Saturday, April 18, 2015

1862 Crib Quilt: Questions

Small flag quilt
Date inscribed 1862
38 1/4" by 32 1/4 "

This quilt has been in my file of quilts related to the Civil War for several years. It's been handled by a few antique dealers and was auctioned at Sotheby's last year. The date of 1862 in the lower right corner is part of the quilt's value.

I haven't felt completely confident about the date that is embroidered  (?) on one of the flags.

1862 is inscribed in the stripe of one flag.

The overall quilt-style just doesn't look 1862. If it were not dated I would guess it was pieced between 1870 and 1890.

My dating guess is based on three style characteristics.
1) The major pattern,what might be called a charm quilt of triangles.
2) The strip border.
3) The corner treatment in the strip border.

1) The Pattern: Charm Quilt 

1) The major pattern is in the style called charm quilt---a sampler of prints. This is not a true charm quilt as there are numerous duplicate prints, but very few charm quilts achieved the goal of no two prints alike.

The pattern of squares half dark and half light is common.
The small quilt above is date-inscribed 1897.

1862 Flag quilt detail 

The style idea in a charm quilt is to use prints for both light and dark areas and stitch the quilt from only one shape.
This flag quilt is the earliest date-inscribed quilt in this style that I've seen. Anytime one finds a very early or a very late example---an outlier---one should be suspicious.

Quilt date-inscribed 1876

The charm style was extremely fashionable in the 1870s. Here's the next-earliest version I've seen with a date on it, pieced of Centennial Prints in 1876, the date of the U.S. Centennial celebration.

Quilt date-inscribed 1882

Small quilt date-inscribed 1883 from the
Nickols collection at San Diego's Mingei Museum.

Many quilts were made in charm style after 1870. One gets the feeling quilters were celebrating a new abundance of American prints in new styles, such as the black (brown?) lace print that is the border here. Lace prints in stripes were quite popular in the 1880s.

Quilt date-inscribed 1869, documented by the Heritage Quilt Project
of New Jersey, photo from the Quilt Index

This is the closest thing I have found dated in the 1860's and it's similar only in the use of the half-square triangle and prints for the light colored areas. The large white triangles are a solid white. It's not a charm quilt but it is pieced of half-square triangles.

2) The Border Style

The border pieced of multiple strips is also a style seen more after 1870 than before. This is not one of the strongest clues to date; there are earlier quilts with multiple strip borders.

3) The border corner treatment.

A stronger clue to a post-Civil War date is in the way the borders turn the corners. The style is not mitered and is not even pieced to look mitered. The strips are just seamed as they were added, in a rather casual fashion typical of the late-19th and early 20th century. Today people call the style a run-on border.
See a post I wrote on this late 19th-century border corner here:

My thinking is that the crib quilt is more typical of Centennial-style quilts

Such as this quilt pieced of triangles framing a central panel printed to commemorate
the 1876 Centennial and four flags cut from another Centennial commemorative.

The two flag quilts above and below were pictured in the series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics

An undated charm quilt of rectangles featuring a flag in the collection of the New England Quilt Museum. Is it a Centennial quilt celebrating 100 years of American independence and a lot of calico?

Next week the defense for a Civil War date on the crib quilt gets an airing. (I'm doing both sides of  the debate here all by myself but if you have ideas do comment, please!).


suzanne said...

Very interesting! Can't wait for the next installment. Considerations: (1) were the flags were pieced in 1862 and someone figured out how to make them into a quilt later? (2) that charm pattern that isn't a charm quilt, it's like the borders of so many English medallion quilts -- not an original concept in 1862 or 1880. (3) you haven't told us what you think about the dates of the fabric in the little triangles, wouldn't that be the best clue of all? If the fabrics were all 1862 or earlier, I would think you couldn't rule that out as a date of the quilt based on "style" -- so many quilts haven't survived that I would think simple ideas like the run-on border, which sort of comes naturally to the rushed quilter, or the use of triangle scraps to make the field, are very meaningful. Sweet little quilt. What did it sell for?

Barbara said...

Here is some interesting info. Florence Peto had originally purchased this quilt from a local [NJ] dealer and wrote about it in a letter to Elizabeth Richardson on June 12, 1949: ". . . woe is me, I fell for it. Cute. Entire center of tiny one-inch squares, diagonalled - half light, half dark; makes sparkling tile pattern. The border - red and white stripes which form an American Flag at two of the corners. The quiltmaker was able to squeeze in 6 white stars on the blue field - but - ? homespun backing but the date is 1862. The calicoes are same as those of the swatches that came in a carton I purchased recently from The Patchwork House (antiques) in Hightstown, NJ." Florence also mentioned that she started a "cute little nine-patch made of those one-and-a-half-inch squares." This little quilt became her well-known Calico Garden.

Anonymous said...

Wendy in NH

I saw this quilt in Manchester, NH about 4 years ago when it was displayed at an antique show by the dealer Jan Whitlock Textiles(Malvern, PA). I asked her where she got it & she told me she found it in Rhode Island. It sold at Sotheby's in January 2014 for $5,938( 5-7K estimate).

Lori said...

Very interesting! I love the run-on borders and make them frequently, on purpose and on accident! lol

Barbara Brackman said...

Next week-lame answer to Suzanne's #3 question.
Barbara S---good Peto information.
Wendy-thanks for the pirce

Themis Abdo said...

Hello Barbara, it's amazing the amount of prints since then. I have been following your blog and enjoyed every post. I have studied much about Civil War quilts to tell my students and descendants in Brazil. hugs
Themis Abdo

siamkitty said...

Overjoyed that you mention "charm quilts". I have several WIP charm quilts using reproduction 1800's fabrics, and am totally frustrated that many people today think that I am making a "charm pack" quilt! I have been collecting charm packs and fabric swatches for many years, and estimate that I have approx. 4,500 different 1800's reproduction fabrics. Mind-boggling, but my goal is make at least one fabric charm quilt containing 10,000 different fabrics.

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Hmmm. I'm sure you've checked to see that it is not 1882 with some of the stitching missing. so... maybe (as Suzanne said) the flags were intended for an earlier quilt or... this is the "one" quilt that started the charm craze. Fun to think about. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to the next post.

Anonymous said...

Theories: 1862 meant something to the owner of the quilt but what will be hard to determine. Add to this uncertainty, there may be a time lapse between when it was pieced/quilted and when the date was added. How many of us have pieced something and then put it aside to be quilted/labeled at a later date (am I the only one who is well meaning but suffers from quilters procrastination)?

If it is a northeastern quilt – the Battle of Antietam (in the South they called it Sharpsburg) was fought in 1862 and most of the Union regiments were drawn from the northeast (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island and others). Antietam was renowned for its casualty list - the bloodiest single-day battle in American history and it would most definitely have been remembered in 1876, during the US Centennial. 1862 may be a cryptic reference to the battle or . . .

The simplest explanation: 1862 was the birth year of the quilt maker.

First time commenter, love your blog. ~~M

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara, I have a large quilt that was handed down to me. It was made by my grandmothers grandmother. My mom told me it was made around the time of the civil war. My great great grandfather fought in the war. Do you know how I can find out more about my quilt and have it appraised? It has a pattern I have never seen before and it is in nice condition. Thanks for any info you can give me. Hillary Nelson

Mary Boyer said...

I love the historical examples you gave us. Makes me want to forget about going to work and sewing today!

siamkitty said...

Update on my thimble charm quilt - 4,000 different 1800's Reproduction fabrics sewn together and a bin filled with approx. 3,600 thimbles waiting to be added.
Temecula Quilt Company is making free instruction to make a reproduction of the quilt at the top of the page as their summer project.