Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #1: Washington's Plume

Cassandra's Circle Block #1 
Washington's Plume by Becky Brown

Our Civil War story begins in 1789, seven decades before that war began, with a moment frozen in American myth. General George Washington rode through Trenton, New Jersey on his way from Virginia to his New York inauguration as first president, a joyous celebration for a new nation. Towns along the route welcomed the hero riding his white horse and none so unforgettably as Trenton.

Jane Hunter Ewing (1768-1831)
by Charles Willson Peale
about the time of Washington's inauguration

Jane Hunter Ewing described the ceremony:
"Ladies was rang’d in a line from the arch along the Bridge and thirteen Girls dress’t in white with Baskets of flowers" threw blossoms at his horse's feet. Washington "Sat on his horse while they sung and then made them a low Bow say’d the Ladies had done them [him] a very great honour."
Over the years various publishers issued prints of the Trenton celebration, a  ceremony that struck a chord in a country eager to establish a republican history.

The women and girls were society's elite in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area. Among the young women dressed in white were the wife and daughters of Revolutionary soldier Colonel John Cox, a friend of the General's.

Mary Bowes Cox (1775-1864)
Drawn from an oil painting by Gilbert Stuart

Mary Bowes Cox was about 14 when she portrayed one of the thirteen United States to General Washington's delight. She'd grown up in a lovely Trenton home named Bloomsbury, which still stands as the Trent House, restored to the period when she lived there. Bloomsbury, said to be New Jersey's oldest surviving house, was always her standard of elegance and Mary occasionally irritated her daughter-in-law by bringing up how things were done at Bloomsbury in the old days.

Washington's Plume by Denniele Bohannon

James Chesnut (1773-1866)
Drawn from an oil painting by Gilbert Stuart
Despite post-war poverty the family has hung
on to their Gilbert Stuart portraits of the newlyweds.

In 1796 21-year-old Mary married James Chesnut, a wealthy planter from Camden, South Carolina and lived the rest of her life in the south at Mulberry, the Chesnut family plantation. The unfortunate woman gave birth to fourteen children and lost ten of them before she died at about 80 at Mulberry during the Civil War. She was mother-in-law to Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut who is the Cassandra in our quilt theme Cassandra's Circle.
"I sat all day yesterday with Mrs. Chesnut, she entertaining me with old world, carriage and four, stories of her grandeur in Philadelphia. Then she likes to harangue me as to my troubles. Heaven only knows I try to be patient." Mary Boykin Chesnut, December 8, 1861.
Were those troubles the younger Mary's inability to bear children? Miscarriages, a nearly unmentionable subject, may have been the problem.

The two Mary Chesnuts spent much time together at
the family home Mulberry near Camden, South Carolina.

It is sometimes difficult to live with your mother-in-law. The two Marys had much in common, a love of reading and gardens, a sense of elegance and love for James II, the only surviving son. But the younger woman was "a rebel born. My husband's family being equally pledged to the Union party rather exasperated my zeal."

The younger Mary's chief complaint was the elder's refusal to deal with reality in all it's unpleasantness. "She is blind to all but beautiful things, rose-tinted beliefs and pure imagination." His daughter-in-law believed the elder James Chesnut was father to a slave woman's family, a topic never discussed but something that infuriated the younger woman. 
"Can I honor what is dishonorable? Rachel and her brood make this place a horrid nightmare to me."

Mulberry in the 1930s
Library of Congress 
Historic American Buildings Survey
Their house still stands, still in the family.

We'll recall Mary Cox Chesnut's grandeur and that glorious April day in Trenton with the first block Washington's Plume, a 36" finished design that is the central focus of the 13-block applique.

Washington's home Mount Vernon has this quilt in their collection. We'd call it a Prince's Feather but this particular medallion has been called Washington's Plume over the years.

From a Currier print about fifty years after the event

The elite women who greeted Washington took diverse paths from Trenton. Some descendants and relatives of these Delaware Valley women became Southerners, connected to partisans dedicated to severing the Union ties that Washington had joined together. Pennsylvanians Catherine and Susannah Calhoun's relative John C. Calhoun, six years old in 1789, grew up to become a South Carolina senator and a vehement advocate of Southern independence. The Calhouns were never part of Mary Boykin Chesnut's group but we will find other heirs to the glory of Trenton among the Southern aristocrats in Cassandra's Circle.

Pat Styring added a few dots and circles.

The Block

Dated 1818, Mary Somerville
Collection of the Helen F. Spencer Museum of Art at the 
University of Kansas

The large central block was inspired by several early medallions featuring this feathery design.

Denniele loves prints that read as solids

We're using the eight-lobed flower often seen in applique as a consistent design element in the blocks this year so it's in the center here.

  • Cut a background square 36-1/2".
  • See the templates.
  • Print the two template sheets out 8-1/2" x 11".
  • Join the plume parts to make a single template.
  • Applique and post a photo on our Facebook group page.

This block will be the center of our medallion format applique quilt
Cassandra's Circle.
Here is a link to the setting information and fabric requirements:

Years ago our Sunflower Pattern Cooperative did a similar
pattern we called Princess Victoria's Feather.

Judy Day did a lovely version.

Extra Reading:

Read more about the design's various names:

And read more about the Trenton ceremony that was a high point
in the lives of twelve American girls.

See Mary Cox Chesnut's family letters:

And if you'd rather I print these and send them to you in the mail (at a snail's pace) check out my Etsy shop where I offer Cassandra's Circle as a PDF to print yourself or a paper pattern.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Baltimore Maryland's Sanitary Fair: Union Women Behind the Fair

Quilt dated 1853 Severn District, Maryland
The motto: E Pluribus Unum  (One from Many)

Since I couldn't find any quilts from this fair I thought I'd throw
in some union images from Baltimore quilts of the 1850s.

Baltimore, 1864

Seated women in the center appear to be demonstrating the art of quilting in 1864 at the Baltimore Sanitary Fair. They are perhaps part of the "New England Kitchen," the scene of "old-fashioned quilting parties," according to Gloria Seaman Allen's essay "Maryland Women and the Civil War," in the book A Maryland Album.

Baltimore Sanitary Fair at the Maryland Institute 
Frank Leslies's Illustrated Newspaper, May 14, 1864

Frank Leslie's illustration gives us a pretty view of the Union fundraising fair held for weeks in April and May, 1864.

The Maryland Institute was on the second floor (a two-story hall) above the 
Centre Market on Market Street. The building
was razed in 1904

Side View

Shown on the Antiques Road Show

Items for sale are hung on the wall.
Those under Allegany County's misspelled sign appear to be clothing.

Allen: "Different counties sponsored fancy tables and raffled and sold blankets, quilts, and other household articles."

Ann Arundel County Booth & the Post Office
The Post Office was a standard fair feature where pretty women
sold clever letters.

From an Alex Cooper auction

Robert W. Schoeberlein, Baltimore City Archivist, has written about the fair. Organizers asked that women donate fancy items over the winter, but "even an ironing-holder, quilted of old calico will be acceptable." (A laundry bag cut from an old quilt?)
"Despite the apparent solidarity of the state’s loyal population, the Maryland Fair could only be termed a modest financial success when compared with similar 1864 events. The final tally exceeded just over $83,000. In contrast, both the New York and Philadelphia fairs each cleared over $1,000,000.....While competition for donations from other cities most likely affected Maryland’s net amount, both economic realities and the state’s political division did factor largely."

Souvenir CDV of the children's department, 
but what's in that stack?

The state and the city were certainly divided politically. Maryland was a border state less than fifty miles south of the Mason-Dixon line. Aligned with Northern culture and the Northern economy Maryland remained a Union state despite strong Confederate feeling from a minority. 

The Fair's organizers were prominent women Fanny Turnbull, Harriet King Hyatt, Elizabeth Kell Bradford and Annie M. Gilman Bowen. President Lincoln came to give a speech at the Fair and Mary Todd Lincoln spent a day, escorted by fair organizers Elizabeth Bradford and Fanny Owings Nisbet Turnbull (1818-1881). Turnbull descendants have treasured the thank-you letter Lincoln sent. Her nephew Samuel Graeme Turnbull was a Confederate soldier who died of diptheria in 1862, only one instance of divided loyalties in the city.

Maryland Institute Building about 1870 on Baltimore Street looking west
Photographers: Joshua W. Moulton & John S. Moulton

The Hyatt's home in 1911
when it was an orphan's asylum

Harriet Randolph King Hyatt (1814-1901) was wife of Baltimore merchant Alpheus Hyatt and lived in a mansion called Wansbeck at the corner of Franklin and Schroeder Streets. Her son Alpheus II joined the Union Army but his biography notes he and his Union-sympathizing mother were not in accordance with the rest of the family.

The younger Alpheus Hyatt survived the war
to become a respected biologist.

Co-chair Elizabeth Kell Bradford (1818-1894) was Governor Augustus Bradford's wife. The family was enough of a Union symbol that Confederate troops burned their house a month or two after the fair in the closest raid the South made to Baltimore

Annie Gilman Bowen (1829-1903) may have been the fair organizer with the greatest family conflict. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina to Caroline Howard and Samuel Somes Gilman. Annie's parents had moved there from Massachusetts so Samuel could serve a Unitarian church.

Caroline Howard Gilman (1794-1888)

by John Wesley Jarvis

Harvard Art Museums

Annie's mother Caroline Gilman became a female voice of the South editing a periodical The Southern Rose when Annie was a child. Her Recollections of a Southern Matron was a popular novel revealing her impressions of her new home. Annie's mother became a committed Southerner, supporting the cause throughout the war and after, writing that slavery was "the strength and almost the very life-blood of this Southern Region." 

Some of my BAQ detail shots are pretty small but you get the idea

Annie in turn moved to Baltimore when her husband took a post at a Unitarian Church there, but he was a Bostonian and so was she at heart. We don't know what Caroline thought of her daughter's public role in supporting the Union at the Sanitary Fair.

 Classic BAQ eagle from a quilt sold at a Hap Moore auction

Schoeberlein, Robert W. "A Fair to Remember: Maryland Women in Aid of the Union. Maryland Historical Magazine 1995.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

New Books on Old Quilts

It's always a pleasure to find new books on old quilts. Four books published in the last year on traditional style updated for today's repro fabrics.

A Country's Call: Civil War Quilts and Stories of Unsung Heroines by Mary Etherington & Connie Tesene

Hearth & Home by Jo Morton
Brown Bayou 

Patches of Stars: 17 Quilt Patterns and a Gallery of Inspiring Antique Quilts by Edyta Sitar

Treasure Hunt: 13 Quilts Inspired by Antique Finds by Linda Collins & Leah Zieber