Saturday, June 30, 2018

Call For Quilts: Cutters

Two women sewing, about 1860
Photo from the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection:

Hundreds of calls for quilts and bedding went out during the Civil War.
This article from an Ohio newspaper in the first year of the war is quite specific:

"Sheets and quilt are wanted...7 feet long, 4-1/2 feet wide, and may be made of odd calico or delaine, with cotton firmly quilted in, so that it will not lose its place in being washed.... It must be remembered that hospital cots are very narrow, and second hand bedding, if sent to us should be cut over into proper size. Two half worn quilts of ordinary size can be altered into three hospital quilts.."

I still recall my growing horror during an AQSG paper by Ginny Gunn years ago in which she explained how many quilts were consumed during the Civil War---destroyed accidentally in battle, mud and laundry or deliberately burned after a soldier's death. It's nothing compared to the lives that were lost, but it is still a loss.

Looking at the newspaper request suggesting that one could cut two half-worn quilts into three hospital quilts I started imagining....

Let's say I'm an Ohioan with two "half-worn" quilts inherited from
my late mother-in-law. 

I was never that fond of her and I am indeed less fond of these medallion quilts, which are so out-of fashion. But dear Hubby insists we display them in the extra room. I'll appeal to his patriotism by showing him the newspaper.

A little binding and I have three bedcovers for the Soldiers' Aid Society plus I can put a new red and green applique on the bed.
It's a win/win situation for everybody except the future quilt historian.

Read Virginia Gunn's ground-breaking paper "Quilts for Union Soldiers in the Civil War " in Uncoverings 6 at the Quilt Index:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Antebellum Album #6 Madame's Star

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Pat Styring

Southern girls educated at Northern boarding schools risked "imbibing habits and manners not perfectly congenial with those of the people of the South," warned an Alabama parent. Cautious planters and urban aristocrats had the option of pricey schools closer to home. Among the elite academies was Madame Talvande's French School for Young Ladies, L'École pour Demoiselles, in Charleston, South Carolina, run by a family of Haitian refugees.

Madame Talvande's school building still stands,
 known today as the Sword Gate House.

Mary Boykin Miller (1823-1886) soon after her marriage to 
James Chesnut in 1840.

Mary Miller, a student in the late 1830s, recalled Madame as,"the Tyrant of Legare St." who was forced to seek U.S. asylum by revolution in Haiti, then called St. Domingue.

The Haitian uprising (1791-1804) was the most successful of
the slave revolutions, creating the second 
independent country in the Western hemisphere.
"She wasted no time in vain regrets, or in thoughts of what was due her by God and man---on account of her social position---before the social earthquake; but she at once took measures to utilize her rare accomplishments, and to make them pay." 
Madame's accomplishments: She was a native French speaker and a force to be reckoned with. The Eastern U.S. was dotted with what were called French Schools run by exiles from Europe and the Caribbean with just those gifts.

Unknown school. Class picture with Madame?
About 1860

Mary was a favorite student, invited to sit at Madame's table during meals, conversing skillfully in the required French. (English was forbidden.) Classmate Susan Petigru was not so favored. Sue did not thrive in French and believed that girls in her elite position wasted time and tuition on education.

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Denniele Bohannon

Sue and Mary had much in common besides social class. Both were gifted writers and conversationalists, witty and outspoken. But Mary knew the limits for Southern womanhood. Sue never accepted the conventions, earning a lifelong reputation as a "fast woman."

Sue published popular novels pushing those limits in the 1850s. Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut wrote novels too, but she's remembered for her Civil War diary, while Sue Petigru King is forgotten except by those who relish a scandalous life story.

Older sister Caroline Petigru Carson (1820–1892)
 enjoyed her years at Madame Talvande's
more than Sue did. The 1841 portrait is by Thomas Sully,
Collection: Gibbes Museum of Art

Chintz album quilt. Signatures from
Columbia, Charleston, Savannah, Danbury, 
Connecticut & New York
sold at Skinner's Auctions.

Quilt dated 1848, Eudora F. Davis,
Sumter District, South Carolina. Online auction.
Other names include Clark.

Finding antebellum South Carolina album quilts with pieced blocks is almost as hard as finding Yankee pupils in Carolina girls' schools.

Cut-out-chintz applique is the dominant style in pre-Civil-War
South Carolina signature quilts but here are some familiar pieced designs.
(We are not going to do the pale blue sunburst!)

Madame Talvande's "had two or three distinct cliques," wrote Mary in a thinly veiled novel about school days. She classified herself (and probably Sue) as among the English girls---those "of Cavalier stock" (meaning descended from English aristocrats). There were "The French speaking [Catholic] refugees from St. Domingo of whom Madame was a distinguished representative. wonderfully handsome girls... gayer and less studious than Charleston proper...." Then the "Huguenots...not ashamed then to be both American and protestants." She lists their traits: piety, thrift, industry, energy and worldly wisdom, "stiff necked, with somewhat of a hard narrowness." The always observant Mary could bite.

Mary's parents removed her from Madame Talvande's after gossip she was seen walking with James Chesnut, six years older.

James and Mary married when she was 17.
He was a clerk in Sue's father's law office.

Once the Millers met Mary's callers in frontier Mississippi, a temporary home, they sent her right back to Charleston. Sue's stay at Madame Talvande's was short. Hoping perhaps for more polish, her parents enrolled her in a French School in Philadelphia, which she didn't like any better than she did Philadelphia or the North.

Mix of chintz and calico styles in an album dated 1843
from the Philadelphia/NJ area, 
made by Hannah Nicholson Grave's Quaker relatives.
Collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

See a post on Hannah Grave's three quilts here:

Links between Carolina students and Philadelphia schools seems to have been one agent of design transmission. Girls like Sue (if Sue noticed needlework at all) would have brought new Philadelphia fashion back home.

The Block: Madame's Star

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Mark Lauer

Blocks from an undated mid-19th century 
New Jersey album from Stella Rubin Antiques

Simple nine patch stars often served as signature blocks. This month's design gives different effects with different shading.

On the reverse of an 1843 quilt from Swedesboro, New Jersey
in Mary Koval's collection.

It's #1634 in BlockBase, published in
the 1930s by Nancy Page as Mosaic.

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Mark Lauer

Cutting a 12" Block

A - Cut 2 dark & 2 light squares 4-7/8" Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 8 large triangles.

B - Cut 1 light, 1 dark & 2 medium squares 5-1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 16 medium-sized triangles.

C- Cut 2 squares 2-7/8" Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 4 small triangles.


D - Cut 1 square 3-3/8".


Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Denniele Bohannon

A Sentiment for June

A scroll with a bouquet from a set of blocks dated 1843 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Civil War & After

Mary and Sue kept up an edgy relationship through the Civil War. Through her husband Mary was  Confederate elite. Sue married Henry King, a Charleston lawyer who was neither ambitious nor sober. By the time the War came and Henry joined the Sumter Guard they were living apart. Henry was killed in the Battle of Secessionville in June, 1862. 

Susan Dupont Petigru King Bowen 
(1824 - 1875) perhaps about 1870

Sue's Southern family was outspoken against Secession. During the War sister Caroline found that Charlestonians thought so little of her opinions she was obliged to obtain a pass to move to New York and then Italy. Sue remained in Charleston and Columbia, suspected of spying, treason and hiding Yankee fugitives and growing more rebellious and combative as the years passed.

The former classmates met at Columbia's 1862 Gunboat Fair. In her diary Mary noted Sue's escort,  an infatuated soldier 12 years her junior, and called her "fast." "People talk of her flirtations and keep out of her way because she is so quarrelsome." Two years later Mary had the nerve to accuse Sue to her face of dressing provocatively in search of a new husband. "And yet I am as afraid of her as death."

In January, 1865 Sue was talking of her engagement to Confederate General Pierre Toutant Beauregard. Mary was indignant. "She showed his letters and his photograph. Incredulous we were and openly pronounced the photograph proof worth nothing. Anybody can get that for a small pile of Confederate money. It is in every shop window."

Paper photos like this carte-de-visite of  
P.T. Beauregard were collectibles, apparently advertised in 
"every shop window" in Columbia right up to the end of the War.

Sue was perhaps delusional as well as bad-tempered. Well, I could go on as it's so much fun to read Mary Chesnut's diary. She is a 21st-century woman in a 19th century-milieu. 

Block # 6 Madame's Star
By Becky Brown

Read previews of recent editions of both Mary's and Sue's novels.

Sue enjoyed financial success with several of her books in the 1850s. See Busy Moments of an Idle Woman (1853) and Lily: A Novel (1855). Gerald Gray's Wife and Lily: A Novel have recently been republished. Here's a preview:

Mary Chesnut's novel Two Years or the Way We Lived Then was not published till recently.

The introductions are the best part. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Patchwork Balloon

Union Balloon used for enemy reconnaissance
From Harper's Weekly in 1861.
Both sides used balloons for observation during the first years of the Civil War.

A colorful story tells us of the Confederate balloon Gazelle. In his 1886 memoir Confederate General James Longstreet recalled a time in 1862 when:
"longing for the balloons that poverty denied us, a genius arose for the occasion and suggested that we send out and gather together all the silk dresses in the Confederacy and make a balloon...soon we had a great patchwork ship of many and varied hues."
John C. Stiles writing in 1919 in the magazine Confederate Veteran mentioned the balloon "made of ladies' silk dresses called The Lady Davis."

Longstreet's tale of a balloon pieced of women's donated dresses, "the last silk dress in the Confederacy" became a legend of generosity from the women of Richmond, in particular. But like most colorful stories the truth is a little more gray.

Union balloon Intrepid

Edward P. Alexander (1835-1910) wrote his memoir about 1900. 
Alexander flew the Gazelle.

In 1989 a previously unpublished memoir by the balloon's pilot Southern General Edward Porter Alexander appeared with a more likely story:
"Dr. Edward Cheves of Savannah conceived the idea of making a uncle of my friends...He was wealthy & he was a very remarkable & skillful mechanic & chemist & engineer. He bought up all the silk to be found in Sav.[annah] and Charleston ...& at last completed a very excellent balloon & brought it on to Richmond...." Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander 
 At least two museums have fragments of Cheves's patchwork silk balloon. 

NASM 2006-24070.

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has two pieces---
plaid and print. Both are about 13" wide. I lightened up their photo to see the pattern.

Richmond's American Civil War Museum
has a framed piece with the same fabrics.

The silk yardage was probably pieced in strips and treated with a sealing varnish.
The Gazelle must have been a pretty sight as it floated over Virginia in the summer of 1862.

Capture of the Teaser on the James River from Harper's Weekly

The Gazelle was captured by the USS Maratanza while being transported aboard the CSA Teaser in July, 1862. The balloon was given to the Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Thaddeus Lowe, who apparently cut it into souvenir pieces.

Professor Lowe in His Balloon from the Brady Studios

Thaddeus Lowe (1832-1913)

After the war Lowe moved to Pasadena, California and after his death his family donated these fragments. I've also seen a reference that members of the U.S. Congress were given pieces during the war.

There must be more pieces of the silk balloon somewhere.

Read more:

From the Altadena Historical Society

Lowe's balloons seem to have been made of cotton or linen.
I wonder why Cheves chose silk.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Progress: Antebellum Album Blocks 1-5

Charlene's Blocks 1-5

Lots of stitchers keeping up with the monthly Antebellum Album blocks.

You'd better catch up this week because #6 is up a week from today.


Here are some sets....




Marie Helene
Notice the toile or chintz scene in the center of each.