Saturday, August 31, 2019

Silk Scraps Through the Mail

Hexagonal silk block pieced over paper cut from a letter with the date 1864.

A letter from Becky to her Aunty, Miss Phillips in Philadelphia
concerning a similar project in process.
"Sister and myself were very much obliged to you for the numerous pieces of silk you sent us. They are beautiful and very acceptable as my pieces of silk had almost entirely given out. And I am very anxious to finish my quilt if possible before I leave here."

These silk extravaganzas sometimes took years to make.
This one has papers dated 1857 to 1864.

Becky sent the letter from West Chester, Pennsylvania were she was vacationing with her family, perhaps having left the city during the summer sickly season when Philadelphia was prone to mosquitos and yellow fever epidemics. We have to imagine what kind of a silk quilt she was working on.

Border of an unfinished top with papers dated 1864

I saved the photos of the letter from an online auction
And the silk quilts too.

1857-64 papers

No last name for Becky or first name for Aunty Phillips and no
date in the letter or in the postmark other than Sep 13.

But the stamp offers some information. It was used in 1861 and 1862.

1022 Spruce Street today
This row house wasn't there in 1860. Miss Phillips
must have lived in an older house now gone

Water Street at Spruce in the 1850s

Illinois State Museum Collection

Papers dating 1859 to 1864. It was likely difficult to
get silk scraps during the Civil War but stitchers persevered.

Papers 1864
Let's hope those girls got that quilt done before
they went back to Philadelphia in the fall.

A well-worn quilt that was a long-term project:
"Ette Wilson
Begun 1864"

"Finish 1906"

What I can see of the letter:

"Miss Phillips
No 1022 Spruce

West Chester
Sept 13th

Dear Aunty
Mother was afraid you might be worried at the non-appearance of Buzzy, so she thought I had better write a few lines and tell you that he had concluded to stay [] until Monday when ....

find but two. She thinks he may possibly have left the {word missing] at your house. If he has will you give it to Catherine so as mother can get it when we come home...

Sister and myself were very much obliged to you for the numerous pieces of silk you sent us. They are beautiful and very acceptable as my pieces of silk had almost entirely given out. And I am very anxious to finish my quilt if possible before I leave here.

We are all well and send much love.
Affectionately, Becky"

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Hospital Sketches #8: Triple Tulips - The State Reliefs

Hospital Sketches #8: Triple Tulips by Becky Brown

Triple Tulips recalls the smaller relief agencies staffed by women during the Civil War. The Union's Sanitary Commission is the best documented and the best remembered but several smaller N.G.O's (Non-Governmental Organizations we call them today) offered comfort to injured and ill soldiers. Supplied by Aid Societies at home and the warehouses of the Sanitary and the Christian Commissions, volunteers and paid staff combed field hospitals for patients from their own states.

The Michigan & Pennsylvania Relief Association Camp at White House Landing
Stereograph printed from glass negative, scanned by the Library of Congress 

The original photo was shot in 1864 by the Brady Studio. The tent says "Michigan."

The woman seated on the left is thought to be Julia Wheelock.
Bedding airs on the tent, one perhaps a flying geese patchwork quilt.

Julia Susan Wheelock Freeman (1833-1900)

Julia Wheelock was born in Ohio. After both parents died by the time she was 21 she moved to Michigan joining her brothers Orville and Chapin. She graduated from Kalamazoo College and worked as a teacher. In September, 1862 brother Orville was wounded at the Battle of Bull Run.

Orville Wheelock

She and her sister-in-law hurried to Washington, the city of hospitals, but they arrived too late to see him before he died. Widowed Anna Wheelock returned home to her children but Julia, touched by hearing about a woman who sat with the dying Orville, decided to stay and offer the same comfort. 

Harper's Weekly Illustration

At first volunteers were at a loss as to how to help.  Almira Fales told her crew in Washington: "Go to work, girls, wash their faces, comb their hair, do what you can."

Triple Tulips by Bettina Havig

As the war dragged on, volunteers got organized. Two years later at White House Landing Julia outlined the activities of the Michigan Soldiers' Relief Agency:
"Going to the numerous hospitals with supplies of all kinds; cooking soups, puddings, custards; making tea, coffee, lemonade, milk-punch; preparing 'special diet' for individual cases, dressing wounds, bathing burning brows, receiving dying messages, writing to friends of the disabled and deceased, were among our daily duties."

Julia at right looks much like the woman in the striped dress.
 She wrote that she was at White House Landing 
for about two weeks in early June, 1864.

See Block #3 for more about White House Landing, a Virginia river port held by the Union.

In her published diary Julia discussed serving in the Virginia field hospital during Grant's Wilderness Campaign, cooperating with the Pennsylvania agency.
"Dr St. Clair kindly loaned us a large tent...Mrs. Nowell, of Philadelphia, volunteered to assist us, and remained with us several days. We cooked over a range outside our tent until a stove was procured..."
Two other women are pictured in the Brady photo, one standing behind the woman in the white dress. One may be Mariah E.A.B. Nowell. The other might be Michigan friend Elmina (Almira) Brainard who worked with Julia for several years. Both Mariah & Elmina received pensions for their war work.
"At night we made two tents of one, by putting in a canvas partition; and for beds, spread our blankets upon the ground, which, if not the best substitute for feathers or mattress, answered very  well.....The 3rd [of June] the wounded were arriving nearly all day from the battle of Coal [Cold] Harbor." From Julia's diary.

The Michigan tent in the photo, their makeshift ward.
The words running vertically behind the Michigan banner say "Brigade ?? Headquarters"

The stove

Triple Tulips by Janet Perkins

In her book Julia give thanks to...
"Officers and agents of the various 'State Reliefs'. We were greatly indebted to the Christian Commission for large supplies which we frequently drew from their stores, and for occasional drafts on the Sanitary Commission. Officers of the Government, and hospital officials, as a rule, were kind and obliging. Our thanks are also due to our Congressmen and other Michigan gentlemen residing in Washington, who were ever ready to assist us in our work."
The paragraph gives us a little information about how the "State Reliefs" worked, cooperating with  larger agencies and relying on political clout for permission to assist.

Triple Tulips by Marty Webster

After White House Landing Julia moved on to City Point, remarking on one well-established tent hospital there serving long-term patients:
"Cavalry [Corps] Hospital..was situated in a most delightful place....The tents were the most comfortable of any I ever saw in the field. Each patient was provided with a good bed, not the narrow hospital cot, but what are called single beds, and furnished with mattress, sheets, pillows, and a 'patched' quilt, in lieu of the coarse army blanket. The wards were decorated with evergreens, and everything looked neat and clean. Instead of clouds of dust, the air was bright and clear. Compared with our Infantry hospitals, surrounded with sand and dust, it seemed like an earthly paradise."
The Block

Basted block with signature John & Mary Swain, North Benton, Ohio.
Variations of this layered floral seen in side view are quite common
in mid-19th century quilts. 
See a little more about the pattern here:

To Print:
Create a word file or a new empty JPG file.
Click on the image above.
Right click on it and save it to your file.
Print that file. Be sure the square is about 1" in size.

For the background cut a square 18-1/2".
Add seam allowances to the pattern pieces if you are doing traditional applique.

Triple Tulips - Barbara Brackman
My stems didn't come out quite the same as the pattern. That's what fit. My straight stem is longer than the pattern. The bias finishes to 1/2".

Block 8 is directional so goes in  your last corner. One more
non-directional block to go.


Becky's dots certainly update the look


Cut a 9" square
1 Each of A, B, C & D
Use 1 leaf A from Block 3
1/2” Finished bias stem

Triple Tulip Sprouts by Denniele Bohannon
Denniele did them a little smaller --- cut 9-1/2"

After the War

In summer, 1864 Julia was stricken with typhoid fever and returned home to Michigan to recuperate and raise money for the Michigan Relief agency while she did. She came back to Washington the day before Lincoln's assassination. After the war she worked as a Treasury Department clerk and published her diary in 1870 as The Boys in White: The Experience of a Hospital Agent in and Around Washington.

In 1873 she married Porter C. Freeman, a druggist from Michigan and returned to Michigan where they had two sons Frank and Frederick. In 1881 the family moved to Springfield, Missouri where Julia and Porter are buried. She died at 66 in 1900.

Attributed to New York, online auction
Six of the blocks here are triple florals.

Extra Reading:

Read about Julia at a Michigan Women's website:

Their sad search for Orville:

See Julia's book:

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jane Stickles's 1863 Quilt on Display

Vermont's Bennington Museum displays its famous Jane Stickles quilt annually---
this year from August 31-October 14, 2019.

Jane Blakley Stickles (1817-1896)

In the corner:
"In War Time. 1863
Pieces. 5602."

Pamela Weeks, curator at the New England Quilt Museum has studied Jane's life.

Jane had family in the fabric business. Her younger brother Erastus was listed as a tailor in the 1850 census.

One motivation for such time-consuming work is explained by an account of the 1863
 Bennington County Agricultural Fair in the Bennington Banner.

The premium list included mention of a $2 prize for "Best patched quilt"  to "Mrs. W. P. Stickles." A reporter also did a short piece on the Ladies Section.
"Mrs. J. B. Smith of Manchester, Mrs. Taft and Mrs. Stickles presented each a very extra bed quilt. Mrs. Stickles is an invalid lady, having been for a long time confined to her bed, but her ambition to do something to kill the time induced her to piece this quilt. It contains many thousand different pieces of cloth, no two of which are exactly alike. Upon one corner is marked in plain letters, 'made in the war of 1863'."
They cancelled the 1862 fair in Bennington County
 "on account of the present unhappy state of the country."

Read Pam's article "A Masterwork Worthy of Reverent Whispers," published in the Summer 2013 issue of the Bennington Museum's Walloomsack Review.

And see more of the quilt here: