Saturday, March 5, 2016

Southern Relief Fair on a Quilt

Crazy quilt recently offered in an online auction.

Among the embroidered patches are several ribbons,
notably this souvenir of the Ladies Southern Relief Association Fair
in Baltimore, April, 1866.

The quilt is dated 1885, nineteen years after the Baltimore Fair.





Another ribbon features successful Presidential candidate Grover Cleveland, a Democrat.

Ribbon dated 1881, perhaps from a reunion of the Old Dominion Guard.

The Fair ribbon also was printed on red silk.

The Southern Relief Fair took over the Maryland Institute building from April 2 to April 13, 1866. About $165,000 was raised to buy food and supplies for destitute people in the South. Baltimore in a Union state was conspicuously lending a hand to a defeated enemy.

The Maryland Institute Building opened in 1851.

The Baltimore Sun mentioned that the women had set up 52 tables, "laden with their profuse variety of wares, fabrics, &etc....are all neatly trimmed with evergreens and ornamented with flowers." 

Mary Custis Lee, wife of General Robert E. Lee, is reported to have donated an embroidered cushion and U.S. First Lady Eliza Johnson sent a floral bouquet.

Descriptions of the needlework displayed are limited. Virginia's Staunton Spectator effusively described what sounds like Berlin work pictures:
"The tables were gay with fabrics of every texture and quality, wrought by the cunning fingers of the fairest and brightest of the ladies in the land; portraits and landscapes, and historical compositions for artists of 'credit an renown'...."

Berlinwork or needlepoint pictures like these
from the period couldn't have been all the fancywork on display,
but this is what the reporters seem to be describing.


The Fair sounds more like a Northern Sanitary Fair than a pre-War ladies' handwork bazaar. The large amount of money was raised by donations of commercial items from food to farming equipment and livestock.

The building lasted into the 20th century.

Confederate Colonel John B. G. Kennedy described the Fair to a fellow Southerner:
 “The ladies of Baltimore have come out handsomely in behalf of the suffering people of the South. They got up the great “Southern Relief Fair” amid the sneers and jeers of the Black Republican crew ... Donations to this fair have poured in from all parts­­ even England, Yankeedom, and New York have helped to swell the fund…. Articles of all kinds ­­ mammoth steers, mules, horses, houses and lots, wood, coal, flour, groceries, lumber, dry goods, machines, farming utensils, drugs, patent medicines, toys, soaps, telegraphs and the Lord knows what. Those who could not send material gave money… If you dislike the North, my dear friend, please do not include Baltimore in your denunciations."
The Fair was organized by the society women of Baltimore and their Ladies' Southern Relief Association, which reported on the disbursement of moneys in September.


The chair was Jane Grant Gilmor Howard, a prominent Baltimore matron who'd been painted by Thomas Sully about the time of her wedding in 1818.

Jane Grant Gilmor Howard (1801-1890) by Thomas Sully,
Collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

Inspired by Mrs. Howard's Baltimore Fair, several other Northern cities organized Southern Relief Fairs. These post-War relief fairs for former Confederates were not as well documented as the wartime fairs, particularly the Union Sanitary Commission Fairs. Sectional prejudice continued to dictate what was published. 

Read more about Jane Gilmor Howard here:

6 comments:

Dane said...

Merci pour ce très beau reportage et toutes ces informations que nous ne connaissons pas
Bon dimanche

Anonymous said...

Wonder what kind of thread was used for the embroidery embellishment? Looks like a thin cord and not floss ... Wonder where one can get such a thin cord other than tatting thread or very fine crochet cotton thread ...
Karen

Barbara Brackman said...

They often used a thin twist. There are many different weights of Pearl cotton available.

Remnant Quilter Kimberly said...

Although Maryland officially stayed in the Union, the state was severely divided in sympathy. The City of Baltimore in particular leaned Southward. The first blood of the Civil War was shed in Baltimore on President Street in April 1861, when rioters turned on Union troops marching toward the South. The city was thereafter fortified, and no more Union troops passed through toward battle. It is not surprising that the Southern Relief Fair did very well in Maryland and Baltimore in particular. Thank you so much, Ms. Brackman, for sharing this wonderful quilt with us.

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zerry ht said...

Interesting! Thanks for these details about this quilt fest. I have attended several Quilt fests and conventions at local event space with my mom and have a desire to make such beautiful Quilts. I’ll definitely get professional training for this one day!