Wednesday, January 12, 2022

American Stars #1: The McKims


Block #1 Stellar Memory by Becky Brown
American Stars


We begin the new year with a new pieced block-of-the-month. The patchwork theme is
four-pointed stars to symbolize American Stars, a year-long look at some influential American families and how genius and notoriety is passed on through the generations.

Block #1, Stellar Memory, an original four-pointed star, remembers a family of American Stars---The McKims.


Sarah Speakman McKim's family 1886
She's the older woman in the hat on the right.

Of her son a biographer wrote many years ago:
"To anyone interested in noting human characteristics there is no study more fascinating than the effects of heredity and prenatal environment upon the achievements and developments of a man's mature life."
We'd amend that to read "person's life" and drop the word prenatal. This year's quilt follows that theme: Heredity & Environment. How certain families generation after generation become American Stars--- famous (for good deeds and bad) and how one can tell the story of the country through their lives.

Block #1 Stellar Memory by Jeanne Arnieri
Jeanne's a new model maker who will be using red, whites and blues.

Sarah Allibone Speakman McKim (1813-1891)

We'll begin with the first generation of antislavery McKims. Sarah Speakman became a McKim in 1840 with her marriage to James Miller McKim. 

J. Miller McKim (1810-1874) in 1851
People called him Miller.

Sarah was a birthright Quaker and a birthright abolitionist, raised in the Chester County, Pennsylvania family of Phebe and Micajah Speakman who maintained a shelter for escaped slaves on the run. In 1840 she married former Presbyterian minister James Miller McKim, an early leader in the antislavery movement, a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, an active speaker and writer in the cause.

The Block

Block #1 Stellar Memory 
Patterns this year are drafted to 12" finished blocks.

Each can be stitched using template piecing or piecing over paper foundations. Most of the patches are not rotary cut. The size of the paper in the printer (8-1/2" x 11") determines the design of the finished block.

I drew most of the blocks in BlockBase+ but I also modified some to make them more interesting and/or easier to piece. Stellar Memory is an original design based on BlockBase #1251. I added another seam. If you want to redraft the pattern to another size you can start with 1251 and add seams.


Print the pattern on an 8-1/2 x11" sheet of paper (4 times). Note the
inch-square block for scale.


And here is the order if you are paper piecing.
Make two different triangles.
And remember you have to add seam allowances when you are cutting the pieces.

Block #1 Stellar Memory by Denniele Bohannon
Denniele is also using red, white and blue but with a graphic punch.

The Next Generation

Sarah gave birth to two children, Lucy in 1842 and Charles Follen McKim five years later. They also adopted niece Ann Catherine McKim. 

Library of Congress
Port Royal, South Carolina during the war
The 1860 census recorded 939 white property owners in Beaufort and
 33,339 African-Americans, mostly enslaved people.

Once the Civil War began Miller McKim realized that freedom for the slaves presented its own problems. He founded the Philadelphia Port Royal Relief Committee, later the Pennsylvania Freedman’s Relief Association. In June, 1862 he took nineteen year-old Lucy with him on a fact-finding tour of the Sea Islands along the Southern Atlantic coast. As Union troops occupied the island plantations the owners abandoned their homes. Ten of thousands of African-Americans freed by default were in desperate condition. Miller McKim made plans for food, clothing, shelter and education.

Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College
Lucy McKim (1842-1877) in 1864

Lucy and Miller McKim visited the Sea Islands of  Hilton Head, Port Royal, St. Helena and Ladies Island in their three-week tour. Lucy was fascinated by the music she heard, which she copied down and annotated with musical transcription. 


At the end of the year she published "Roll, Jordan, Roll" and five years later co-edited the book Slave Songs of the United States in her mid-20s, the same year she gave birth to her first child Lloyd McKim Garrison.


The post-war marriage of the McKim's daughter to Wendell Phillips Garrison, son of leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, gave joy to both families who'd worked together in the long antislavery fight.

Wendell Phillips Garrison & Lucy McKim Garrison
Lucy died of a neurological disorder at 34 years old in 1877. Wendell later
married her adopted sister Anna Catherine McKim Dennis

After the war the McKim family relocated to New Jersey. Miller McKim and his son-in-law saw a need for a liberal post-war voice, a successor to the Garrison newspaper The Liberator, and helped found The Nation. Wendell was literary editor for decades.


Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909)
Frances Benjamin Johnston

By then son Charles was studying architecture at L'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris after a year at Harvard. In 1870 he began a very successful career as a draftsman for the influential architect Henry Hobson Richardson.

William R. Mead, Charles F. McKim & Stanford White

In 1879 Charles joined partners to form McKim, Mead & White, the premier architectural firm of its time. Their designs include the Morgan Library, the Boston Public Library, dozens of public and private masterpieces in their classical revival style.

Boston Public Library

Bell House, Newport, Rhode Island
They also specialized in shingle-style wooden mansions.

Memories of McKim, Mead & White are haunted by scandal. The premier gilded-age architects became the gilded-age metaphor in 1906 when Stanford White was shot in the back by an insane man seeking revenge for his young wife's seduction. 


Bronze relief portrait of Charles McKim
by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, close friend and lover (?)

McKim's life was not without scandal either. His first wife Ann Bigelow, an unstable woman, divorced him alleging unnatural acts and kept his infant daughter from visits. When daughter Margaret was old enough to see her father on her own her mother ceased communicating with her. Charles remarried Julia Amory Appleton who died after a year and a half of marriage with her infant after childbirth.

McKim biographer Mosette Broderick characterizes Charles with two traumatic marriages and a murdered partner as emotionally fragile:
“At Stanford White’s death, the pain was terrible... a depressing crisis for McKim – he was in and out, his health failed, and he died in 1909.”
Into the next generation Charles's only surviving child Margaret McKim married Dr. William J. M. A. Maloney (1881-1952) in 1913. William, born in Scotland, became a strong advocate of Irish independence, contributing his writings to gathering support for the Irish War of Independence in the teens. With Oswald Garrison Villard, nephew of  Lucy McKim and Wendell Garrison, he formed the American Committee for Relief in Ireland in the 1920s.

Margaret McKim Maloney (1875-1938)  by Jo Davidson
Margaret's husband commission this bust
for Fisk University where he established a 
women's scholarship in her name.


Margaret's contribution was to document and save the family papers, so much first-person information available today about the stellar McKim family is thanks to her.

Denniele plans to set her blocks with an alternate pieced square in a square.
Here's her pattern for the alternate block:


We have a Facebook group to show off blocks and ask questions. It's public rather than private. We'll see how that works out but you don't have to join. Anyone can see or comment.

Further Reading:

Mosette Glaser Broderick , Triumvirate: McKim, Mead, and White: Art , Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America's Gilded Age ( New York : Knopf , 2011)

2 comments:

Jeanne said...

I learned something new already - I wasn't familiar with the McKim family.

Deanna said...

I went to a national library conference in Boston where an evening open house at the Boston Public Library introduced me to the McKim, Mead & White architectural firm, Sam Adams beer, and great clam chowder. Thank you for the background on this family.