the center of blockade running. This 1863 ad is for a single-day wholesale auction of goods direct from England, brought in on steamships Douro and Eagle. Items included "Kappel's black and white Prints" (perhaps a cotton print), Clark's thread and pins. 

Collection: Lincoln Memorial Shrine, Redlands, California

Calicoes in a quilt dated 1864, made by Lizzie Fisk and
Connecticut friends for the Union cause.

The Wilmington Journal copied a story from the Philadelphia Press complaining about prices in the Northern markets where cheap cottons formerly 12-1/2 cents were now 37-1/2 cents. Finer brands also sold at triple the pre-war price. The article mentioned the choice brands:

In 1863 Potter County, Pennsylvania a retailer sold fabric "at nearly the old prices, notwithstanding the great rise of goods in New York." They still sold apron checks at 16 to 20 cents and "Good Spragues, Merrimacs, Dunnelle...very nice Prints...for 11 to 12-1/2 cts, nothing over, worth 15-20 cts."

Woven apron checks and printed calicoes

North Carolina women might only sigh and wish they could find cottons at that price.

Rowena Clark's block for the Fisk Sanitary Commission Quilt,

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Antebellum Album #11: Ever Widening Circle

Block # 11 Ever Widening Circle by Pat Styring

In 1819 Emma Willard encouraged Connecticut-born Julia Pierrepont (also spelled Pierpont) to accept a position at a new female academy in Sparta, Georgia. Twenty-six-year-old Julia is usually described as one of Willard's pupils but only six years separated them so they may have been fellow teachers; it seems certain they were close friends. When Julia asked Emma to sign the first page of her autograph album Emma enclosed a note celebrating their---
"League of friendship. This is not marriage but it is something like it. Mutually to love, to trust, to rejoice, and mourn together---such is the relation which subsists between Julia Pierpont Werne and Emma Willard."
More than an educated young woman, Julia was a missionary "in the cause of women's education," according to Anne Firor Scott who has studied Willard's influence, characterizing it as an "Ever Widening Circle."

Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) taught in several schools,
the most famous being her Troy Seminary in New York.

Student Elizabeth Cady Stanton recalled "a splendid looking idea for a queen....She was always robed---one must use the word 'robed' so majestic was her bearing---in rich black silk or satin, and her head was crowned with a large white mull turban."

Friend Julia married Richard Henry Warne of Mayfield, New York in 1820 or 1822 and returned to Vermont. 

"Henry Warne
Infant Child of 
RH & Julia Pierrepont
The baby's tombstone with its weeping willow is
near his father's in Manchester, Vermont.

Their only child Henry died as an infant and Richard, only 28, followed in 1824. Julia seems to have gone back to Sparta, a prosperous cotton producing town.

Mid-century school in Sparta, Georgia. Cotton made Sparta
and cotton's demise killed it. The town is full of 19th-century
buildings reflecting those ups and downs.

In 1832 she accepted an offer from Elias Marks of Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Marks, a physician, was almost as dedicated to educational innovations as Emma Willard. His medical degree was from New York but he was born in Charleston of Jewish immigrants from London.

1850 Lithograph by Eugene Dovilliers

 South Carolina College for men
made Columbia the state's educational center.

His first school in Columbia was begun with wife Jane Barham Marks but after her death giving birth to their fourth child in 1827 he closed the school and opened another north of town in the sand hills,  a healthier location he hoped. He called the acreage Barhamville after Jane's family.

Barhamville school, painted about 1860 by Eugene Dovilliers,
 the obligatory French-born faculty member.

Julia became head mistress at Barhamville and converted Elias Marks to Emma Willard's educational philosophies and curriculum. She married Dr. Marx in 1832. 

The South Carolina Female Collegiate Institute attracted wealthy families from nearby states, including Georgian Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt (see block # 9) and John Calhoun's daughter Anna Maria. The curriculum was more academic than ornamental. Mary Kelley in her history of women's education called it one "of antebellum America's leading schools."  The Markses educated 4,000 students over 32 years.

Could that be Julia P. Marks leading 
students in a promenade in Dovilliers's painting?

Julia gave birth to several children but only Edwina and Edward lived to adulthood. Edward, a student at Harvard in 1861, returned to Columbia with the war.

Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson (1817-1885) founded 
Clemson University, another link in the 
Willard educational network.

Some of the places Julia lived from Vermont to Georgia

The Block

Ever Widening Circle by Mark Lauer

Recall Emma Willard's ever-widening circle of educators with a block of ever-widening squares.
Massachusetts album dated 1854 - 55 from Forsyth's Auctions

This square in a square design made an excellent friendship block, leaving room for lengthy sentiments. Our block goes around the square three times, but variations increase the complexity.

The pattern is BlockBase #2376, called
Hour Glass by the Ladies Art Company around 1890.

Just three ever-widening squares...

Denniele Bohannon kept going. Our pattern stops at three.

Cutting a 12" Finished Block

A - Cut 2 squares 6-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 4 triangles.

B - Cut 1 square 7-1/4". Cut into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 4 triangles.

C - Cut 1 square 6-1/2".


Ever Widening Circle by Mark Lauer

A Sentiment for November
A classic laurel wreath with the date 1854 featured

During the War & After

"Mrs. A.B. Kinsler
Detail of a block from a set dated 1861.
Charleston Museum of Art

Elias and Julia Marks kept their school open as war descended but gave its supervision over to two French Mesdames, Acelie Togno, who moved her school from Charleston, which was under Union bombardment, and later Sophie Sosnowski. Samuela and Hattie Palmer spent some of their war years boarding at Barhamville. In April, 1861 Dr. Marks gave the girls permission to send off the first trainload of soldiers with waving and shouting.

Elias Marks wrote a song at the beginning of the war Chicora
"dedicated to the patriotic ladies of the Southern Confederated States"
with a small sketch of Barhamville.

Much of Columbia burned during Sherman's occupation in 1864.
The school remained untouched due to Dr. Marks's firefighting efforts. 
Photo by George N. Barnard 

Eight months after the war Ann Beaufort Sims heard from Edwina Marks that her parents were "very destitute."
"Barhamville, tis true, has not burnt, but at present they have no income at all....Dr. M. is too infirm to think of opening B. as a school again....Both Dr. and Mrs. M. look very badly. They seemed very glad to see me and I think it affords them real pleasure to receive visits from their old pupils."
Two years later Beaufort's sister Leora wrote that the Markses were boarding with her family while everyone hoped that the giant school building, a white elephant, might be sold. "I do hope they will carry out the plan so these old people can have something to live on..."

Nothing came of the plan. The Marks family moved to Washington City where Edwina supported her family with a clerical job. Julia died there in 1878 and Dr. Marks died in 1886 at 95 years of age. The abandoned South Carolina Female Collegiate Institute burned in 1869.

Two by Becky Brown

Ever Widening

Two variations of a square inside a square block in an album documented in the Connecticut project.

More to Read:
Anne Fiore Scott "The Ever Widening Circle: The Diffusion of Feminist Values from the Troy Female Seminary, 1822-1872," History of Education Quarterly, XXIX (1979)