Saturday, May 29, 2021

Harriet Martineau & Antislavery Needlework

Anti-Slavery Bazaar ticket with Maria Weston Chapman's initials.
Massachusetts Historical Society

Maria Weston Chapman was the woman behind Boston's annual antislavery fair held from 1835 into the Civil War years, which was an important event in women's and abolitionist history.

With her sisters, friends and like-minded men and women Chapman raised thousands for the abolitionist cause through many strategies, among them the sale of home-made items. The committee solicited decorative crafts from Americans and European sympathizers. In 1837 George Thompson advised Britons to create objects for sale.
"If you have leisure, you can devote it to the manufacture of such articles....Opportunities are constantly occurring of forwarding such things to the United States."

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) at her work.
Moses Bowness. about 1855

No Britisher seems to have take his advice more to heart than Harriet Martineau. A single woman from a family in the textile business, Harriett suffered from ill health and deafness much of her life. When the family business failed she was required to earn a living: "So to work I went, with needle and pen."

At first her needle supplied an income but she became known for her writing with her best-recalled book Society in America based on her mid-1830s trip to the United States. She spent time in Boston where she was introduced to the antislavery activists and thereafter snubbed by their opponents.

Returning to England she kept Maria Chapman and her bazaar committee supplied with needlework and manuscripts both of which brought a premium due to the Martineau name. Martineau loved handwork and spent much time at Berlin work, the wool embroidery over canvas that was a mid-century fashion.

Berlin work picture in the collection of the Smithsonian
signed Emma Frances Feather, 1855

Harriet's work

1861 with her knitting
Photo by Camille Silvy

Her letters and autobiography attest to her enjoyment:

"I am mourning over the approaching completion of a very long piece of woolwork which is to bring in a good deal of dollars for my abolitionist friends in America at their next fair." Letter to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

From a remembrance in her biography edited by Maria Weston Chapman.

Detail of an embroidered rug stitched in the 1880s by Elizabeth Austin
National Trust Collection

Harriet's pen earned her this home The Knoll in Ambleside
in the Lake District.

Despite Harriet's prodigious output and the esteem her work inspired I haven't found a surviving piece attributed to her hand.

Similar embroidery

Apparently abolitionists who traveled to and from between England and America often carried work aimed for the fair tables.  Antislavery editor William Lloyd Garrison was a courier who took one of Harriet's pieces to Boston.

Michael Sims in the New York Times Book Review recently wrote about an 1838 meeting between Charles Darwin and Harriet Martineau. He tells us that Charles's brother Erasmus Darwin "was a close friend of Martineau’s — if not more." The young Charles, while impressed by Harriet, continued to believe women could never be the intellectual equal of men. Read "Darwin and the Second Sex" here:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Ladies Aid Album #3: Floral Cockade


Ladies Aid Album #3: Floral Cockade by Becky Brown

 We can look at this eight-lobed design as a cockade,
 a handmade show of support for the the Union or the Confederacy,
quite fashionable in the war's early days.

Woman wearing a cockade

Francis Brownell (1840-1894) of Troy, New York joined the 11th
New York Volunteers, the Fire Zouaves, in the first weeks
of the Civil War.

Zouave troops adopted a special uniform: a bolero style jacket, a colorful sash and short baggy trousers tucked into puttees, based on Algerian soldiers' outfits by way of France. Some Zouaves wore fez head gear.
Two fez-wearing New York Zouaves perhaps from a rival unit
Duryea's Zouaves

Frank Brownell in his more conventional hat, a kepi, wears decorations on his chest
although the war had just begun. (He eventually received
a medal of honor.) Two ornaments look like cloth cockades.

Union cockade with George Washington

Floral Cockade by Barbara Schaffer

Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth (1837-1861)
 a New Yorker who studied law in Illinois
with Abraham Lincoln, accompanied
the new President to Washington. 

Brownell was one of many New Yorkers eager to join the Zouaves in the first glorious weeks of the war when Elmer Ellsworth recruited troops in New York City. In April, 1861 days after Fort Sumter, women's work was to wave handkerchiefs at departing troops and present them with flags (either hand stitched or purchased from flag manufacturers.)

Charlotte Augusta Gibbes Astor (1825-1887)
By John Sully. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina.

Mrs. John Jacob Astor III was at New York society's pinnacle. Her husband had made a first fortune in fur trading, a second in New York real estate. She immediately commenced war work, commissioning flags for the Zouaves and presenting them to the troops in a ceremony on April 30th. (Genteel women did NOT speak to "mixed" groups so General John Adams Dix read her patriotic address to the soldiers.)

Four flags were presented; Charlotte Astor (called Augusta) presented a national flag and a regimental flag. "Ladies of the Astor House" (the family hotel) presented one and the New York Fire Department, from which many of the soldiers came, added a fourth.

The Astor House Hotel on Fifth Avenue, 1867
"The Ladies of the Astor House" (Did they live there or meet there?)

 Floral Cockade by Barbara Brackman
All dots

General John Jacob Astor III

The Fire Department's contribution was described in the newspaper:
 A Motto at the top "The Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave" and
images of a helmet, a hook and ladder...

And remarkably, the Fire Department's regimental flag has survived in the collection of the Flag Room at the state capitol in Albany. A rose wreath holds the tools in the center.

A few years ago that flag museum exhibited Zouave flags.

In mid-July New York's women continued their war work, presenting a hand-sewn flag.

Floral Cockade by Denniele Bohannon

By July Elmer Ellsworth was dead, shot in Alexandria, Virginia. The young Colonel's death shocked everyone from Lincoln to the children who idolized him. 

Stationed in Washington Ellsworth was infuriated by a Confederate flag flying over James Jackson's Alexandria inn visible from the White House and all of the Union capitol. He decided to remove a Confederate symbol by storming Jackson's house. Jackson killed Ellsworth and Frank Brownell shot Jackson. The killing had begun.

Scraps of "Ellsworth's Flag" were snipped as souvenirs....

The fate of many flags

The Block

A better picture. The sun came out!
Floral Cockade by Bettina Havig

Rosettes like cockades were a fashionable New York pattern
early in the album fad.

From an album by Elizabeth Jennings Hopkins of Port Jefferson, Long Island,
New York---based on six lobes. See the whole quilt below.

Our pattern is based on eight (easier to fold and cut.)

Found in a sampler dated 1847 from Maltaville, New York

The Maltaville ablum has several cockade-like blocks.

Print this out on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet.

Private Charles Sanford Hopkins of Duryea's Zouaves
Virginia Historical Society

Charles Hopkins was another Zouave who did not come home. His poor mother Elizabeth Jennings Hopkins (1824-1904), who made a New York album in the collection of the Denver Art Museum, lost eight of her nine children before they were 25 years old .

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Oldest Living Civil War Veteran

 1848 album quilt from Pennsylvania,
 likely made for the January, 1848 wedding of
 Elizabeth Sponhauer & Ephriam Rannels (also Ephraim Reynolds.)

When Kathe and I were researching the names on the wedding quilt we both noticed a reference to groom Ephriam: "At the time of his death probably the oldest living veteran of the Civil War," according to the Bucyrus [Ohio] Journal.

February 7, 1922

Certain journalistic trends come and go---becoming cliches and an easy hook to hang a story on.

Seventh Illinois Cavalry Reunion

 The "Oldest Civil War Veteran" idea was certainly one of those phrases.

A search for the phrase at
brings up thousands of references.

So doing any research into the accuracy of Ephriam's story as the "oldest" seems futile (especially since the man used two names and his first name was spelled inconsistently too.)

National Grand Army of the Republic Reunion in Buffalo,
1897. Five hundred thousand Union veterans attended.

Certainly, war memories were something people
wanted to read about.

Some history about Ephriam Rannels: He owned a store in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. He and Elizabeth Sponhauer Rannels had two girls and a boy and were married about 50 years when Elizabeth died in 1898. He married Jane McM? in 1902 and when she died shortly after he went to live with his Ohio daughter.

He joined the G.A.R. post
in Galion, Ohio

His friends there were probably glad to describe him
as the oldest man to have served at the time of his death.

National Reunion,1898

Several periodicals devoted to that audience
often described "the youngest," "the last,"  "the first," "the only"....

The "oldest" and "last" headlines persisted into the 1950s when Albert Henry Woolson (1850-1956) was declared the last soldier to die at 106. He enlisted as a drummer boy at 14 in 1864.


Such fame might motivate a man to lie or at least exaggerate his age, 
a topic Smithsonian Magazine addressed in this article: