Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Soldier/Cannon Calico

Skinner's Auction offered a piece of cotton 
"Calico made during Civil War 1861"

Fabric collectors and quilt historians discussed this print a few months ago on one of our social media pages. The print has a soldier (wearing what doesn't look much like a Civil-War-era outfit), a flag, a cannon and a pile of cannonballs.

The Art Institute of Chicago owns a sample book with
the same 3-color print, red, blue and a dark brownish black on white.

There are several related prints, subtly different.

The Henry Ford Museum has a lone star quilt with a couple of interesting prints that may indeed by Civil War commemoratives. The flag print here is red, blue and dark brown but the cannon and cannonballs are brown rather than red.

 The quilt looks to be 20 or 30 years after the war but the prints???

We got started on the discussion because Paula had an album block with the same print.

Some one appliqued the soldier and the cannon by a name suffering
from ink damage.

Pam Weeks designed an unpdated reproduction a while ago for New Castle Fabrics She based her design on a quilt "dated 1863 or '64 made for a soldier, in the collection of the Rochester, New York Historical Society."

The print, particularly the one with the red cannons, may indeed have been printed during the Civil War.

Laurette Carroll showed a tumbler in a charm quilt from the 1870s or '80s or later.
Years ago Pam saw this dress and couldn't afford to buy it but
she took a good photo. I wonder if it's not a costume or pageant
dress with it's casual construction and trim.

There's a second, closely related print.

This one is seen more often. It's red, blue and brown again
but there is no soldier and no pile of cannon balls.

Terry Thompson and I did a reproduction print in our first Civil War collection decades ago.

The original

Block with the name Samuel Sweet, perhaps typeset onto the fabric

Rather faded.

I have a tiny piece in a scrappy top that looks to have been worked
on in the 1880s and then set with a blue/black neon print about 1910.

These prints must have been favored souvenirs used to the last scrap.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns a child's garment,
perhaps a boy's dress with the soldier and the cannonballs in the print

And the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
has a similar dress but in the print without soldiers or balls.

Children's calico dresses are hard to date because style
changed so slowly in the 19th century.

Is one dress later than the other?

There is evidence that the print with the soldier and cannonballs was printed in the 1860s, but the second print might be from the 1870s, a reproduction done for the Centennial celebration.

Many prints were designed just for the Centennial.

Harriet Rebekah Bradbury Rich (1862-1959) donated this quilt to the Smithsonian in 1948. She remembered when as a 12-year-old she, her mother and grandmother pieced the blocks from Centennial celebration swatches that her father, a dry goods wholesaler in New Hampshire, had received in the mid-1870s. 

The Smithsonian's online photos show many prints, including some that are known to have been reproductions, such as the stripe drawn from a bodice that Martha Washington wore

And the small swatch with a portrait of Andrew Jackson, reproduced from
an earlier design.

But, alas, I see no swatches of any cannon prints with or without the soldier in the Bradbury quilt so my idea that there were two different prints, one in the 1860s and one in the 1870s isn't supported by this well-documented quilt.

Were both cannon prints, then, manufactured during the Civil War?


Lori said...

What a great print! I love the dresses uses the soldiers!!

Kerry said...

I thought the soldiers looked more like the Hussars uniform from around the Napoleonic wars era. Could the fabric have been designed with no idea of what the current uniforms were like and drew from memory? Or perhaps a toy soldier?

Karen said...

Interesting post! I love the Civil War history, so anything you find and research is great to read. The fabric is great as a conversation print, but doesn't really resemble the civil war uniforms era from pictures I've seen from the past! It would be fun to visit some of the museums you mentioned and see those old fabrics and quilts up close!

Sally Murray said...

Wonderful prints and pictures. Thank you, I'm an avid collector of 19th Century conversational prints and tape is of same. Any additional background in them is vsluable. Thank you!

Sally Murray said...

Not "and tape is of same", insert "and repros of same"
Hate autocorrect