Saturday, May 6, 2023

Patriotic Union Socks


Skinner Auction
One of a pair of Union socks with a Confederate
 flag on the sole

Benjamin Brown French, Commissioner of Public Buildings during the Abraham Lincoln administration, really functioned as sort of a master of protocol arranging public events and apparently delivering gifts to the President.

"I had the honor to present to the President a pair of woolen socks, knit by Miss Addie Brockway of Newburyport, the secession flag underneath the foot of each, the Flag of the Union in front on the top. Very suggestive. The President received them most graciously & with much apparent pleasure." March 20, 1864

His description matches another pair of socks.

"Pair of Hand-knit Civil War Era Wool Socks with Flag Motifs, reportedly Pennsylvania, c. 1861 framed with a clipped newspaper article explaining the origin reported to have been shorn, carded, spun, and knit by a young Pennsylvania woman in 1861 for her friend A.J. Arnold" Skinner Auction catalog.

Editors of French's journal thought Addie Brockway might be Harriet Brockway of Newburyport, Massachusetts, but with better access to public records today we find an Adelaide M. Brockway (1838-1903), Harriet's niece. 

Newburyport Public Library Archival Center
Brockway Osgood house, 1937

Addie's father Charles bought this Newburyport house in 1842 with a friend. They converted the school building into a two-family dwelling. The Osgoods and the Brockways created separate gardens in the yard.

Addie and their home full of women are described in a recent local history:

"The Brockways had only one child, Adelaide, who was noted to be fat and jovial and one of the last to wear hoopskirts long after they were no longer fashionable. They also had two sisters of Mrs. Brockway who lived with them: Mrs. Alden and Miss Bartlett. These ladies filled the land with prolific gardens wearing big sun bonnets. They were also kindly and would pass out gingerbread men to kids in the neighborhood."

Addie was in her mid-20s when she sent the socks to the President. The design must have had a pattern, handed around or published. The pair auctioned at Skinner had a newspaper clipping that credited them to a young Pennsylvania woman, unnamed.

Rev. Alfred Judson Arnold led a rather itinerant life as an Episcopalian minister.  Born in Connecticut, he worked at New York and several Pennsylvania posts. Were the socks knitted in Pennsylvania where they wound up?


Denniele said...

The things and information that survive are astounding. Thank you for sharing. Imagine making something and the President actually receives it.

matty said...

Always enjoy the history and textiles! Oh, to have had two lives where one could do both.....