Saturday, January 28, 2023

Mary Lincoln Had a Fabric Problem


First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln in her late forties at
a White House event.

You may have a hard time relating to Mary Lincoln, above overdressed about 1865. But let me tell you the woman had a fabric problem.

Mary Lincoln was a shopping addict and found entertainment and peace in choosing material for White House interiors and her own wardrobe during the Civil War. 
Mary Ann Todd Lincoln (1818-1882)

The times required yards and yards of fabric for bell-shaped skirts and Mary felt it was her obligation to look well-turned out in her White House years. She liked shopping in New York. Congress allotted $20,000 for refurbishing the Executive Mansion over 4 years. She overspent that budget by $6,000 the first year spending what would be nearly $500,000 today on drapes, carpets, furniture, etc.

Journalist "Grace Greenwood's" summary of Mary Lincoln in 1895,
a decade after Mary's death.

1864 ad in the New York Herald

Mary put her purchases for her clothing on her personal tab, running up about the same amount in debt to department and dry goods stores and milliners such as Madame Harris on Broadway. $500,000!!!

Mourning bonnet worn after son Willie's death in 1862
She was fussy if not downright difficult.
"I am in need of a mourning bonnet---which must be exceedingly plain and genteel....I want the crape to be the finest jet black English crape----I want it got up with great taste and gentility." May, 1862
The bonnet arrived. She didn't care for it. "I wished a much finer blk straw bonnet for mourning....I have your money ready for you"

Her husband knew little about this outrageous debt but people looking for Presidential favors did.

She and her skillful Modiste Elizabeth Keckly
made good use of some of the luxurious fabrics
but much yardage was never made up into clothing.

After her husband was assassinated in 1865 Mary left the White House for Chicago with about 60 trunks and boxes full of belongings. She found shopping a balm for grief. What was a compulsive shopping problem became a hoarding disorder. 

She was never satisfied in one place very long. She bought a Chicago house at what is now 1238 West Washington Boulevard, east of Union Park, and then after a year rented it out as she traveled. She never returned to live in the house but continued to store trunks and boxes there. 

Ruins of Chicago, 1871
She did not mention this catastrophe in her surviving letters although
she was in Chicago at the time.

Some of the trunks stayed in that house, which survived the fire; some went to son Robert and his new wife Mary Harlan Lincoln. Letters to her daughter-in-law from Europe, indicate she had a mental inventory of every piece of fabric in the boxes she'd left behind.
"In the box---by the front door upstairs is a box of woolens 2---elegant sofa cusions (sic)"
"If you have need of any narrow thread lace---which you will certainly require----you will find some among my lace----which has never been washed

Mary Harlan Lincoln (1846-1937)
seems to have had the Mother-in-Law from Hell. 
Mary's demands and advice got so bad Robert and
 his wife separated for a year.

The older Mary Lincoln left trunks in Chicago but brought many with her on extended visits to Europe. Being both a hoarder and a woman never content long in one spot is a bad combination of disorders.

Mary also found solace in spiritualism,
which connected  her to her deceased
husband and three sons. Her losses 
were great; her reactions dramatic.

In 1875, after ten years as a widow, Mary's only surviving child Robert committed her to an insane asylum. She was hoarding a good deal of cash and redeemable securities by pinning and sewing them to her undergarments. Robert believed declaring her insane was the only way to protect her finances under his management. Once again her possessions were in the forefront of her thoughts. She demanded the return of gifts she'd given Robert and his wife, which went back into the trunks.

Elizabeth & Ninian Edwards's house in Springfield, Illinois

She spent the last few years in the care of her generous sister Elizabeth Edwards who gave her a home in Springfield. Mary spent her days sifting through her fabrics---dress silks and laces a widow could never wear; draperies for houses she did not live in.

As late as 1959 people were still reporting on Mary Lincoln's eccentricities. 
Above a Life Magazine interview with
a niece Mary Edwards Brown.

A little rewrite.
65 Trunks, $500,000!
You are a piker.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Freedom's Friends #11: Apple Pie for an Unnamed Cook

Block #11 Apple Pie for an unnamed cook by Becky Brown

Apple Pie Ridge is a regional pattern popular in Maryland and Virginia before the Civil War. We can remember an unnamed woman agent who worked as a cook or maid on a Richmond/Philadelphia ship.

Was she free or slave?

We hear a sentence or two about her in the tale of Miles Robertson, a 22-year-old who escaped to Philadelphia in 1858. We tend to think of fugitives as unschooled field hands running on impulse through swamps ten steps ahead of the bloodhounds.

Drama and terror demand more of our attention

Miles's story, less dramatic, reveals the workings of the Underground Railroad near the Mason-Dixon line as described by William Still. Miles escaped from Richmond, Virginia, where he'd been "hired out" by his owner, the widowed Mrs. Roberts from York County who lived on his salary. He may have been permitted to keep some of the money, savings to facilitate an escape. Miles did not tell us his occupation in Richmond; he might have worked in a restaurant as he later opened one in Philadelphia. He may have earned some money as a musician. William Still tells us he was a gifted banjo player. His mother, sisters and brothers also lived as slaves in Richmond, probably hired out too. 
"He had not been treated harshly. He was not contented, however."

One always faced the uncertainty of sale
to worse conditions far from family.

Mrs. Roberts must have needed money. Miles heard that he was to be sold and "resolved to escape by the first convenience [finding] an agent who communicated his wishes to one of the colored women running as cook or chambermaid on one of the Philadelphia and Richmond steamers, and she was bold enough to take charge of him...."

Laura Dolly Johnson's kitchen
Library of Congress

She "found him a safe berth in one of the closets where the pots and other cooking utensils belonged. It was rather rough and trying, but Miles felt that it was for liberty."

 Assisted by Philadelphia's Fugitive Committee he went on to Boston, where he educated himself, worked in food-service and saved his money. He and two friends returned to Philadelphia where "being first-class waiters and understanding catering, they decided to open a large dining saloon."

Was Miles the only fugitive the cook stashed in the pantry? We certainly wish we knew more about the woman "conductor" as William Still termed the people who moved fugitives along the path.
The Block
Apple Pie  
Block signed Henrietta Frizell from an online auction
Apple Pie can remind of us the unknown cook as well as Virginia, where this particular pattern has been called the Apple Pie Ridge design in recent years, named for a neighborhood near Winchester, Virginia.

Here it is in my Encyclopedia of Applique with a couple of names. It looks to me like a conventional fleur-de-lis pattern made from a folded paper design, snipping gone awry and winding up as a strange symmetry. But the design was quite the popular thing---not just one mistaken cutting job.

From a sampler in Debby Cooney's collection

Quilt historian Mary Robare and her much missed partner in research Lynda Salter Chenoweth spent a lot of time on this pattern, called in Virginia The Apple Pie Ridge Star or Guadalupe Dance. They discussed a Virginia sampler quilt dated 1858 with the block a family member pointed out: “My Grandmother called that an Apple Pie Ridge Star.” 

For the applique figure you are going to need a fat quarter of print as it's cut out of one piece of fabric. Print the pattern on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet. Note the square inch for scale.

Apple Pie by Georgann Eglinski.
Those dots are hard to resist.
But I did.

Apple Pie by Barbara Brackman

And so has Denniele Bohannon---for now.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Louisa Cheairs Campbell's Civil War

Louisa Terrell Cheairs Campbell (1810-1866) from
her Find-A-Grave files.
(Improved photo, the original is scratched and spotted)

Louisa Cheairs, descended from French Huguenot (Protestant) refugees, married John Polk Campbell in 1827 near Spring Hill, Maury County, Tennessee. A few years later she accompanied him to the Missouri frontier with their young daughter Talitha. 

Kickapoo land in southeastern Missouri. The indigenous people often returned
to visit the graves of the dead.

John had acquired land from the Kickapoo people who had come from Illinois, settled for a short time near what is now Springfield and moved on. John's brother-in-law's family came to the new slave state with them, bringing six enslaved people. Louisa, about 20 when she became a Missourian, gave birth to nine more children in Springfield, a town her husband founded and where he prospered by selling lots. 

John seems to have been rather restless. In the mid 1840s he took the family to Cass County, Texas, claiming land grabbed from the Caddo tribe and later Mexico in the northeastern part of the new slave state.

It must have been Louisa who insisted they move back to Springfield
where they commissioned an imposing house finished in 1851.

John Polk Campbell (1804-1853)
John died in the Cherokee Nation (now Oklahoma) in 1853 where he is buried, although he has a stone in Springfield too. 

When the Civil War commenced Louisa's children were mostly grown. Sons and nephews enlisted as Confederate soldiers. She was raising two younger children, son William about 9, an infant when his father died, and granddaughter Louisa Cheairs McKenny, 12. The younger Louisa's mother, Tennessee-born Talitha, did not survive Lulu's birth. Lulu never knew another "Mother" as she called her grandmother.

Louisa "Lulu" Cheairs McKenny Sheppard (1848-1931)

Missourians suffered from conflicting loyalties during the war. Southern sympathies of former Kentuckians, Tennesseans, etc. dominated outside the cities but Missouri never left the Union. Southwestern Missouri was a miserable home to guerilla warfare and neighbor fighting neighbor.

Springfield in 1870

Louisa's nephew Captain Leonidas S. (Dick) Campbell headed a regiment victorious in the early battle at Wilson's Creek and his company occupied Springfield soon after. They were driven out by Union troops under Colonel Franz Sigel who took over Springfield, rounding up southern sympathizers like the Campbells who were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the Union. Louisa Campbell's family recalled she preferred to leave town rather than "take the oath" and so began her wanderings throughout the south.

German-born troops under Sigel reflect the urban/rural divisions.

Their Springfield house became a hospital for wounded soldiers. "There were cots and pallets everywhere filled with Union and Confederate men," recalled Lulu. Louisa and her two youngest went to Helena, Arkansas taking many of their slaves from Springfield. Lulu recalled the enslaved Missourians living "in a big stockaded yard with cabins along one side. They seemed dazed and apathetic, and apparently did not realize what was happening." Lulu's nursemaid said a final goodbye and handed her a roll of bills for Lulu's trip to Mississippi where an uncle's plantation might offer refuge.
"My grandmother thought...sending us to Mississippi [would] get us far away from the fighting  [but] brought us into close proximity to Grant's [army attacking Vicksburg.] 
And so after two years in Mississippi braving floods, typhoid and Grant, the Campbells went west again. Will, Lulu and Louisa were captured by Union soldiers and held for a short while in Arkansas. 
Their destination was Texas and the home of Lulu's father Elnathan Durkee McKenny (McKinney). The elder Louisa delivered Lulu to acquaint her with her father and his new wife. Lulu recalled she behaved so badly she soon got her way and was back with "Mother" in Arkansas, where they made do with basic shortages.

Blue and white home-woven check in an apron
"We had not cloth of any kind, except our homespuns. I learned to weave and was very proud of my neat blue and white checked dresses."
When Louisa's sons in various Southern states requested her assistance in camp and hospital she traveled to help on horseback with Link, her enslaved companion.
'"The Army in Arkansas was in terrible shape. Their most crying need was for quinine, for nearly all of them had malaria. Mother made up her mind that she was the person to get medicines."
She and Link rode to St. Louis where son Junius lived. "The only Union man in the clan" helped her buy the drugs which she then had quilted into her petticoat.

Quilted wool-mix petticoats were the female smuggler's friend.

The History Museum on the Square

Two of Louisa's sons died in the war and two came home. Leonidas A. Campbell, above with sister Sarah Rush Campbell, survived. In 1864 Louisa and Link set off to tend to "Lonnie" in Camden, Arkansas.
"Before she left, all the relatives had the usual sewing and knitting 'bee' to provide as much as she and Link could carry with them for the soldiers," remembered Lulu in her memoir of her grandmother and the war.
When the war was over Louisa took Lulu to St. Louis and a Catholic boarding school. Louisa, in her fifties, returned to Springfield and her once-beautiful house---a hospital, and orphanage--- now "overrun with all sorts of riff-raff who had dribbled into town...and taken possession." Union-sympathizing friends had paid the taxes while Louisa was roaming the south, but "Everything was in a fearful state of dirt and disrepair." Louisa lived in the former slave quarters, "a poor, little house."

In May, 1866 Louisa caught pneumonia and died, much to her granddaughter's sorrow. About 25 years later Lulu wrote a memoir of the war and her "mother:" A Confederate Girlhood by Louisa Cheairs McKenny Sheppard.

Read the first publication from 1892 in the collection of the History Museum for Springfield Greene County here:

The memoir is also included in the 2020 compilation Confederate Girlhoods: A Women's History of Early Springfield, Missouri edited by Craig A. Meyer

Louisa's husband's Indian Territory grave:

Lulu about the time of her memoir

Lulu's grave in Florida: 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

American Stars: Finishes


Erica Cannon has her American Stars BOM quilted
and bound. She used '30s repro prints and solids for
a retro scrappy look.

Here are a few more finished blocks, tops & quilts from our Facebook group:

Susanne Franklin Miyake
Primary Colors

Roberta Goulding Brunet
All the blocks

Christine Laine from France

Elsie Ridgley

And then there are our model makers' finishes.

Jeanne Arnieri

Becky Brown & the Schoolhouse Quilters

Link to a post that tells you where to find all 12 free patterns:

Shawn Priggel's setting block & Block #1 Garden of Eden

And our 2023 pieced block-of-the-month Atlanta Garden is off to a good start.
Facebook Group: AtlantaGardenQuiltBOM

It's a public group. Just check in regularly and post your progress.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

A Confederate Flag?


Block dated 1861 and 1776 from a sampler of applique patterns...

A variety of rather free-form florals set together with red hearts
in the corners of each block.

20 blocks bordered by a swag and tassel.

The quilt sold for $10,625 in 2018 at Freeman's Philadelphia Auction House, valued highly undoubtedly because of its "Confederate Interest."

But I am betting that's NOT a Confederate flag.

The first Confederate flag in 1861 had seven stars for the first seceding states and a consistent 3 stripe pattern in red and white over the war years. The quilt in question's flag indeed has three stripes, but did any Confederate flag sport red, white and blue stripes?

Album made for Reverend Plummer in Litchfield,

Style clues point to a quilt made in the Union in that first year of the Civil War. The use of appliqued  hearts to visually join the separate blocks is a design idea quite prevalent in New York and adjacent states New Jersey and Connecticut.

Quilt associated with Betsy Jane Young Luce from
the New York project.

Sampler dated 1877

Fortunately the blocks are signed and stamped and Freeman's
gave us some names

New York, Connecticut & New Jersey are the first places I'd look for these people. And they are buried in Bergen County, New Jersey.

From FindAGrave

Rachel A. Weeks is a key. Rachel Ackerman Weeks (ca. 1833 -1872) was married to Addison B Weeks (ca. 1809 - 1859). If the quilt was indeed made in 1861 Addison was already buried here.

This was a tight community. There are 128 Terhunes in the cemetery
and four Marias. I'd guess that Maria J. Hopper Terhune was the signer,
as she'd have been about 19 when the quilt was made in 1861, just the
age to be engaged in the idea of album quilts.

As was Caroline Ackerman Ackerman who married that year
(but didn't change her name.)

I could go on but I think the point is made. That flag is a Union symbol of some kind and forget about Confederates in any attics in Bergen County.

See the 2018 auction post here: