Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Constitution Quilt: What Ship Is It?

The Constitution Quilt
66" x 73"

Get out your copy of Robert Shaw's American Quilts: The Democratic Art and look up the Constitution Quilt on page 133. It's a quilt top with many mysteries, which we'll explore here this week and next.

The caption dates it to about 1880 and in the top center is a framed portrait believed to be President James Garfield, who was assassinated after a year in office in 1881. 

Several figurative blocks show Civil War scenes, as in this block, presumed to be a bride and groom with Abraham Lincoln. The maker and place are unknown, and the symbolism in the blocks are speculation.

In 1993 New York folkart dealer America Hurrah offered it for sale with the caption: "The unique appliqued, pieced, and embroidered quilt contains 111 pictorial blocks. The largest...depicts the U.S.S. Constitution, the famed U.S. frigate whose victories in the War of 1812 earned her the nickname 'Old Ironsides.' "

The ship in the center with its sails furled (packed up) is assumed to be The Constitution, whose  nickname "Old Ironsides" refers to her luck in the war with the British Navy. She became a sentimental favorite and one of the last sailing ships in the U.S. Navy. Every time they tried to scrap the ship popular outcry saved her.

The U.S.S. Constitution now sails out of Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston,
thanks to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's father, Congressman John F. Fitzgerald
of Boston, who advocated saving the ship in the 1890s.

In her thorough look at the quilt top Sandi Fox in Wrapped in Glory: Figurative Quilts and Bedcovers writes that the ship's "stern clearly bears the name Constitution." Both Fox's and Shaw's books have good photos of the piece and in neither is that word visible.

Embroidered rigging might be confused with text

Is the ship in the quilt The Constitution? She was a sleeker ship than the appliqued three-master.

Here's a picture of her rear end (stern?) in dry dock (I obviously know nothing about boats)
--- but it doesn't look like the same ship.

Perhaps the ship pictured in this Andrew Jackson toile from 1830 is the Constitution,
a reference to Jackson's role in the War of 1812..

Constitution today in Boston's Charlestown Navy Yard

I looked around for lithographs and popular prints of other ships that may have been in the news about 1870 or that saw service in the Civil War.

Nathaniel Currier published a print of the U.S.S. North Carolina in 1842. Here she is with sails furled and the city of New York in the background. This ship was launched in 1820 and spent her last post-Civil-War years there where she was sold (presumably for scrap) October, 1867. The North Carolina was a larger ship displacing 2,633 tons of water while The Constitution displaces 2,200. The North Carolina is wider and taller.

The circular building in the harbor is Castle Garden.

Another possible source for the ship image is this illustration of the Brooklyn Navy Yard published in Harper's Weekly on August 24, 1861. The North Carolina is in the center behind the rowboat. As the Civil War began the Navy Yard was "a scene of remarkable activity.... Nearly twenty-five hundred men are now employed at the Brooklyn Navy-yard, and the number is constantly increasing."

The men in the small boats may have been inspired by the
 rowboat pictured above.

A ship as old as the North Carolina did not see combat but served as a "receiving ship" for Confederate Prisoners, a floating prison. She must have sat in the river with her sails furled for much of the war.

It is really quite foolhardy to speculate about the meaning of the center panel in this quilt. There were dozens of similar ships afloat in the 1865-1880 period when the quilt was made and thousands of family members of sailors who might have been inspired to depict a favorite ship. But I do have serious doubts the quiltmaker intended to portray The Constitution.

Another post next Saturday.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Long Arm Tradition: Ideas

Sue Daurio is quilting Denniele Bohannon's Sprouts quilt.
You might just let your long-armer go wild --- Sue's contemporary ideas
are fabulous on Denniele's contemporary applique.

But, if you want a more traditional look---some suggestions.

Cable quilting is an option for borders and sashing if you are looking
to hand quilt or machine quilt a reproduction.

19th-c Petticoat

These cables with 5 or 6 lines are an old design

Collection of the Winterthur Museum
...Found in this possibly late 18th century Quaker strip quilt of silk.

Complex cables were popular with Pennsylvania quilters
in the 19th century.

Pattern from the Lockport Batting Company in the mid-20th century.

A template from Lockport

Jessica's Quilting Studio
Do a search for these modern-day long armers. Maybe they
can add you to their waiting lists.

Cables became mainstream in the mid-20th century, perfect
for all those sashed blocks and solid color borders, but they were simplified. 
If you want to do a cable on a 19th-century reproduction go for more lines.

Too 20th-century.
Of course, if you are making a 1930s repro it's perfect.

Seven lines

A little nostalgia for the Colonial days. Like the hoop?

The feather wreath is also another great option.

Quilt from my collection dated 1882 with the
inscription inside a wreath.
For hand quilting there are many templates and patterns.
This one from Aunt Martha in the 1930s.

The long-armers at the Mt Pleasant Quilt Company
will quilt a feather wreath.

There are templates.

One reason I did these three posts is I wanted to communicate better with my long-armers. I'm going to continue to do searches for long-arm quilts and quilters to add to my idea file. One good source:
There are nearly 150,000 pictures at the Instagram hashtag Longarmquilting

Modern patchwork, traditional quilting
from the Sterling Quilt Company.
"Orange Peels have been a popular choice lately and it’s pretty easy to see why."

I'd pay extra for some filler.
Or maybe (since I enjoy handquilting) I'd hand quilt a filler grid into the background. A grid about an inch apart would be good for a '30s look. 

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.