Saturday, February 6, 2021

A LIncoln Drape Border?


The National Museum of American History has this quilt
in their collection donated in 1949, one of two quilts by
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Lisle Randall (1836- about 1920)

The caption dates it to about 1870. Perhaps it's a little later into the 1890s, which would go with the quilting style, the Turkey red & white color scheme and the border with a plain strip and a swag and tassel.

The caption

I had never heard of a Lincoln Drape border (or Cadiz, Iowa---that should read Cadiz, Ohio, I think.)

I found some interesting decorative arts allusions.

The term "Lincoln Drape" usually refers to a pressed glass pattern, goblets, footed bowls and assorted pieces like syrup pitchers.

And Aladdin lamp bases, which look the most 
like the quilt border with swag and tassel.

A reference on glass ware tells us the "pressed glass pieces, probably manufactured by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company of Massachusetts or McKee & Bros. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ...supposedly represents the black crepe that adorned Lincoln's casket and hearse, but this cannot be proven."

Here's a photo of Lincoln's casket in 1865.
Plenty of ornament but not this combination.

Caskets are only one part of a funeral ceremony on the scale of Lincoln's. Here's another 1865 photo showing the coffin atop a whole pyramid of ceremonial imagery. The catafalque, the box that supports the coffin (I think the actual coffin is inside another box) has several swag motifs.

A drape and shield design 

Certainly, the image of mourning drapery for the assassinated President is not far-fetched. A shocked Union lowered their celebratory flags to half-mast and draped their homes and businesses with mourning swags.

The Lincoln home in Springfield, Illinois after the assassination.

Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot.

But finding a reference to a Lincoln Drape in any decorative arts in the 1865-1880 period has been futile.
Pressed glass history from 1965 and Google Books yielded no 19th-century
references to "Lincoln Drape" as a style. The glass pattern of
a classical drape may go back to the 1860s but the name doesn't
seem to.

And Women's Day in 1949 is probably no more reliable about the
border pattern name.
Plenty of mid-19th-century quilts have a swag and tassel border
but I found no other quilt reference to the term "Lincoln Drape."

The swag and tassel was a classic image going back centuries
and a staple of interior decoration.

All that said: Lizzie's border is very interesting.
So here's a pattern for a swag about 13" based on hers.

And one more informational tidbit that is probably TRUE.
Lincoln's wooden catafalque was saved from his funeral and it is kept in the
U.S. Capitol where it is used for state occasions like Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg's recent viewing.

I've lightened up a photo so you can see what it looks like.
This seems to be a cloth drape over the platform
Definitely the swag and tassel.


Angie said...

Thanks for the great story! Henceforth, I think we should refer to that decorative element as the Notorious RBG Drape. ;-)

Mary Says Sew! said...

Wow - the Lincoln Drape design is one of those things we've probably seen a million times but never recognized for its 'origin story'. Now we'll see it everywhere.

It's even along the edge of the blanket or fly sheet on the horse in front of Lincoln's Illinois home.

QuiltGranma said...

What an interesting it of history. I've never seen any of that pressed glassware, likely since I live in the west.

Lenna DeMarco said...

Really fascinating. Thanks so much for the research. I'll be looking at swag and tassel with a whole new perspective

Darlene said...

Lots of great information here on "Lincoln's Drape" I had no idea it went back so far in history.
I actually found the story more amusing about the Alcotts and their vegetarian and religious beliefs.