Saturday, December 28, 2019

Constitution & Union Quilt

Quilt dated 1859-1861

Twenty-two years ago Linda Critchfield sent me snapshots of a quilt from her collection. We had hopes of including it in my book Quilts From the Civil War, but it did not happen. I'm sorting through my paper files, digitizing pictures and information as I organize the files to ship to the Quilt Research Center at the University of Nebraska Libraries in Lincoln.

92" x 92"

The flag is in the center of a pieced & appliqued sampler, typical of the 1850s & '60s. If I knew nothing about it I'd guess midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois by the matter-of-fact set. Nothing fancy,
just the blocks and a lot of white leaving space for the quilting which was fancy.

But the blocks are signed with names, dates and places.

The flag block has this inked inscription in a scroll:
"Constitution & Union
And inseparable  Now
Miss. Clara D. Moore
Rural Retsed??

Liz wonders if this doesn't say Rural Retreat, Ohio. Couldn't find a place name though there is a Rural Retreat, Virginia.

Below the flag is a shield with an inscription. I blew the photo up and drew over the letters,
laid it on my desk and everytime I walked by tried to read it. After a few
weeks I've come up with:
"A union of each a union of hope
A union we are x one very xxxx
A union of wxxxx union xxx
the Constitution forever"
I was hoping that was enough information to find a similar poem online, but came up with nothing.

Clara was one of eleven members of the Moore family to sign the blocks. There are 38 signed blocks with place names in Clermont and Belmont Counties, Ohio and Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. Dates range from August 10, 1859 to 1861.

Contrast this quilt with its political message to one made about the same time in South Carolina, the other side of the sectional divide. See a post here:

Linda wrote: "Included in the quilting are blocks illustrating the Capitol building, an anchor, telescope and a globe, a lyre, a pineapple, and a trapunto dog."

I mentioned Linda's quilt in the book but we didn't photograph it, which is too bad. It would be nice to have good photos of the blocks and more information about the names and places.

Clara's block refers to a motto that excited much discussion and sectional division in the decades before the Civil War. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster asserted in the Senate in 1830 that the U.S. was not an association of sovereign states able to choose which laws to obey, as many Southerners argued. Liberty to follow regional interests would destroy the constitutional idea of a union. Liberty yes, but "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable."

Quilt attributed to Elizabeth Moffit Lyle, Kewanee, Illinois.
Collection of the Smoky Hill Museum, Salina, Kansas

Elizabeth changed the rallying cry to "The Constitution & Union Forever"

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Union Star Set for Yankee Notions

Denniele Bohannon designed this Union Star set for our Yankee Notions
pieced Block of the Month (starts in two weeks).

61" x 78"

A dozen 12" blocks fit like the white square shown.
Sashing finishes to 5" strips.
A single blue border finishes to 2-1/2".

Sashing Strips
You need 31 sets of pieced sashing finishing to 5".

  • Cut the blue strips 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" (need 2 per set) 
  • Cut the red strips 1-1/2" x 12-1/2" (need 1 per set
Cutting the 5" Stars for the Cornerstones

You need 6 of this color arrangement

Or Rotary Cutting Each Piece from EQ8

You'll see the Union Stars are variable stars in coloring.

You need 20 stars total in three colorways. The large triangle in the star changes from blue to red depending on where it intersects the red strips.
The Border
A single blue border finishing to 2-1/2" wide frames the quilt 
(below outlined in white).

Cutting the Border
For the sides cut 2 strips 3" x 73-1/2"
For the top and bottom cut 2 strips 3" x 61-1/2"

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Mark Twain Has to Leave Town

Banner Quilt 
by the Ladies' Social Circle 
Collection of the Clarke Museum in Eureka

Sam Clemens certainly must have irritated the women
of Eureka, California when he wrote satirically about their fund raising
fair with this quilt made for General U.S. Grant in 1864.

But not nearly as much as he irritated the women of Carson City, Nevada about the same time.

Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) (Mark Twain)
The red-headed Clemens was in his thirties during the war,
living in the far west with his brother to avoid the conflict
 in his home state of Missouri

Sam Clemens wrote for newspapers in Nevada during the war. His reporting was often imaginary.

Scrapbook of Twain's reporting in Nevada
Mark Twain Papers at the University of California Berkeley

The women of Carson City, Nevada held a small event to raise money for the U.S. Sanitary Commission in May, 1864.

Fancy dress ball

 The fancy dress ball featured a fundraising gimmick, a sack of flour that was continually auctioned off for high prices and then donated back to be sent to another Ladies' Aid Society.

Reuel Colt Gridley (1829-1870)

Gridley, Clemens's friend from Hannibal, Missouri, operated an Austin, Nevada grocery store. With his traveling sack of flour he raised thousands for the Sanitary Commission. This carte-de-visite was also a fundraiser, sold by the Sanitary Commission to the many CDV collectors.

Apparently the women in charge of the dance intended to send any money raised to the national Sanitary Commission but there was a misunderstanding and some thought the money would be going to the St. Louis aid society, a minor confusion until the reporter published a short piece attesting that the money "had been diverted from its legitimate course, and was to be sent to aid a Miscegenation Society somewhere in the East." This might be a reference to a donation to a Freedmen's charitable organization.

Clemens's use of the word miscegenation was an outrageous lie, implying that the Union-supporting women were also supporting marriage between the races (highly unlikely at the time.) The women were furious. See below for their letter to the editor, which he refused to publish. Rival newspaper The Territorial Enterprise was glad to print it for three days in a row.

Mary Eleanor Stotts Clemens (1834-1904)

The Carson City women expelled Twain's sister-in-law Mollie Clemens from the aid society. The husband of Ellen Cutler, president of the local group, challenged Twain to a duel.

Carson City, 1863

Five days later Twain took a stagecoach for San Francisco.

The letter:
"In your issue of yesterday, you state "that the reason the Flour Sack was not taken from Dayton to Carson, was because it was stated that the money raised at the Sanitary Fancy Dress Ball, recently held in Carson for the St. Louis Fair, had been diverted from its legitimate course, and was to be sent to aid a Miscegenation Society somewhere in the East; and it was feared the proceeds of the sack might be similarly disposed of." You apparently mollify the statement by saying "that it was a hoax, but not all a hoax, for an effort is being made to divert those funds from their proper course."
In behalf of the ladies who originated and assisted in carrying out the programme, let us say that the whole statement is a tissue of falsehoods, made for malicious purposes, and we demand the name of the author. The ball was gotten up in aid of the Sanitary Commission, and not for the St. Louis Fair. At a meeting of the ladies, held in this city last week, no decision was arrived at as to whether the proceeds of the ball should be sent to St. Louis or New York, but one thing was decided, that they should go to the aid of the sick and wounded soldiers, who are fighting the battles of our country, and for no other purpose . . . . .the ladies having the matter in charge, consider themselves capable of deciding as to what shall be done with the money, without the aid of outsiders, who are probably desirous of acquiring some glory by appropriating the efforts of the ladies to themselves.MRS. W. K. CUTLER, President. MRS. H. F. RICE, Vice President. MRS. S. D. KING, Treasurer. MRS. H. H. Ross, Sec'y. San. Ball."
A Wikipedia entry on this fundraising debacle seems quite accurate and detailed:

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Cassandra's Circle: Fabrics & Sets

Cassandra in the center with a few women of her circle

Cassandra's Circle Block of the Month begins here on Wednesday January 29, 2020. Look for a free applique pattern on the last Wednesday of every month through January 2021---there are thirteen blocks.

We'll keep the same Facebook page. I'm changing the name to CivilWarApplique but it's the same URL. Post pictures of either 2019's Hospital Sketches or 2020's Cassandra's Circle. We have almost a thousand members.

Official Set

72" square without a border

The 13 blocks.
The large center block will be pattern #1 in January.
See a post about this set here:

97" Square with Border

And this year you'll get a pattern for an appliqued border finishing to 12-1/2". Border pattern in early January so you can start appliqueing flowers and leaves.


Janet Olmstead's traditional applique colors for Hospital Sketches

The patterns will finish to 18", the same size as the applique in last year's BOM Hospital Sketches. I imagine a few of you haven't gotten all 12 blocks finished yet so you could continue with the same colors and fabrics, combining blocks and sets from both years.

A couple of stitchers used a monochrome blue color scheme that worked great. Above: Karen Doerr Martin's block atop Angie's from Quilting on the Crescent.

Becky Brown is using William-Morris-inspired prints on a single textured background. Her palette of primary colors, red, yellow, green and blue, is pushed to sophisticated, muted shades.

 You can bet she chooses her prints with an eye to fussy cutting.

Pat Styring is also using a primary palette but intense shades and her backgrounds are black. She's thinking dots and words.


Barb Rowland Roberts

Last year some of us appliqued to a scrappy four patch and you may want to continue that idea.

Lorraine Hoffman

Linda Pyke shaded the four patches---dark in the corners,
light in the center, a nice way to unify the design.

And then there's Matt Macomber's!
I cannot wait to see him finish this.

 If you are thinking pieced backgrounds here's an idea and a different set for Cassandra's Circle: Twelve 18" blocks in an alternate dark and light shaded set. The applique goes over the frame, sort of a layered look.

Light on dark, dark on light

54" x 72" without a border

I'm doing a small version with unpieced backgrounds, reducing the patterns by half to 9-inch finished blocks. My color scheme is taken from teens & twenties magazine illustration like this cover by Miriam Story Hurford.

Bright colors across the spectrum

Pastels and darker...
A lot of peach

With a checkerboard sash?

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Maria Harper's Confederate Memorial Quilt

By Maria Preston Harper (about 1823 - ?) South Carolina, 1861
Collection: American Museum of the Civil War
38"  x 56"

The cliche is that every quilt has a story. This crib quilt tells a tale that isn't pretty.

The silk quilt features the new Confederate flag at the top and South Carolina's palmetto flag at the bottom. Eleven hexagon stars each have a letter or two embroidered in the center, standing for the 11 states of the Confederacy symbolized on the flag.

F for Florida
Tennessee was the last state to secede in June, 1861, so Maria Preston Harper may have finished it after that date in the summer of 1861.

The little Secessionist commemorative, stitched to indoctrinate a baby in Southern principles, was donated to the Museum of the Confederacy, now the American Museum of the Civil War, by Catherine Dickson who told the museum that Maria Preston Harper made it to warm James Augustus Dickson. Born in 1861, he was the first son of Henry Dickson and Catherine McPheeters Dickson and perhaps Maria's grand nephew.

James Augustus Dickson was born May 26, 1861 in the midst of the secession crisis.

Maria probably made the quilt celebrating the brave new world of the Confederacy in either Lancaster or Fairfield County, South Carolina where her family seems to have had homes. She never married so left no descendants to keep track of her but here she is in the 1860 census living with her mother and widowed sister, McPheeter nieces and nephews and other assorted people in the Fairfield District of South Carolina. Her name is spelled Mariah and she is 37, born about 1823.

Maria had sisters Nettie and Ann Harper McPheeters and brother Wesley. She was undoubtedly a comfortable member of the aristocratic class of the Carolinas. Her mother seems to be worth $110,440.

Jesse Davis, a freed slave living in Winnsboro, South Carolina, was interviewed in the W.P.A. Slave Narrative project in the 1930s. He remembered his own master as rich but "not big rich like the Davises, the Means, and the Harpers." Jesse was about 20 during the Civil War so would have a reliable memory of the hierarchy among local plantation owners.

Yorkville's Court House (now York) designed by
the prolific architect Robert Mills who did much
to create classical Southern style.

Maria's father William Joseph Harper (1790-1847) had died over a decade earlier. Her mother Anne Catherine Coalter Harper died soon after the baby Dickson was born, as her tombstone tells us---on the "dawn of the 45th anniversary of her wedding day." Anne and William are both buried in a small cemetery at Salem Crossroads.

Maria may well be buried in the Salem Crossroads Cemetery
but no one has transcribed a stone for her.

And that would be all we know about Maria Harper with all discussion of her motives pure speculation if not for the fact that her father was quite an important politician, a U.S. Senator, a Carolina Senator and a Judge. William Harper was born on the Caribbean island of Antigua to Irish Methodist missionary John Harper and Antigua native Henrietta Hawes Harper. John Harper was reported to be an abolitionist and certainly a strong Methodist (another son was named John Wesley Harper.)
Maria's father U.S. Senator William Joseph Harper (1790-1847)

When William was about three the Harpers moved to Boston for his mother's health (she died soon after.) Reverend Harper's politics may have been welcome there, but five years later he took the family to Charleston and then to Columbia, South Carolina where he founded the Washington Street
Methodist Church.

Son William became a Carolinian, well known for his radical politics, described as second only to Senator John Calhoun as advocate for South Carolina's perceived rights from the nullification crisis of the 1830s to his death in 1847.

Anti-Calhoun cartoon from 1832. Is Harper depicted on the right?

Despite his father's abolition ideas William Harper was a chief apologist for slavery. In his arguments slavery, rather than being a necessary evil, was a positive good creating civilizing benefits and preventing evils such as degeneracy, barbarism and political radicalism.

Understanding Maria Harper's fathers' politics gives us a glimpse as to how she came to make the silk quilt for her young relative. Trying to grasp her motivations at a deeper level in the context of her peer group is more difficult. Understanding her generation's virulent advocacy of secession and the Confederacy and their seemingly inherent hatred of the North presents deeper problems.

Southern Woman demanding a divorce from the North over
the rights to "larrup" her slave. From the English magazine Punch

Reading about South Carolina's women in biographies, diaries, letters and essays explains some of the antipathy. Out of that reading grew the stories behind our Block of the Month quilt patterns for 2020. I found the hostility, particularly in South Carolina, was endemic, reinforced by politicians, ministers, newspapers, teachers and family.

Louisa Cheves McCord, whom we will revisit in the applique quilt Cassandra's Circle, was spokeswoman for the Southern female. Never one to avoid a dramatic turn of phrase, she characterized the antebellum Union of North and South as wretched twins, "linked in incongenial brotherhood" using the analogy of Cheng & Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese conjoined twins.

The Bunker Twins
(1811 - 1874)
Outlandish rhetoric was a characteristic of Southern argument

The South was unhappy victim of Northern legislation favoring an industrial economy. "Blind as they seem to the fact, our Northern States prosper by us and through us," was the way McCord saw it. The agricultural South's resentment of the industrial North will be explored in the pieced BOM, Yankee Notions.

John C. Calhoun and his compatriots believed a state could
nullify any law the federal government made, particularly
any trade laws that benefited Yankee industry and taxed
Southern consumers---hence the Nullification Crisis. 
(It's unconstitutional.)

Miss Columbia with her Constitution and a switch,
 trying to keep order among unruly boys.

Look for both patterns to start in January, 2020.