Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Confederate Textile

Silk handkerchief about a yard square
with blue/gray border
from the Railsplitter blog

While there are many Union textiles, particularly dress-scale prints, Confederate partisan prints are rare. The reasons are complex but have a great deal to do with the lack of a textile printing industry in the south.

Reproduction of a Union print from my 
Moda Civil War Reunion collection

The mills were in the north.

But there were mills in England that would take commissions. An English manufacturer printed this handkerchief featuring portraits of Confederate heroes. In the center is Confederate President Jeff Davis with generals in the corners.

Those pictured, beginning at 12 o'clock:

  • Morgan (?)
  • Stonewall Jackson at 1:00
  • John Mason at 3:00
  • Robert E. Lee at 5:00,
  • Raphael Semmes at 6:00
  • Pierre Beauregard at 7
  • John Slidell at 9:00
  • and Johnson at 11:00 (perhaps James Johnson)
The black and white photos are from Getty Images, which describes the dark version as a "Confederate cotton handkerchief printed in London, 1860." The Railsplitter blog noted "Examples are known in purple and powder blue."

One would imagine these textiles are rare indeed.

At the end of the nineteenth century there was some discussion of them in the press, including the New York Times, which in 1894 described two versions: a red silk example in good condition owned by Walter Aldrich of Providence, Rhode Island, and a worn white square with a blue border (much like the one at the top of the page) owned by Mrs. William Daingerfield Peachy of Washington, D.C. Lelia Russell Meem Peachy inherited it from her father Dr. Andrew Russell Meem. (See a picture of Lelia Peachy here:

"About each of the vignettes is a wreath of finely executed cotton plants and fern leaves." The Times attributed the origins of these relics to two sets of twelve handkerchiefs ordered by Judah Benjamin when he was in England during the war."

The piece at the top recently sold at auction, and I've found references to a few other examples including one in a display (loaned by Miss Green) at the Confederate Museum in Richmond described in an 1898 catalog, which also mentioned the survivor in Providence, Rhode Island. An example in the Hall of History in North Carolina was described in a 1914 catalog and one in a Kenosha, Wisconsin public collection was described recently. The catalog of the 1888 Virginia Exposition listed a square loaned by Captain C.F. Johnston.

How many of these were printed?
Is that black and white photo really of a cotton bandana or were they all silk?
Did Benjamin actually order them when he was doing diplomatic work in London during our Civil War? The 1898 Confederate Museum catalog added to the romance with a story that Miss Green's piece was "One of twelve said to have been ordered from England by Judah P. Benjamin. Was rescued when on its way to this country from the Alabama when she sunk. Only one other [the Providence example] is said to have been saved....

Sinking the Alabama.

Rafael Semmes is pictured on the bandana. He was the commander of the CSS Alabama, another Confederate commission built in England in 1862 to harry Union shipping and run the blockade. The Alabama was sunk by a Union boat in French waters in 1864.

The CSS Alabama had it's own romance. Combining the story of the bandana with the boat seems to go a little too far in the mythmaking department. It's enough to know these were printed in small runs in various colors, that they made it through the blockades to the Confederacy and that so many survived. Now all we have to do is find a scrap of one in a crazy quilt.

Another question---since one has to be skeptical:  Benjamin escaped to England after the Civil War. Did he order these as post-War souvenirs?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Civil War Commemorative Crazy Quilt

This crazy quilt was pictured on an online auction a month or two ago.
The block in the center of the quilt pictures the ribbon of the G.A.R., the Union veteran's organization. It's on the left in the detail above.

One would have to conclude this was a Civil War commemorative quilt.

There's also a Union shield next to it, but a Union shield alone is probably not enough evidence that the quilt  specifically commemorates the Civil War.

Michigan State University documented an elaborate crazy quilt with a Union shield in one block. I guessed it was a Civil War commemorative, but the quiltmaker Lena Lardner of Niles, Michigan, inked a patriotic inscription that really doesn't mention the war.

"From patriot sire to patriot son, Our flag is handed down, Thro' battles fought and victories won, It holds its old renown, And second only to the cross, Let this bright emblem be!, Thro' earthly gain and earthly loss, Our sign of Liberty! Mother July 31, 1889."

See more about this quilt here at the Quilt Index:

Lena Bogardus Phillips Lardner (1843-1919) 
The New York Public Library
 has a picture of Lena Lardner on their site

Curiosity aroused, I started poking around for information about Lena Lardner. She had a famous son, sports writer Ring Lardner,so there is much information about the family. Ringgold Wilmer Lardner was born in 1885, youngest of Lena and Henry's six children.

Lena's quilt describes her well.  The Lardners were well-to-do farmers and Henry, Jr. was a bank president. She was a society leader and a pious woman, daughter of an Episcopalian minister (and probably not pleased with Ring's chosen profession or lifestyle). She was also a published author, a poet, and raised her children with a love of literature.

I couldn't find any link to a Civil War solider whom she might have been recalling in this quilt. The county history describes her father Reverend Phillips

"He was thoroughly patriotic during the war and exercised a strong influence in the community by his vigorous support of the cause of the Union. At one time, by a few pertinent questions, he confounded a rash speaker, who in a large out-door assemblage. was proposing an armistice with the Confederates. The speaker attempted to evade for a time, but found it advisable at length to materially modify his ill-timed expressions, and practically collapsed. Mr. Phillips died in 1866. "

Her soldier brother William died of a fever in camp in March, 1862. If Henry Lardner was the "patriot sire" she was thinking of---there is no mention of his service in the War.

So I am thinking the Lardner quilt is a patriotic crazy quilt rather than a Civil War commemorative. Which child  it was made for isn't clear either. Lena had two daughters, Lena and Anna, and four sons William, Henry, Jr., Reginald and Ring.

The family's reasons for naming their youngest Ringgold have confused many. He may have been named after a relative, another Ringgold Lardner born in 1854. People have forgotten the source of that Ring Lardner's name but he may have been named for a hero of the Mexican War, Major Samuel Ringgold who died at the Battle of Palo Alto in 1846.  

Quilters who love Baltimore Album quilts probably know more about Major Ringgold than anybody but Mexican War scholars. He was memorialized on several quilts in the 1840s. Here's a block from one in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum inscribed in "Memory of Major Ringgold."

Well, I have to get back to work.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Civil War/Masonic Commemorative

In the Myrtle Beach episode of the PBS TV show Antique Roadshow they appraised a Masonic Quilt from after the Civil War with a great story. The maker was in the path of Sherman's March and saved her house and belongings from the Union soldiers by using secret information her Masonic husband had told her to use if she was threatened. Masons in Sherman's army gave her special treatment. In gratitude she made this Masonic quilt after the war.

Watch the appraisal episode here:

Here's a black and white shot of the same quilt

Ohio (Probably)
Collection: National Heritage Museum

On the topic of Masonic quilts:
There is a show of quilts and needlework with Masonic themes up at the National Heritage Museum which focuses on Masonic history. Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles is up through the spring, 2013.
The Museum is in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Jane D. Haight Webster (1808-1877)
 Indiana, South Bend
Collection: National Heritage Museum

Today, Saturday March 16, Curator Aimee Newell will give a talk discussing "how women of the 1800s and 1900s demonstrated knowledge of Masonic values with their needles and created textiles that serve as lasting reminders of skills."

Read more here:

The Museum has a quilt collection on the topic.
Do a search for the word quilt on their search page

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Photographs and Emancipation

Image from the cover of
Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery
 by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer   

2013 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In these times of little money for museum and other public exhibits it is good to find several shows devoted to the topic.

Emancipation Day Commemoration in Richmond, Virginia

The Schomburg Center at the New York Public Library is in the closing weeks of the show Visualizing Emancipation featuring 80 photos of  "enslaved and free black women, men, and children. The images record the presence of black soldiers and black workers in the American South and help the 21st century viewer reimagine a landscape of black people's desire to be active in their own emancipation." The show, which is related to the book by Kratuhamer and Willis, closes on March 16th. 

See a link here:

Read more about the book at the Temple University Press site:

The authors are on a book tour so you might find them speaking in a venue near you this month.

The New York Times had a recent article in the Antiques column by Eve M. Kahn,
"Photographic Artifact of Black Civil War Troops," which discussed several exhibits and books on the topic

Other photographic exhibits on the topic:

Boston's Museum of African American History commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first black soldiers from the north to serve in the American Civil War with an exhibit Freedom Rising, through December 2013

At the Smithsonian in Washington:
Bound for Freedom's Light: African Americans and the Civil War
Up through March 2 next year 2014
"To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Portrait Gallery presents [an] installation that  focuses on the roles that individual African Americans played during the course of this hard-fought conflict....includes vintage photographs and historic prints, the majority drawn from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. The installation’s curator is Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs at the museum."
See more here:

And on the general topic of the Civil War Sesquicentennial:
The National Portrait Gallery has several other exhibits up. Here is a list of shows up in Washington now and in the future. The individual links may work. Otherwise try this:

Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals

(March 30, 2012, through May 2015)
Washington During the Civil War
(Dec. 13, 2013, through Jan. 25, 2015)
Grant and Lee
(March 14, 2014, through April 19, 2015)
Alexander Gardner
(October 31, 2014, through May 3, 2015)

Frederic Edwin Church,  Our Banner in the Sky (detail), 
1861 from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has two Civil War anniversary displays scheduled for summer 2013.
The Civil War & American Art opens May 28 and closes September 2, 2013. "More than two hundred of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for this landmark exhibition."
Plus a selection of American prints reflecting Civil War themes, by Winslow Homer, Thomas Nast, and others from May 20–August 25, 2013.

And if you want to stay home---here's an online photo exhibit about women and the war from the University of Maryland.
Women on the Border: Maryland Perspectives on the Civil War

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dixie Diary 3: Shouting Yankee Doodle

Block 3
Shouting Yankee Doodle 
8"  Version

A traditional pinwheel block, popular with quilters for generations, is the background for Sarah Morgan's satirical jabs at Union occupiers. The basic pattern is often called Broken Dishes, sometimes Yankee Puzzle.

Awaiting a Southern savior, Baton Rouge bristled under General Benjamin Butler's Union occupation. The Louisiana women defended the home front by showing contempt for the occupying army, spitting on the officers and insulting them.
The women of New Orleans also
spit at Butler's occupying Union soldiers.
From Harper's Weekly July 12, 1862

The Yankees told Sarah they would punish the mutinous women by making them sew for the Union army. Apparently, Sarah also held the social conversation of a sewing circle in contempt.

July 1, 1862, Baton Rouge
"I heard such a good joke last night!...These officers say the women talk too much, which is undeniable. They then said, they meant to get up a sewing society, and place in it every woman who makes herself conspicuous by her loud talking about them. Fancy what a refinement of torture! But only a few would suffer; the majority would be only too happy to enjoy the usual privilege of sewing societies, slander, abuse, and insinuations. How some would revel in it. The mere threat makes me quake!...
Oh, how I would beg and plead! Fifty years at Fort Jackson, good, kind General Butler, rather than half an hour in your sewing society! Gentle, humane ruler, spare me and I split my throat in shouting 'Yankee Doodle' and 'Hurrah for Lincoln!' Any, every thing, so I am not disgraced! Deliver me from your sewing society, and I'll say and do what you please!"

Detail of The Sewing Party 1857
By Louis Lang
Warner Foundation

A 12" version with a 1" frame, set on point 
By Sandi Brothers.

The pieced block has a BlockBase number.
BlockBase #1262a 
(Don't forget the "a" if you are searching by number.)
Names include Mosaic and Millwheel

Cutting 12":
A –  Cut 4 squares 6-7/8". 

Cut each into 2 triangles with 1 cut. 

Cutting 8":
A –  Cut 4 squares 4-7/8". 

Cut each into 2 triangles with 1 cut. 

Applique a star or a heart after piecing.

Winslow Homer drawing from Harper's Weekly.
A sewing bee was just one more
traditional woman's role that Sarah Morgan found confining.