Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Herbarium #3: A Starry Wreath for Emily Dickinson

Becky Brown, Herbarium #3 Starry Wreath for Emily Dickinson

Amherst College Collection
Poet Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) when she was about 16

Many women posed with a favored book, often a Bible.
But Emily was not known for her religiosity. Note the flower
in her hand. Was the book her bound herbarium?

Emily entered a local school, the Amherst Academy, at age 9 in 1840 and graduated in 1847. The Dickinsons were strong educational supporters and Emily was proud of her education:
"[Sister] Viny and I both go to school this term. We have a very fine school. There are 63 scholars. I have four studies. They are Mental Philosophy, Geology, Latin, and Botany. How large they sound, don’t they? I don’t believe you have such big studies.” Emily, 1845 to friend Abiah Root.
Her 66-page Herbarium bound in green is at the Houghton Library.

Starry Wreath by Becky Collis

While at the Academy Emily kept a Herbarium, dated by Harvard's Houghton Library as having been assembled during her school years. Was the daguerreotype portrait above made as a celebration of the end of her schooling with the book a tangible souvenir?

Harvard's Houghton Library Collection
Emily about 9, painted by A.O. Bullard

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884)

One botany text book at the Academy was Almira Lincoln Phelps's Familiar Lectures on Botany with instructions for teachers as well as students. Phelps's book, originally published in 1829, went through
about 40 editions. She was educator Emma Hart Willard's sister.

The 1854 edition

Starry Wreath by Denniele Bohannon

I've looked at hers and other botany textbooks hoping to find illustrations relating to the quilt blocks in the eight similar quilts but no luck so far. Our unknown teacher probably drew her own.

The Block

Edge of sampler made by an unknown quiltmaker, published in 
Border to Border: Quilts and Quiltmakers of Montana

Reconstructed wreath from the edge of the 1850
Goodrich Family Quilt.

Anemone undulata from the Dickinson Herbarium

Pattern for the full Starry Wreath

This wreath with five-lobed starry flowers is set as a half a wreath
 in several of the eight mid-19th-century Herbarium quilts.

Variations in the edge blocks that fill out the on-point set

The quilt above from an unknown source includes wreaths cut in half lining the edges---most with the 5-lobed floral. The Starry Wreath is reconstructed above in our pattern as a full wreath and below as  the half wreath.


Our set for 13 on-point blocks includes 8 half-blocks. 19th-century quiltmakers were quite inclined to make a full block and cut it in half when they needed a half-block. This seems unwise as you are losing fabric in the seam allowances along the cut. Better to plan ahead and make 8 half-blocks. Use the starry floral for the 4 corners.

Further Reading

See a facsimile of  Emily Dickinson's Herbarium. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. Or view it digitally. The library also has some unbound, unlabeled pages.$30i

Read more about Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps:

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Bible Flags From the Civil War


Small Bible flag from Jeff Bridgman's inventory
Bridgman specializes in flags so it's not surprising that he
has sold many of these small artifacts over the years.

They were meant to be bookmarks in the pocket-sized
Bibles soldiers carried.

"Victory or Death"

Bridgman's site tells us that they were primarily a Southern phenomenon.

Berlin-work version (needlepoint)
9" long, 2-3/4" wide

"Rebel Flag"
Confiscated by Alfred Bellard, 5th New Jersey Volunteers

Heritage Auctions

Case Auctions
From the effects of Mattie Ready Morgan, wife of John Hunt Morgan


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Frances Cunningham Burnes Gehricke's Civil War


Fan quilt attributed to Frances C. Gehricke on the cover
of a catalog from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell.
Although more patchwork fans than random pieces this show piece is described
as a crazy quilt.

Frances Cunningham Burnes Gehricke (1839-1903)
About the time of the quilt.

Frances Cunningham was born to Rachel Stokes & Robert Wilson Cunningham in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1839. Her mother died when she was 7 and her father remarried, adding four more children to Rachel's five.

New Castle, 1861

When the war began Frances was in her early 20s, probably assisting her stepmother Caroline Woodward with the younger children. The baby of the large family was another Caroline born in February, 1865. 

The Cunningham Home 

Robert W. Cunningham was an "industrialist," an Irish-born machinist, later an entrepreneur who
did well. Three of Frances's younger brothers enlisted in the Union army.

We assume brother Charles Pomeroy Cunningham is on
the center drum in this photo posted on his FindAGrave site.
Charles was a musician in Company A of the First
Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserve Corps. Brother George played the bugle.

All three brothers survived the war. After the peace Frances, perhaps inspired by war-time nursing, decided to become a doctor, graduating in 1878 from the Woman’s Medical College of New York. Dr. Cunningham married a man named Pealer D. Burnes and worked as a woman's physician in New York. Mr. Burnes, elusive despite his unusual name, disappears from the record leaving only a name she sometimes hyphenated.

Her second husband was Prussian-born Californian Otto Ernest Frederick Gehricke, married in New York in 1883. In 1886 she (they?) moved to Pasadena, California and then to San Francisco. 

1888 City Directory, Pasadena

1893 Interview

1890 ad in the San Francisco Chronicle

In 1891 she filed for divorce; Otto relocated in England and married again.

The quilt is not dated but the style of silk with elaborate embroidery
is seen in the decades 1880-1900, her California years. 
I'd bet more on a Pasadena creation rather than San Francisco.

Many of the pictorial appliques are probably purchased. See more
about the peacock, a popular addition at this post:

The makers of these machine-embroidered applique patches advertised them as perfect for needleworkers with "neither the time nor taste for filling-in the traced outlines with needle and silk."  

"If ladies have no time to embroider...they will find the Kursheedt's embroidered color silk appliques most convenient."

Frances was just the type of busy woman who might have been the customer for these small luxury items. What was she doing in the 1880s and '90s? The newspapers tell us of the Doctor's mission to help poor women with "female trouble," like Kate Griffes who was murdered in a saloon.

Testimony in Kate Griffes's husband's murder trial, summer, 1893

A personal dispute over furniture, debt and financial chicanery, dismissed in 1900,
was extensively covered. Charles deWitt Spencer seems to have
been some kind of a mining con-man and Maude Lord Drake a
spiritualist who led Frances to make unwise investments.

Maude Lord-Drake [1852-1924]

A Tale of Woe

November, 1899

Cannot find a Caroline Gehricke described as a daughter who may actually be a step-daughter or step-daughter-in-law. Another option: a woman with the married name Mrs. Lou Bates, an actress. One of these younger women apparently took the fan quilt to Puerto Rico where it escaped the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to descend in the family, loaned to the Cornell show by Mary Rogers Cain in 1991. 

Mrs. Lou Bates, a witness in the Kate Griffes murder trial.


Women led such interesting lives. And what do you suppose Dr. Gehricke was offering all those poor women with "female troubles?"

January, 1904 record of France's death from "Dropsey," possibly heart disease, at 66.

Frances's FindAGrave file

See more about Frances and Kate Griffes here: 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

How to Make a G.A.R. Quilt


From the Massachusetts project & the Quilt Index
Turkey red and white album block. A popular look after 1880.

The National Tribune was a newspaper published from 
1877 through the early 20th century for Union veterans of the Civil War.

W.R.C. = Women's Relief Corps

Wives and families of veterans were also readers and contributors, whether official members of the W.R.C., the auxiliary of the men's G.A.R. organization or not.

Lucia L Whitney of South Dakota sent an article with a how-to for a commemorative quilt suitable for beds in a Soldiers' Home. She advised twenty-four red and white blocks in an "album quilt" design with names of "dead heroes," soldiers and soldiers' wives and children.

Beaver County, Pennsylvania project & the Quilt Index
What was an album quilt pattern?
Ideas varied.

Massachusetts project & the Quilt Index
Red and white album quilt designs were quite the thing at the time.
Regional ideas and individual design choices were a factor.

Kansas State Historical Society Collection
Veteran's names inscribed on a quilt from LaCygne, Kansas

GAR quilt, Ohio, James Frasca Auction House

The instructions: Buy 5 yards of "fadeless red."