Saturday, December 15, 2018

Quilts & Sherman's March

Possibly a portrait of General William T. Sherman
by Lucinda Ward Honstain

Honstain might have drawn her appliqued figure from the 
1865 Brady Studio portrait of Sherman.

See her pictorial quilt here at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum:

J.D. Dickey has a new book out Rising in Flames: Sherman's March and the Fight for a New Nation.
Since much of Civil War quilt lore recalls family stories of quilts stolen, hidden, or destroyed in Sherman's marches from Atlanta to Savannah (1864) and later north through the Carolinas (1865),  the book's facts about the campaign are relevant to any discussion of quilt myth and history.

Detail of a quilt known as the Nunda Lodge Quilt
Collection of the Chicago Historical Society

Thomas Ricks reviewed Rising in Flames in the November 11th issue of the New York Times Book Review. Quote from that review:
"Sherman's march continues to be misunderstood. Contrary to what many Americans still believe, and some are taught, its violence was not indiscriminate. Rather, Sherman was quite precise in directing it against the property (but not the persons) of wealthy Southern die-hards whose assets had been large untouched by war. Nor was the campaign particularly bloody....But Sherman did achieve his goal of eviscerating Southern morale, both at home and at the front, where rebel officers realized that their families and homes were unprotected. By doing that, Sherman helped bring an end to the war."
I am looking forward to reading this view of the two campaigns "mainly through the eyes of soldiers and other participants, like nurses."

Mellichamp family quilt in the Kansas Museum of History,
taken by a Union soldier

Ricks's summary of the campaign against wealthy Southerners may be a useful distinction in sorting out which surviving quilts were impacted by Sherman's armies.

Southern quilt descended in the family of a Union soldier,
Arizona project & the Quilt Index

In general, more elegant quilts tend to be more accurately associated with tales of Sherman's march. The chintz quilts above reflect the assets of wealthy Southerners, household furnishings stolen or destroyed as revenge against "die-hard" Confederates."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ever Widening Squares: Block 11 Variations

Susan V

Susan's spectacular inking on Block #11 fills the center spot in
the square in a square in a square.

Ever Widening Circle by Becky Brown
There are other ways to do that. Becky broke the center square into
four fussy-cut triangles.

Marsha B did traditional inking.

Mark used an eye-catching print.

The pattern gives you a square in the center

Big Lake Quilter

Don't forget that good design gives the eye a resting place too.

Judy C

France A

But Erica wanted to use more fabric so here's one
more ever-widening version. The square on the center is on point.

Here's Martha C's.

Denniele's blue version

The pink version

Denniele added another go-round and hers has five ever-widening squares
positioning the center on the square.

That's the look that Carrie wanted so Denniele posted her pattern measurements on our FaceBook page.

The center black square is cut 3 1/2". 
The light pink square is 4 1/4"..cut twice diagonally.
The next black square is 3 7/8" ...cut once diagonally. 
The dark pink square is cut at 7 1/4"...cut twice diagonally. 
The last black square is cut at 6 7/8



Sara's Civil Quilt

Paula framed a circle in the center.

Below is a group quilt stitched by the Sewhatevers at Sarah's Fabrics. Just to confuse you
the blocks are set on point. It's the same pattern as the official #11.

Everybody sewed, but color, fabric and placement were 
overseen by Carol Gilham Jones & Sarah Fayman.

Antebellum Album FaceBook page

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,