Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Curious Reference to an Uncle Tom's Cabin Quilt

In A History of Ontario County, New York, published in 1911, author Charles F. Milliken tells the story of the county fair held in 1852 in Bristol Center, where Miss Addia Fisher won a prize "for a cap and Uncle Tom's Cabin quilt, etc."

Very curious. I have never seen another reference to an Uncle Tom's Cabin quilt---and I have no idea what it looked like.

This seems an obvious reference to the brand new book by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in book form in March, 1852. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin or Life Among the Lowly first came to public attention as a series of 41 newspaper installments in the weekly National Era from June, 1851 through April 1, 1852.

The phrase Uncle Tom's Cabin would have been on everyone's lips in those years.

I have done some web searches for the words "Uncle Tom's Cabin quilt" and the only reference that comes up is this 1911 book. Milliken probably obtained his facts from some fair records or newspapers. It's the only reference to Miss Addia Fisher too.

Reader Kathy Duncan did find her in the censuses. Adelia Fisher was 28 when she entered the fair.

Did the quilt in question look like the familiar log cabin popular after the 1870s?

Wool log cabin quilt dated 1876 by Susan Messenger

or more like a literal log cabin as in this Baltimore Album quilt from 1849
in the Smithsonian's collection?

Cabin from a quilt dated 1847,
the Anson Baldwin album quilt made in Yonkers, New York.
Collection of the Hudson River Museum.

Bristol Center, New York, was near Lake Canandaigua
about 30 miles from that hotbed of abolitionism
Rochester, New York
The text from the book:
"The first fair was held at Bristol Center, September 16, 1852. Hon. Elnathan W. Simmons was marshal of the day and W. Scott Hicks made an address. In taking a cursory look at the judges, it is interesting to note how their specialties have been carried down and even now we are familiar with many of the descendants interested in these particular lines of stock. The judges on horses were William J. Donalson. Thomas Hunn. Seth Paul, Jeremiah Fisher. Isaac Bentley, and Thomas Gilbert; on cattle. Phineas Kent, Elisha Mather, Billings Case, and Norman Hills: on sheep, Darius Newton. Horatio Sisson, Benjamin P". Phillips. Isaiah Cornell, Orestes Case, and Royal Andrews: on swine, Ezekiel Cudworth, Judah Sisson, Alphonso G. Fisher.
Among the premiums offered to women were those for the best woolen cloth, "the best dressed flannel" fall home production), yarn carpets, rag carpets, bed quilts, butter, cheese, etc.
The following are some of the names of those who acted as judges: Mrs. Solomon Goodale. Mrs. Richmond Simmons, Mrs. Elnathan Simmons, Mrs. Orestes Case, Mrs. Billings Case, Mrs. Francis Mason, Miss Mary J. Paul. Mrs. Phineas Kent. Mrs. Norman Randall. Mrs. Elijah Jones. Mrs. Moses Tubbs, Mrs. Henry Hurd. Among the winners of discretionary premiums were: Miss Pheba Sears, for a "Duster of Peacock Feathers:" Mrs. Erastus Allen, for a bed quilt and flowers: Mrs. William Bailey, for a chair tidy; Mrs. Lucy Gooding, for a hearth rug; Miss Adelaide Mason, for a work stand ; Miss Dora Barnum, for a card basket; Miss Addia Fisher, for a cap and Uncle Tom's Cabin quilt, etc."
Read A History of Ontario County, New York:

See posts on the history of the Log Cabin quilt here:


Gimmeclems said...
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Nann said...

I thought I'd google to see if I could find Addia . . . and found that Kathy Duncan has already done some research.
See what you get us into, Barbara? Throw us a genealogy challenge and we try to find the answer!

Monica said...

This is quite fascinating, I must say. I notice that the Uncle Tom's Cabin quilt must be a different thing than the other "bed quilt" entered by another woman. Could it be a log cabin? Could it just be a pieced quilt, rather than a whole cloth quilt? Or maybe the "bed quilt" is applique. Interesting distinction. Anyway, I hope you can learn more!

Barbara Brackman said...

Bedquilt or bedquilt was a common synonym for quilt through the Civil War era. Perhaps because there had been quilted petticoats. So in the case of the Ontario County fair bedquilt probably just means quilt.

Janie said...

I love the stories. I like their ingenuity and trying to imagine their thinking process.
Thanks Barbara.