Saturday, November 8, 2014

M.T. Hollander and the Abolitionist Baby Quilt

Last week I posted about the quilt displayed at the
back of Mrs. Hollander's display box at the 1853-4
Crystal Palace exhibit in New York.

Merikay Waldvogel curated a 1994 show of quilts from
the Historic New England collection. I helped her
document some of those in storage.

In her notes she described it:
 Top fabric silk; unquilted; 31 stars linked by chenille chain; flag, shield and eagle are also chenille; George Washington's face is painted on silk; outer 2-inch border is red and white silk pieced stripes and corded;

Mystery:  Top is unquilted, but backing is hand-quilted in diamond crosshatching using gold thread.  There's also a quilting design of a star visible from the back...with quilting thread of black and red.  [Is there] a star quilt inside?

The article I referred to last week makes it clear that the quilt was stitched and inked by an unknown embroiderer,a woman who "had  received a medal at the London exhibition of needlework," presumably the 1851 Crystal Palace exposition. Mrs. Hollander paid her $100.

Our default thinking is always one quilt/one woman---start to finish. It's part
of quilt mythology as in this picture of an anonymous great grandmother
who appears to be stitching her sorrows into a log cabin quilt.

In the case of the Hollander quilt we are surprised to find that the woman now
credited with making the quilt had purchased the handwork.

Who was Mrs. Hollander?

She is often referred to as M.T. Hollander of Boston, another surprise. Mid-19th-century women from Boston did not use their own initials and did not omit the Miss or Mrs. before their names.
Maria Theresa Baldwin Hollander had an independent streak.

She was born in New York, in 1820, a daughter of Charles North Baldwin who had fought in the War of 1812.

UPDATE: Charlotte's comment has cleared up this mystery:

I checked the 1870 census on It seems Jacob L was Maria's husband (60, born in Prussia) while Louis P is probably their oldest son (27, born in NY).

 She married either Jacob L. Hollander or Louis P. Hollander, brothers in the clothing business. Apparently her husband's New York business failed in the 1840s. I am guessing Mr. Hollander's brother had a clothing business in Boston and they moved there to start again. Possibly due to his financial problems she is always listed as the 1848 founder of L.P. Hollander, a Boston institution. Or perhaps she insisted on using her own name.

In the 1868 Boston directory, Maria is affiliated with Louis P. Hollander and he with her in businesses at 10 Temple Place. Jacob is in business at 18 Province Court as a furrier and cap manufacturer. This may be her brother-in-law or her son named for him.

She may have been married to Louis with Jacob her brother-in-law or vice versa. Reports conflict (another indication of how independent she was.) I haven't seen her referred to as Mrs. (Husband) Hollander.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has
several pieces of Hollander's children's
clothing in their collection.

Maria Hollander's specialty was well-made children's clothing. Rather than hiring seamstresses to come to their homes, Boston's ladies began taking the children to L.P. Hollander's to order clothing or perhaps to buy it off the rack.

L.P Hollander & Company thrived, adding more clothing specialties as
they grew. 

Branches were opened in Newport, Palm Beach, Pasadena and New York.


Maria and her husband lived in Somerville near Boston, 
success evident in their address on Boston Street.

Boston Street today

She and members of her family were included in the 1888 book Twenty Thousand Rich New Englanders.

Maria's sons eventually took over the business and she devoted her time to charity work and women's rights. About 1878 she and a friend organized the Somerville Woman's Education Union, which became the Somerville Suffrage League. 

National Suffrage meeting in Omaha, 1890

Her papers at the Schlesinger Library include letters from leaders in the woman suffrage movement.
A local history written a decade after her death in 1885 recalled her as "a lady of extraordinary executive ability and progressive thought."

"The stain to [erase] that tarnishes the South...."

That progressive thought in the 1850s included making a public statement about slavery in her commercial exhibit at the Crystal Palace exhibit.

Ad in the New Yorker magazine about 1930.

Maria's son Theodore sold the New York branch of L. P. Hollander in 1929. The new owner embarked on an art deco building finished in 1930. The Great Depression put pressure on L. P. Hollander & Company and the firm went bankrupt in 1932, although they continued in business for several years.

The name lives on in the L.P. Hollander Building at 552 Fifth Avenue, which is a historic landmark.


Wendy Caton Reed said...

Oh my! Is that an actual photo of her? It appears that she is making a "potholder" quilt! I'll be sure to forward it to Pam Weeks. Thanks for the updates.

Barbara Brackman said...

Wendy, That's not her! That's a photo I found on line. I'll make it clear.But it does seem to be a bound block-by-block quilt she is making.

WoolenSails said...

It would be interesting to see the quilt in person and see if it is a quilt on top of another, since it has stitching on the back. I wonder how many quilts I passed by that were made over older ones, and never knew there was a treasure inside.


Chantal said...

What an interesting story! I am always surprised at how much information you can dig up on people and quilts. So interesting! Today had double the fun because of the little mystery stitched into this quilt. :D I have enjoyed reading this post a lot. Thank you so much for the research and sharing it all with us.

Suzanne A said...

As someone who was involved in nursing home affairs for over 20 years, I recognize the look of the woman in that photograph as dementia. Someone has dressed her and propped her up with little quilts she perhaps made in earlier times so that she might be remembered as the active person they knew for posterity. I find the picture almost unbearably touching in what it says about those who cared about her and what it says about decline in old age.

Thank you for bringing us that history of an outstanding woman of the 19th century. Her story is impressive and unusual.

Bella Pink said...

Thanks Barbara for the great research. I get a kick out of reading your works. You really know how to go after the info. Speaking as a retired librarian, I know how much effort goes into it, even with the internet!....arden

Unknown said...

I checked the 1870 census on It seems Jacob L was Maria's husband (60, born in Prussia) while Louis P is probably their oldest son (27, born in NY).

Barbara Brackman said...

Thanks Charlotte. I'll add that to the post.