Saturday, December 26, 2015

Susan Robb's Confederate Quilt and the Pelican

Your time to see Susan Robb's Confederate quilt at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles is running out.
The exhibit Empire and Liberty: The Civil War in the West,closes on January 3, 2016.

You may have noticed the pelican knocking an eagle off his perch
that she placed in one corner of her center panel.

There are several birds on her quilt but this large bird seems to communicate some obvious symbolism. The Union eagle is being beaten by a bird with a long beak, representing the Confederacy as the eagle does the Union.

Confederate uniform button from Louisiana

The pelican has been the symbol of the state of Louisiana from
pre-Civil-War years.

Louisiana flag

Louisiana battle flag with a pelican in the center of the star.

The pelican feeding its young remains on the state flag today.
Why a pelican? Susan Robb Ruple lived in Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, but I haven't found any records of her living in Louisiana.

The Louisiana pelican is always seen as nurturing---not the aggressive bird in Susan's quilt.

When Terry Thompson and I were working on
my books Quilts from the Civil War and Civil War Women
Terry used the pelican image to make a Secession Quilt

Secession Quilt top by Terry Clothier Thompson and
Frankie Lister, 1998

Terry's bird has a banner proclaiming "Secession". Frankie appliqued the cut-out chintz flowers and Terry pieced the traditional Seven Sisters blocks to stand for the first seven states of the Confederacy.

It's always easy to make wrong assumptions about symbolism in the past---maybe it's not a pelican at all. 


Jacqueline said...

very interesting.

suzanne said...

My guess is that the pelican represents Louisiana and the eagle represents the Union Army and the entire image represents the quiltmaker's wish that the State of Louisiana would overthrown the Union occupation which had commenced not long after the beginning of the War, as you've written in blog posts from a year or so ago. The fabulous quilt continues to be fascinating in its detail. Thanks for posting about it.

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Fantastic. Love this theory of the symbolism. And although I know it is not part of the center block, I love the little dove flying over the pelican! Thanks for sharing. said...

Very interesting!