Saturday, May 30, 2020

Massachusetts Memorial Quilt

Civil War Memorial Quilt from the Quilt Index
and the Massachusetts project. 

Each of the white strips and the stars are inscribed with the
name of a Massachusetts soldier, his company and the date he enlisted.

The documenters saw many dates and thought the quilt to have been made during the war or in 1870.
There's no information about who inscribed all those names in the same handwriting. Thirty years ago they thought the quilt, which was a gift to the mother of the owner, was made in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

Some inscriptions include the number of years the soldier served.

Style---bold red, white & blue solids in a fence rail with names---doesn't seem to fit 1860s or 1870 characteristics. It looks more 1890's when these memorial quilts "in the national colors" were quite the thing.

Similar quilt from Illinois

The Massachusetts memorial was recorded again when Faith in Biddeford Pool, Maine was shown the same quilt by a friend down at the post office. She took more pictures with some more names.

With all these names I could follow up on the soldiers.

"Alphonso Comey
Co B. 25th Mass
Hopkinton, 1862
Killed at Cold Harbor."

I found many of the soldiers.

"Johathan H Thayer
4th. Mass H.A.
Hopkinton, 1864."

All in the same source

A History of Middlesex County published in 1890.

I wonder if the quiltmaker did not go through this book and record names and service records. Some of the wording as in Alphonso Comey's is so similar.

The quilt was probably made after 1890 when the book was published, a date that reflects the national interest in Civil War memory quilts, name quilts and the red, white & blue style.

See the files at the Quilt Index here:

Before the week was out Kathie Holland had these blocks on her design wall.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #5: Russian Sunflower for Lucy Pickens

Cassandra's Circle, Block #4
Russian Sunflower for Lucy Holcombe Pickens by Becky Brown

Lucy Petway Holcombe Pickens, a sometime member of Cassandra's Circle, is pictured on a Confederate dollar bill from 1862. 

If you are looking for Confederate cliches you'll find many references to her as the "Queen of the Confederacy," Lucy Holcombe Pickens is often described as the only woman to be featured on Confederate money.

Lucy Petway Holcombe Pickens (1832-1899)
with daughter Frances Eugenia Olga Neva 
Pickens born in 1859

I know of a few women who might dispute that "Queen of the Confederacy" crown; you'll meet some of them here over the next few months. But no one would dispute that Lucy Petway Holcombe was what we'd call a trophy wife, born in Tennessee and living in Texas when she wed.

Lucy must have been fond of her profile, which was considered classic
Southern beauty 

In 1858 at 25 she married 53-year-old wealthy South Carolina politician Francis Pickens who owned Edgewood plantation near Augusta, South Carolina. In the 1860 census the twice-widowed Pickens is listed as being worth about $290,000 with much of that wealth in his 276 slaves. He had long been an ally of nullifier and state's rights advocate John C. Calhoun, a relative. 

Francis Wilkinson Pickens (1805-1869)
"Old Pick was there with a better wig [and his] silly and affected wife....Poor goose."
Mary Chesnut, April 1861.

Mary Boykin Chesnut had little respect for Lucy or Frank Pickens, who was at that point Governor-elect of South Carolina. Frank's courtship of Lucy had included the promise of an ambassadorship in Russia, which friend President James Buchanan bestowed when they married. Lucy loved the Russian court where she became friends with the Czar and his wife who gave her jewelry and names for her daughter.

Czar Alexander II & Maria Andropovna
were godparents to the Pickens's only child
Eugenia Frances Dorothea Olga Neva

The baby, here with her American nurse Lucinda,
kept her Russian nickname Douschka all her life. 
Lucinda traveled with Lucy from Texas to South
Carolina to Russia and back despite Russian
marriage proposals.

Russian Sunflower by Pat Styring

Buchanan begging Pickens not to start a war "till I get out of office."
Library of Congress

As disunion threatened, Pickens to Lucy's chagrin, was anxious to return to South Carolina where he was elected Governor, inaugurated just in time to authorize shelling at Fort Sumter, demand the Union commander surrender and oversee secession. Few had confidence in Pickens during the crisis. Mary's husband James Chesnut was appointed to a five-man commission to oversee his governance, a political move that did nothing for the Chesnut/Pickens friendship.
Lucy "young, lovely and clever--- and old Pick's third wife. She cannot fail to hate us. Mr. C. put as [a] sort of watch and ward over her husband."
Lucy was clever (she'd boarded at the Moravian school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and published a novel when she was 23). Mary occasionally complimented her brains, but "affected" was a description she repeated. They spent much time together in Columbia, South Carolina's capitol early in the war, politely conversing although occasionally furious with each other.

Frank Pickens spent the last year of his two-year term as "a great old horse fly," according to Mary:
"Buzzing & fuming & fretting & doing nothing but hir[ing] & brib[ing] newspaper people to write & abuse friends & enemies."
The new governor's wife reviewing the troops.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February 1861

Lucy is remembered for funding a regiment by selling some the jewels given her by the Czar. The troops were named the Lucy Holcombe Legion.

Private Jackson A. Davis, Co. E, a soldier in the Lucy Holcombe Legion.
Photo by Charles Rees, Library of Congress, Liljenquist Collection
In the case three fabric fragments glued to paper

The Pickenses moved to the plantation in Edgefield when his only term ended. After Frank died in 1867 Lucy spent her post-war years engaged, as many elite Southerner women were, in working to fund Confederate monuments and getting her name in the newspapers for charity work. She was among the elite of the elite, the Vice-Regent for South Carolina in the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Postwar Gossip: Lucy Pickens and Governor Wade Hampton of South Carolina an item? They did not wed, but Lucy did provide financial support for Hampton's Red Shirts, a group of vigilantes out to win him office in 1876 by preventing African-American men from voting for his Republican opponent.

Edgewood in the Edgefield District fell into disrepair after Lucy's death in 1899.

A short obituary remembering her legendary beauty was copied by many newspapers: "With the passing away of Mrs. Pickens the South loses one of its most striking antebellum characters."
Edgewood has been moved and restored as the Pickens-Sally House on the 
Aiken Campus of the University of South Carolina

The Block

Sunflowers with their symmetries are natural subject for applique
and piecing. The Russian Sunflower (reminding us of Lucy's hobnobbing
with Russian royalty) was inspired by several traditional blocks.

Pat Styring added a checkerboard ring and a few berries
in applique and embroidery.

Applique to an 18-1/2" square or cut it larger and trim later.
Add seams.

To Print the Pattern
·         Create or a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11" or a word file.
·         Click on the image above.
·         Right click on it and save it to your file.
·         Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". Note the inch square block for reference.
·         Adjust the printed page size if necessary. Do not use tools like "Fit to page."
·         Make templates.
·         Add seams when cutting fabric.

The Confederate Money Portrait

Lucy is often recalled as being the only female pictured on any Confederate notes. There are two female portraits, the one on the left dated 1864 on a hundred dollar bill; the other on a one dollar bill in 1862 when Lucy was first lady of South Carolina.

1934 newspaper feature

The earlier etching seems quite a bit like her .

The other: Is she an abstraction of Miss Liberty?
Another portrait of Lucy Pickens, former First Lady?

Or did Warrington Dawson editing his mother's diary know something about that portrait? He wrote in a footnote to Sarah Morgan's A Confederate Girl's Diary (published in 1913) that his Uncle Jimmy had married one of the six daughters of  George Trenholm who had been adviser to Treasury Secretary Christopher Memminger and succeeded him in in June, 1864:
"Colonel James Morris Morgan... married Mr. Trenholm's daughter Helen, whose portrait appears on an issue of Confederate bank notes."

 Anna Helen Trenholm Morgan (1842-1866)

The women look alike, with the pale skin, patrician nose, expressive eyes and oval faced deemed the standard for beauty at the time.

Forgot to add this picture of Becky's set. Block 5 along the left hand side.

Extra Reading
Emily Bull's 1982 biography for the Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association
Lest you guess that Lucy's daughter Douschka was fathered by the Czar, Bull has done the arithmetic. Not possible despite all the rumors at the time.

James Petigru, Charleston Unionist, on the new Governor & his Texas wife.

Mine, minimalized to fit 9" block

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Dubious Slave-Made Quilt

Quilt advertised as:
"Slave Made Piecework Saw Quilt. c. 1846-1848
86" x 74"
Estimated price $1,000 - 3,000."

I believe it sold for quite a bit more than the estimate in 2017 and I hope you didn't buy it. It is obviously a 20th-century quilt based on fabrics and style. That red sashing with it's orange cast should have been a literal red flag to anyone hoping to purchase an actual quilt made by enslaved people in the 1840s. Reds leaning towards orange tend to be 20th-century synthetic dyes. Nineteenth-century Turkey red would have a bluer tint.

Most of the triangles are of rather muted solids, checks, plaids and simple prints
that look to date from the 1900-1930 era. The quilting in fans is also another
clue to 20th-century style.

As in this quilt dated 1911 in pencil

Or this one signed "Alma, 1917" quilted in the same fashion.

There do seem to be a few older print like the medium brown
and purplish brown above. These could date to the 1840s but you date
a quilt by the latest fabric not the earliest, and there is nothing about
this quilt that makes it look like it was made when that brown print was popular.

The reverse is rather unusual, strips of white pieces alternating with patches of a foulard-style print that again may indeed be from the mid-19th century, a recycled skirt perhaps.

The quilt has a history, however dubious.
"Made by slave house servants in Montgomery, Alabama.
From the home of Georgia Poet, Sidney Lanier.

Sidney, probably with the mustache, around 1866.

Sidney Clopton Lanier (1842 – 1881) has the glory of being crowned  "Georgia's Greatest Poet" after his untimely death from tuberculosis in North Carolina when he was 39. He did indeed live in Montgomery, Alabama for a year or two  right after the Civil War when he was in his early twenties before moving a few miles east to Prattville and then home to Macon and on to Baltimore where he taught literature at Johns Hopkins before he died.

Lanier's birthplace in Macon remains a museum in his honor.

The quilt was pictured in Judith Wragg Chase's 1971 book Afro-American Art and Craft, as noted in Maude Southwell Wahlman & John Scully's chapter on "Aesthetic Principles in Afro-American Quilts" in William Farris's 1983 book.

Middleton Harris included the same three "Slave-made quilts" from the Lanier home in his 1974
Black Book: The sawtooth quilt and a log cabin. Both quilts above look to have been made after the poet's death in 1881.

Louise Alston Wraggs Graves (1902-1994)
Judith Dubose Wragg Chase (1907-1995)
From the New York Times

When these early books on African-American craft were published the quilts were in the collection of the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, a private museum established by Miriam Bellangee Wilson (1878-1959). Friend Judith Wragg Chase took over after Wilson's death and with sister Louise Alston Wragg Graves bought the business in 1969, maintaining it until the museum closed in 1987. A recent newspaper article: "After which the city bought the building — but not its collection, which largely left town." Where this quilt had been for thirty years before the 2017 auction is unclear.

The city of Charleston owns the museum today

The Miriam Bellangee Wilson Papers at the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston contain the old inventory of the collection:
"The majority of the slave crafts were collected by Miriam B. Wilson in the early quarter of the century and included items such as wrought and cast iron-work; quilts, comforters and homespun, hand-woven coverlets and sheets; tools, basketry, hand carved canes. The African art and artifacts in the collection were used to illustrate the direct relationship and similarities between art and craft skills and styles used by African craftsmen and those utilized by African-American craftsmen."
When one looks at the quilt's provenance one can understand the tentativeness of the historical links. The Wragg sisters had no way to know the date of a quilt with a story that it was made before the end of slavery in 1865. Small, private museums were earnest if often inaccurate purveyors of the history people wanted to hear. It's unlikely the quilt was made by a slave and also doubtful it had anything to do with Sidney Lanier. Was it worth the money paid two years ago? Only if you are looking for a quilt with a connection to the Miriam Wilson or the Wraggs and their Old Slave Mart Museum.

An article on the Museum's closing in 1987: