Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Yankee Notions #8: Union Star

Yankee Notions Block #8 
Union Star by Denniele Bohannon

Union Star represents conflicting notions of the United States and exactly how they were united in the decades before the Civil War began.

"The Uni-on for ever
Center of a quilt by Elizabeth Helm Walker Stone (1828-1898), Kentucky
Winterthur Museum
Elizabeth's quilt reflects one view in a border state.
See a post here:

In 1830 South Carolina's Senator Robert Hayne championed the idea of nullification, arguing that states could ignore or nullify federal laws not in their own interests (or in the interests of the politicians in charge.)

Webster giving his speech on Liberty & Union in the Senate

Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster made himself famous with his ringing answer that the U.S. was not an association of sovereign states able to choose which laws to obey. 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."

Union Star by Dorry Emmer

Southern partisans argued the North was growing fat at Southern expense
with federal tariffs on manufactured imports. Free trade was the cry.

Webster's motto sets up a dichotomy, a conflict of interest seen in any partnership from marriage to politics. Without compromise the partnership cannot work.

Union Star by Becky Brown

The concept that states could nullify federal laws concerning taxes, tariffs, commerce and slavery was the basis for the next 30 years of debate with South Carolina's John Calhoun chief spokesperson for the Southern notion. President Andrew Jackson's 1832 Proclamation to the People of South Carolina stated, "Disunion by armed force is treason," words underpinning Abraham Lincoln's response to South Carolina's rejection of the 1860 presidential election.

John C. Calhoun (1782- 1850)

Webster and Calhoun represented sectional notions of how the states viewed the Constitution and their political association. 

Yankee notions about Calhoun's slippery slope towards disunion in the 1830s

Debates in the years before the Civil War centered on Yankee notions of Liberty and Union versus Southern ideas—sectional concepts of how the states viewed the Constitution and their political association. Union versus "State's Rights"--- a conflict of ideas ending in a Civil War.

The Block

Denniele's 18" version

The pattern was published several times in the
decades around 1900.

One could buy a pattern from the Ladies's Art Company
or a finished block (50 cents) in the early 20th century.

That gray was probably once blue.

We're doing Carrie Hall's version with a pentagram and 5 points.

Union Star by Carrie Hall

Use the templates.

You could applique it too.

This Month's Tangible Yankee Notion
Sewing Clamps

Last month we looked at manufactured pincushions. One popular Yankee Notion was a variation, a multipurpose tool with a clamp, a pincushion and perhaps an emery cushion to keep needles sharp.

The clamp was the seamstress's third hand. Once screwed to a table top the clamp held the garment as she hemmed it.

A popular variation was a "sewing bird."
The clamp was shaped like ....

The National Museum of American History, which has over 500 clamps in its textile collection (Not fair, I only have one) tells us that an early patent for a sewing bird went to New Englander Charles Waterman , who in 1853 described:

"a 'feathered bird upon the wing, bearing a burden upon its back.' The burden is an emery ball."

Sewing dog?

Elizabeth Lyle Moffitt, Kewanee, Illinois, 
Smoky Hill Museum, Salina, Kansas
"The Constitution & Union Forever"

And see another Union quilt here:

Digital sketch

A few of Denniele's 18" blocks

Dorry's Union Star with Yankee Notions

Eight Blocks Done!
Update: Overly optimistic and math ignorant


Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

I have a sewing bird that belonged to my great grandmother (not sure if it was handed down to her) and I also have a 'new' one like the bright brass one you show, that I purchased at a quilt shop several years ago.

Susan said...

Thanks for the history, both on the star and the union, and on the sewing birds. I've seen them in museums, but never in an antique shop.