Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Ladies Aid Sampler #10: Tools & Canandaigua

Ladies Aid Sampler #10: Scissors by Denniele Bohannon

Willing hearts and hands wielding a pair of scissors recalls 
Canandaigua, New York and its Civil War sewing societies.

In 1863 the ladies of Canandaigua held a
Festival and sent the proceeds of $266.43 to the Sanitary Commission's 
Women's Central office in New York City.

Canandaigua in 1860

We know quite a bit about Civil War life in Canandaigua thanks to Carrie Richards who kept a diary during those years.

Caroline Cowles Richards Clarke  (1842-1913)
was 18 when the Civil War began.

Carrie and her young friends converted their charitable sewing society into the Young Ladies' Aid Society to support the Sanitary Commission (Their elders had their own society). 

"We are going to sew for [the soldiers] in our society and get the garments all cut from the older ladies society. They work every day in one of the rooms of the court house and cut out garments and make them and scrape lint and roll up bandages. They say they will provide us with all the garments we will make. We are going to write notes and enclose them in the garments to cheer up the soldier boys."

Canandaigua is in Ontario County in the Fingerlakes Region.

 Scissors by Becky Brown
"In one year's time we made in our society 133 pairs of drawers, 101 shirts, 4 pairs socks for soldiers, and 54 garments for the families of soldiers."

"Most of us wrote notes [to] put inside the garments for the soldiers in the hospitals. Sarah Gibson Howell has had an answer to her letter. His name is Foster — a Major. She expects him to come and see her soon."
Carrie's friend Gippie Howell (1842-1897) married Major Benjamin Brown Foster from Maine about a year after she began writing him. Many romances began with a soldier writing a thank you letter for a quilt or hand-knitted socks.
"The girls in our society say that if any of the members do send a soldier to the war they shall have a flag bed quilt, made by the society, and have the girls' names on the stars." 

Abigail Stanley Clark Williams (1843-1902)

Canandaigua's Young Ladies' sewing society was good as their word, presenting Abbie with a flag quilt after the war. The stars are inked with the names of her friends including Carrie Richards.

Abbie's quilt is now in the collection of the
 Ontario County Historical Society.

The Block

Scissors by Barbara Schaffer
Barbara fit 2 hearts into her block.

New Yorkers included many tools in their album quilt designs including
the seamstress's tool, a pair of scissors.

Lydia Wygant's (?)  scissors is quite detailed in Mary Zabriskie Vanderbeck's
1865 album in the Winterthur Museum collection

Hearts & hands were also a popular image, sometimes pictured with a scissors.

Fussy cutting beats reverse applique in my playbook.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Chintz in South Carolina

The South Carolina project recorded this chintz applique quilt with a Civil War story. Family stories recall that Harriet Katherine Kennedy Steele (1818-1908) did the applique during and shortly after the war using, "Scraps saved when Sherman marched through Columbia."

General Sherman's Union troops did indeed march through
Columbia, the state capitol, in February, 1865.

The town burned; few buildings were undamaged.

These small floral chintzes may have been
the only fabrics that Harriet had to work with. 

Her quilt is classic chintz-applique style, florals trimmed and arranged with a central focus, in this case a pair of large tulips. The family member referred to them as "Oil Calico from England" but a better description might be "Furniture chintz."

The quilt's center

We tend to date these appliqued quilts as "about 1820 to 1870," so
Harriet's may be a late example, rather old fashioned in 1866 & '67 but
then again Harriet was almost fifty at the close of the war.

Four large rose bouquets balance the central image. This
print of three roses in a rococo scroll looks familiar.
I've found several quilts with the same print, although Harriet's
wine-colored roses are a different colorway.

Border from a quilt in the American Museum in Bath

Border from Julie Silber's Inventory

Motif from the Poos Collection.

The border in Julie Silber's Irish Chain shows the fabric repeat.
Obviously the rose and scroll stripe was abundant---
although certainly not in South Carolina at the end of the war
where nothing but misery was abundant.

A cursory look around the genealogical internet doesn't pinpoint our quiltmaker Harriet Catherine Kennedy Steele. The descendant who brought in the quilt said her father was James A. Kennedy born in Georgia and that Harriet's nickname was Noutrel.

Her husband may also have been James. A Harriet Katherine Kennedy (born May 9, 1817 in Virginia) wed James Steele on December 2, 1843 in Fairfield County, South Carolina.

Here's an interesting census record from 1850 listing James A. Kennedy and his wife Mary in Richland County where Columbia is. But they are too young to be Harriet's parents, perhaps a brother and his wife. Next door is Harriet K. Steele, 30 (thus born about 1820.) Is this her, possibly living with  brother Thomas W.? As is often the case in looking at people associated with fancy chintz quilts we find that both James and Thomas Kennedy were merchants.

Kennedy's Store was a Camden fixture in Richland County.

The Camden Confederate, 1863

1864 Camden Tri-Weekly Journal

Did Harriet start this quilt at the close of the Civil War? Or could it have been begun around the time of an 1843 wedding when the style was current? Perhaps it was finished after the war when borders of bright red were popular.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

2022 Block of the Month: American Stars


Time to think about next year's sampler here at CivilWarQuilts. We'll begin the new year with a new pieced block-of-the-month series. The patchwork theme is four-pointed stars to symbolize American Stars, a year-long look at 12 influential American families and how genius and notoriety (good and bad) is passed on through their generations.

Model-maker Becky Brown has picked her fabrics and is well on her way to another spectacular quilt. A generous woman, she enjoys donating quilts to veterans and often thinks in terms of strong colors and pattern that will appeal to her audience.

Stripes to fussy cut.

Denniele Bohannon loves red, white and blue so we can expect
some graphic blocks in high contrast from her.

Jeanne Arnieri is also making model blocks in the American colors with
a more romantic character.

We'll follow the usual calendar of posting a free pattern on the second Wednesday of each month. Block #1 will be up here on January 12, 2022.

Star ideas from BlockBase+

The blocks---some new, some traditional published designs---are four-pointed stars drafted for 12" finished blocks. Due to the geometry of four-pointed stars the patterns are not well-adapted for rotary cutting and conventional piecing. Each can be stitched using template piecing or pieced over paper foundations. 

Becky who loves hand work is tracing templates onto the back of each pattern piece and stitching in her precise manner.

You can also piece them over paper foundations. Most are divided into 8 triangles---simple paper piecing that fits well on an 8-1/2 x 11" sheet of paper.

Twelve 12" blocks set side by side will make a 36" x 48" finished quilt.  Add an 8" finished border for one 52" x 64". Finished sashing strips and border of 3" gives you a 48" x 63" quilt. 

 Or have BlockBase + draw you other four-pointed stars for a larger quilt.

Lots of star fabric out there, so shop in your quilt store
or your stash.

We have a Facebook group just dedicated to the series where you can post questions, comments and show off your blocks. The name AmericanStarsBOM. Ask to join.

And you can buy a PDF of the whole pattern for $12 now and print it yourself at my Etsy shop. 

But I have to tell you that there are problems (slight problems) with the PDF. Microsoft for unknown reasons shrinks the pages rather arbitrarily so I've had a heck of a time trying to get the PDF to print correctly. Some of the patterns may come out 103%, some  98% - you may have to adjust as you print. I'd recommend you plan to set the blocks with sashing---you can adjust the sashing if your blocks come out 11-7/8" or 12-1/8".  The monthly JPG patterns SHOULD be accurate. (After this year: ROTARY CUTTING!)

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Martha Harris's Civil War

Quilt associated with Martha Elizabeth Harris Harris,
Leonardtown, Maryland, 1830s.

The D.A.R. Museum showed this star quilt in their Eye on Elegance exhibit several years ago. It's also pictured in the book A Maryland Album.

Pieced of three prints, the bedcover reflects the elegance of life in aristocratic Maryland family.

Martha married her third cousin Benjamin Gwinn Harris in 1826
(the occasion for which the quilt was made?) and moved into his
childhood home known as Ellenborough. Her sister Catherine Ruth married
Benjamin's brother Henry Reeder Harris.

The border print is an "Arborescent chintz" (gnarly tree branches
were popular in the first decades of the 19th century.) The background
is what was called a "Fancy Machine Ground," adding more pattern to a busy print.

The chintz offers a contrast to the simpler nine-patch star repeat, a sort of transition in taste between patchwork of furnishing fabrics and the coming trend for calicoes.

Another large-scale print on the reverse features a rococo scroll and roses with a Fancy Machine Ground.

Yardage of the same print.

Martha Elizabeth Harris Harris (1814-1892)
Maryland Historical Society
This painting of Martha is a copy of an original by George Cook done in 1839.

Maryland Historical Society
 Benjamin Gwinn Harris (1805-1895) by George Cook 
Harris was an attorney and politician.

Their daughters Ann Delia Harris and Susan Ruth Harris Maddox

The 1850 census gives us a glimpse of the household at Ellenborough. Benjamin's biographer Joshua E. Kastenberg noted their property was valued higher than any other in St. Mary's County with 45 enslaved laborers. Ann Delia was at home but Susan may have been at school. Others may be relatives including Emily Long at 45 listed as Insane and a Pauper.

When the Civil War began Martha was in her mid 40s with two grown girls; Susan was married to George F. Maddox. Benjamin had become a spokesman for Southern secession in a polarized Maryland. He'd given an indication of his political and personal opinions in a failed 1858 petition to the Maryland Legislature to re-enslave the state's 80,000 freed people. Maryland remained in the Union but many of his neighbors were sympathetic to the Confederate cause. In 1863 he was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent the southernmost Maryland counties.

The 38th Congress

Aggressive in his defense of secessionist rights and Black inferiority he alienated fellow Democrats (to say nothing of the Union-sympathizing Republicans) with his "Furious Speech." During the Democrat's convention nominating George McClellan he knocked down a fellow delegate.
The Capitol During the War
Library of Congress

A motion to expel him was introduced in Congress a year before the war ended but the two-thirds majority vote could not be reached so he continued in his position. He was censured as an "unworthy member" who had shown "gross disrespect" for the House of Representatives. Every time he began to give a speech the censure was read. After Lincoln's assassination he referred to John Wilkes Booth as a patriot.

Harper's Weekly, 1863
Copperheads---Union residents with Confederate sympathies

Many suspected Harris of assisting Confederates passing through St. Mary's County during the war. The lingering desire for consequences for his "Copperhead" actions continued after Appomattox when a small gesture of generosity to two ex-Confederate soldiers resulted in his arrest and conviction for treason in aiding and comforting the enemy. Imprisoned in Washington in May, 1865, he went out for walks everyday with former Confederates and visits with wife Martha. After a few weeks President Andrew Johnson paroled him.

Benjamin returned to Ellensborough where he and Martha lived until the end of the century. His vicious political maneuvers continued with an unsuccessful run for Congress on a platform voiding the antislavery 14th & 15th Amendments and removing all Congressmen of African-American descent.

The 1880 census found Martha and Benjamin living with daughters Delia and a widowed Susan and her three girls plus three African-American servants, John Dorsey, Olivia Coale and her ten-year-old son William. Harris had one bad idea for solving their post-war economic problems, asking Congress to reimburse former slave owners for the loss of their human property, another failed political move.

This 1895 obituary in the Buffalo Courier summarizes
the career of a "very bitter" man. 

We unfortunately hear too much of her husband's voice and not much of Martha's, but she did leave a diary from 1850-1891 in the Maryland Historical Society (now The Maryland Center for History and Culture), as yet undigitized. See Mrs. Benjamin Gwinn Harris Diary.

We can digress from demagogues to quilts. Here's a second quilt
from perhaps 1825 to 1850 with the same print in the border.

Pictures from an online auction

The star blocks are the same pattern as the D.A.R.'s quilt
although the set is different.

A mysterious coincidence.
Same maker?
Regional style?

Read More:

Joshua E. Kastenberg, A Confederate in Congress: The Civil War Treason Trial of Benjamin Gwinn Harris. Preview:

Post on Benjamin Harris here: