Saturday, August 8, 2020

Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson's Civil War

A pair of large mid-19th-century quilts was sold at Freeman's Auctions in 2014

One a star with a circle pieced or appliqued to the center---an interesting use 
of calicoes in the star points and chintzes in the circles.

Turkey reds and Prussian blues with chintz
indicate a date in the 1840s or '50s.

The border: a Turkey red stripe in the form of a Greek Key.

Similar stripe border
The red stripe might also be called a Pompeian design. 

Owen Jones's 1856 Grammar of Ornament showed many red and gold
stripes in the the style of friezes found in the ruins of Pompeii.

1799 Fashion 
Pompeian geometric stripes were quite the fashion everywhere for clothing & interiors.

Quiltmakers in Maryland in the 1840-1860 period were fond of them...
as in this undated chintz album from the Maryland Historical Society
signed by members of the Montell & Blair families. We might guess
it to be from about 1845-1855.

So it's no surprise to find that the pair of quilts are associated with a Maryland family, having descended "in the Nicholson/Lloyd family of Maryland. The Nicholson family lived in Baltimore and Chestertown, the Lloyd family, the Eastern Shore, by descent from Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson (Post) Shippen (1842-1926.)"

128" x 121"
The second is a medallion featuring a hawk of cut-out-chintz
that was also popular with quiltmakers along the Atlantic coast from about 1800-1850.
Border here is cut from the same hawk fabric.

The implication in the auction provenance (ownership history) is that Rebecca Nicholson Post Shippen was the maker.

Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson (Post) Shippen (1842-1926) 
Collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

Rebecca is about 20 here in 1862 or so, just the age to be making quilts---
but not the kind of quilts in the sale.

This quilt seems more like something one would make in 1820 or 1830,
too old-fashioned to be patchwork Rebecca and her friends would have stitched.

So what was Rebecca Nicholson stitching in the early days of the Civil War when she was 20?

Rebecca's sewing group The Brown Veil Club of Baltimore
 about 1862. She is standing on the right.

The young women, like many of their peers, sewed shirts for soldiers. In divided Baltimore the Brown Veil Club, also known as the Monument Street Girls, supplied Confederate men. Rebecca who lived at 209 West Monument Street must have been a fiery supporter of the South; she was friends with the notorious Cary girls, Hetty, Jenny & Constance, who actually had to leave town and move to Virginia they were so indiscreet in a Union state.

Hetty Cary Pegram Martin (1836-1892 )
When the war began the Cary sisters Jenny & Hetty
 lived at the corner of Eutaw & Biddle,
where Maryland General Hospital is now located.

Hetty was also a member of the Monument Street Girls, who organized a Glee Club and found a fiery Confederate song as a theme. The song was described in a 2000 article by Dan Fesperman in the Baltimore Sun:
"James Ryder Randall... penned a nine-stanza rant about oppression beneath 'the despot's heel' [Despot = Lincoln], which was published in Baltimore papers. Jenny set the poem to the tune of an old college song, Lauriger Horatius (O, Tannenbaum), and the girls sang it for their friends. It was called Maryland, My Maryland, a rallying cry for the Confederacy, and in 1939 it become the state song, inflammatory lyrics and all."

The Monument Street Girls apparently sang it as they marched to the Washington Monument in their West Monument Street neighborhood after the Southern victory at the Battle of Manassas in July, 1861.

Rebecca also had a hand in the song's genesis. In her 1904 account of the club's activities she recalled they asked men associated with the poem to publish it as a song but they refused, worried about Union retaliation. Rebecca decided to do it herself. Her father James M. Nicholson was opposed to Secession (although a Southern sympathizer) so she guessed she could get away with treason, reportedly saying: "My father is a Union man, and if I am put in prison, he will take me out."

The publishers Miller & Beachem were imprisoned for their Confederate activities
but Rebecca was not. Her copy of the published song with her notes
is in the Library of Congress.

Unlike her Cary friends Rebecca toned down her rhetoric and treasonous activities and remained in Baltimore for the rest of the war. 

John Eager Howard Post (1840 -1876)

In April, 1866, a year after the war ended she married this dashing Confederate, Captain John Post of the First Maryland Cavalry. In the ten years they were married they had six children but only one son survived to adulthood.

Her husband died at 36 at their home on West Monument St., 
mourned by his fellow Confederate veterans

Rebecca's Confederate enthusiasms must have faded as her second husband was a Union veteran, Dr. Edward Shippen (1827-1895), a Philadelphia surgeon who served with several Pennsylvania regiments and as superintendent of a hospital at the Capitol building in Washington. They married in 1878 and had a son the following year.

She lived well into the 20th century, dying in 1926. The Maryland Historical Society has her papers and albums, telling us they "traveled throughout Europe, and eventually settled in Florence, Italy," although they returned to Baltimore. 

Rebecca seems to have enjoyed writing and in her later years published several articles on her own history, her family's and her peers. She was a founding member of the Maryland Society of Colonial Dames in 1891.

Mount Clare Museum House
Maryland Society of Colonial Dames

Rebecca's great uncle was Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner and she wrote a bit about that as well as her role in publishing Maryland, My Maryland and putting a tune to the poem. Rebecca owned the purported first manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner, scratched on an envelope, which she sold to a collector in 1907.

She and the newspapers made much of the coincidence that she published the Civil-War-era song and her grandmother---another Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson---had a hand in publishing the Star Spangled Banner.

Seeing that her grandmother had the same name makes one wonder if the family history associated the pair of quilts with the wrong generation.

Rebecca Lloyd (1771-1847) who married Joseph Hopper Nicholson

The first Rebecca's granddaughter & namesake loaned this miniature by Richard Cosway (1742-1821) to Alice Morse Earle for her 1903 book Two Centuries of Costume in America.

One might guess that the first Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson stitched the two quilts above as style is much more in keeping with her life span. And then there is the generation in between: Arinthea Darby Parker Nicholson, mother to the younger Rebecca and daughter-in-law to the older. Arinthea married in 1838 and had three daughters.

We'll never know the quilts' maker or figure out that Lloyd & Nicholson genealogy, but it's all been a good excuse to look at the life of an interesting young woman during the Civil War.

Some links:

The quilt auction

Article on Hetty Cary in the Baltimore Sun

The photo of the Monument Street Girls:
Rebecca's first husband's obituary 1876

Second husband's obituary 1895


Lady Locust said...

Aside from the fascinating family history, I love the design of the quilt! Almost an Ohio star - but not and different enough to stand apart and be stunning. Great post 🌺

Mary Says Sew! said...

My family has deep roots in Maryland, some from colonial times. Howard and Dulaney are prominent names in Maryland.

I spotted Rozier Dulaney, Esq.'s name on the cover of the "Maryland, My Maryland" cover.

Several of my male family members have Rozier as their first name. This is the first time I've seen the name, Rozier, as someone else's first name.

It's always been on my bucket list for you to find a connection to my family in quilt history. As far as I know, there aren't any quilters in my family tree, but you never know. Maybe someday!

I never knew "Maryland, My Maryland" was a Confederate song!

Thanks sew much!