Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sherman's Neckties-150th Anniversary Quilt

Sherman's Neckties

Here's a sketch for a 98" square quilt using a variety
of blue prints with gray-blue neutrals. I drew it
in EQ7 in my Union Blues repro collection for Moda,
which will be in shops about March 1.

In November and December, 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led 60,000 Yankee soldiers on a march from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia.

The march covered nearly 300 miles and took about 6 weeks
from November 15, 1864 till just before Christmas.

Their major goal was to destroy the Confederate infrastructure---the bridges and railroads that connected Atlanta, a major rail terminal, with Savannah, a major seaport. Troops pried up wooden railroad ties and metal rails. To insure that the Georgians couldn't immediately rebuild the track they burned the ties.

You can see the bonfire in the background in this illustration
from about 1895.

The soldiers laid the steel rails atop the bonfires till they were red hot
in the center and twisted them around a nearby tree to cool.

The story is that the rail beds from Atlanta to Savannah
were lined with the unusable twisted metal.

In the late 19th century several histories of the war reported that the damaged rails were called Sherman's Neckties, Sherman's Bowties, or Jeff Davis's Neckties. Other names were Sherman's Hairpins or Mrs. Lincoln's Hairpins.

Sherman's March was a significant step in ending the Civil War. The Union Army shocked the Georgia civilians by confiscating their recent harvest and their livestock as they traveled through. The Yankees carried no provisions and lived by stealing the food stored in the women's larders and pens. 

Sherman's Bummers were undisciplined looters who followed the troops.

The civilians were mostly women because the men of Georgia were fighting in Virginia. Sherman's tactic was a new and effective way of war.

Another way of shading using grayish taupes and
Union blues.

Making large blocks 12" x 12" will give you a 98" quilt. You'll need two blocks, one for the center field and one for the border.

BlockBase #1376

The center requires 36 Necktie blocks, given the name in Ruth Finley's 1929 book
Old Quilts and the Women Who Made Them

BlockBase #1646a

The border is 40 blocks in a pattern given the
name Sherman's March in a 1930s Capper's Weekly magazine column.

Cutting the 12" Necktie Block:

A & B - Cut 2 light and 2 dark squares 6-1/2" for each block.

C - Cut 1 square 3-7/8". Cut in half with a diagonal cut.

You need 2 triangles.


Cutting the 12" Sherman's March block:
A - Cut 4 squares 4-7/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal cut.

You need 8 triangles.

B - Cut 8 rectangles 4-1/2" x 2-1/2".

C - Cut 1 square 4-1/2".


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Inside Willoughby Babcock's Tent

General Willoughby Babcock  (1832-1864) standing
in front of a tent during the Civil War.

New Yorker Willoughby Babcock joined the Union Army soon after the beginning of the war. By winter of 1861 he was camping at Fort Pickens, Florida.

Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola

He kept in touch with his wife back in Albany through many letters that have been preserved.

In December, 1861 he told her of his accommodations:
"I have one large tent by myself (I am entitled to two) which is all I want or can use. It is neatly framed and floored, and I have for furniture, my camp bed, a good pine table, a wash cupboard, shelves and nails for all my books, notions, and clothes. My bed is a cot, over which for a mattress I have a thick quilt doubled, a quilt for a pillow and my blanket and another nice quilt for bed clothing."

Willoughby Babcock

Before the war a friend described him: 
"He has the heart of fun under a most sober exterior." 

We occasionally get a glimpse of the bedding inside the soldier's tent 

President Abraham Lincoln visits General George McClellan
in his tent at Antietam in Maryland, 1862.
Alexander Gardner photo, Library of Congress.

McClellan seems to have a Union flag and a captured Confederate flag in his tent. His bedcovering is a woven coverlet.

Dr. A.J. Myers had a plaid woolen blanket in his tent
at  Union Signal Corps Headquarters in Virginia, July,1862.

Pencil drawing by Edwin Forbes in 1863 of the interior
of a Union soldier's Virginia tent 

General Babcock's letters were collected by his grandson.

Selections from the letters and diaries of Brevet-Brigadier General Willoughby Babcock of the Seventy-fifth New York Volunteers: a study of camp life in the Union armies during the Civil War, by Willoughby M. Babcock, Jr.

See digital versions at the Hathi Digital Library by clicking here:

Connecticut & New York Sampler: 1866-67

Union shield in the center of a post-Civil-War sampler

Summer Spread Sampler Album
with blocks dated 1866, 1867 and 1875.
Recently sold by Old Hope Antiques
Their copy:

"This Friendship Quilt has 42 signed stitched-squares w/a vine border. Several squares are dated 1866, 1867, 1875 and stitched “Stamford, Conn” or Brooklyn L.I.” Many signatures include “Clayton”, “Thomson”, and “Wilson” families, along with a square depicting the dog, “Prince”. Perhaps the shield with the name “George W. Clayton” and date “1866″ reflects his service in the Civil War."
The photos are so good one can see the dates on many.

And you can see the fabric well too.
It looks like the blocks were stitched in 1866 and '67...

In Connecticut and Brooklyn

Each block is joined to the next with a corded or possibly a
flat welt.  There is no quilting.

The blocks available in closeup appear to have
been made right after the Civil War. Perhaps
a few were added when it was made into a spread
in 1875.
Has the color faded from the tan joining strips, indicating
they were added in the 1870s, when unstable synthetic dyes became
the standard?

See large photos at Olde Hope Antiques:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

M.T. Hollander and the Abolitionist Baby Quilt

Last week I posted about the quilt displayed at the
back of Mrs. Hollander's display box at the 1853-4
Crystal Palace exhibit in New York.

Merikay Waldvogel curated a 1994 show of quilts from
the Historic New England collection. I helped her
document some of those in storage.

In her notes she described it:
 Top fabric silk; unquilted; 31 stars linked by chenille chain; flag, shield and eagle are also chenille; George Washington's face is painted on silk; outer 2-inch border is red and white silk pieced stripes and corded;

Mystery:  Top is unquilted, but backing is hand-quilted in diamond crosshatching using gold thread.  There's also a quilting design of a star visible from the back...with quilting thread of black and red.  [Is there] a star quilt inside?

The article I referred to last week makes it clear that the quilt was stitched and inked by an unknown embroiderer,a woman who "had  received a medal at the London exhibition of needlework," presumably the 1851 Crystal Palace exposition. Mrs. Hollander paid her $100.

Our default thinking is always one quilt/one woman---start to finish. It's part
of quilt mythology as in this picture of an anonymous great grandmother
who appears to be stitching her sorrows into a log cabin quilt.

In the case of the Hollander quilt we are surprised to find that the woman now
credited with making the quilt had purchased the handwork.

Who was Mrs. Hollander?

She is often referred to as M.T. Hollander of Boston, another surprise. Mid-19th-century women from Boston did not use their own initials and did not omit the Miss or Mrs. before their names.
Maria Theresa Baldwin Hollander had an independent streak.

She was born in New York, in 1820, a daughter of Charles North Baldwin who had fought in the War of 1812.

UPDATE: Charlotte's comment has cleared up this mystery:

I checked the 1870 census on It seems Jacob L was Maria's husband (60, born in Prussia) while Louis P is probably their oldest son (27, born in NY).

 She married either Jacob L. Hollander or Louis P. Hollander, brothers in the clothing business. Apparently her husband's New York business failed in the 1840s. I am guessing Mr. Hollander's brother had a clothing business in Boston and they moved there to start again. Possibly due to his financial problems she is always listed as the 1848 founder of L.P. Hollander, a Boston institution. Or perhaps she insisted on using her own name.

In the 1868 Boston directory, Maria is affiliated with Louis P. Hollander and he with her in businesses at 10 Temple Place. Jacob is in business at 18 Province Court as a furrier and cap manufacturer. This may be her brother-in-law or her son named for him.

She may have been married to Louis with Jacob her brother-in-law or vice versa. Reports conflict (another indication of how independent she was.) I haven't seen her referred to as Mrs. (Husband) Hollander.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has
several pieces of Hollander's children's
clothing in their collection.

Maria Hollander's specialty was well-made children's clothing. Rather than hiring seamstresses to come to their homes, Boston's ladies began taking the children to L.P. Hollander's to order clothing or perhaps to buy it off the rack.

L.P Hollander & Company thrived, adding more clothing specialties as
they grew. 

Branches were opened in Newport, Palm Beach, Pasadena and New York.


Maria and her husband lived in Somerville near Boston, 
success evident in their address on Boston Street.

Boston Street today

She and members of her family were included in the 1888 book Twenty Thousand Rich New Englanders.

Maria's sons eventually took over the business and she devoted her time to charity work and women's rights. About 1878 she and a friend organized the Somerville Woman's Education Union, which became the Somerville Suffrage League. 

National Suffrage meeting in Omaha, 1890

Her papers at the Schlesinger Library include letters from leaders in the woman suffrage movement.
A local history written a decade after her death in 1885 recalled her as "a lady of extraordinary executive ability and progressive thought."

"The stain to [erase] that tarnishes the South...."

That progressive thought in the 1850s included making a public statement about slavery in her commercial exhibit at the Crystal Palace exhibit.

Ad in the New Yorker magazine about 1930.

Maria's son Theodore sold the New York branch of L. P. Hollander in 1929. The new owner embarked on an art deco building finished in 1930. The Great Depression put pressure on L. P. Hollander & Company and the firm went bankrupt in 1932, although they continued in business for several years.

The name lives on in the L.P. Hollander Building at 552 Fifth Avenue, which is a historic landmark.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Abolitionist Quilt at the Crystal Palace Exhibition

Above is a little-seen quilt with a Civil War connection.
The photo is from Sandi Fox's 1985 book Small Endearments:
Nineteenth-Century Quilts for Children, 
in which it is dated as "circa 1860."

Here's a color version.

Cuesta Benberry in the American Quilt Study Group's papers: Uncoverings 1983, described a "baby quilt made during the Civil War by Theresa Baldwin Hollander of NY."

The quilt dates to the pre-Civil War years, however, having been  described in 1853 in the magazine Gleason's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion.

Mrs. Hollander's Case of Clothing

"Case of Clothing

The case of goods which we present... is the contribution of Mrs. M T Hollander, 418 Washington St., Boston, at the New York Crystal Palace Exhibition...."
The article featured the display case from Mrs. Hollander's clothing company, praising the children's fashions for which she was well-known, the wax figure of liberty in the front of the case and then---

"The small national cradle quilt, opposite the figure was executed [?] for a display of elaborate chenille embroidery.  It was made at the expense of $100 and embroidered by a lady who received a medal at the London exhibition of needlework."
We don't see the quilt in the picture but it is probably the backdrop to the right in the case where we see the back of a textile hanging on a rod. The description fits the blue eagle quilt quite well.

"In the centre is an American eagle, holding in his mouth the olive branch and motto "E Pluribus Unum." He is resting on a shield, and under the shield are two flags one on either side, looped, crossed in the centre, and tied with tassels; over the eagle is the head of Washington, painted on white silk (by the embroiderer); a laurel wreath embroidered round it fixes[?] it to the quilt. The thirty one stars, representing the States, form a circle around the outside, and joined one to the other by a linked chain, the thirteen states first forming the Union are looped in certain form over Washington's head. The quilt is azure blue silk, the border is formed of red and white silk in stripes and stuffed—the whole, as regards colors and emblems, being truly national."

This beautiful piece of work alone should entitle Mrs. Hollander to a medal, for the chaste purity of its design and the elegance of its execution. The variety of patterns, and the adaptation to the age of those for whom these styles are intended, challenge competition, and we saw not their equal in a late visit to the palace."
The reporter seems quite enthusiastic about Mrs. Hollander's display and the "small national cradle quilt," emphasizing again that it is "truly national" and adding the coded words "the adaptation to the age of those for whom these styles are intended."

Despite the emphasis on national, the quilt was truly sectional. The article did not mention the embroidered words under the eagle.

But other reporters did.

On August 6, 1853 The Anti-Slavery Bugle, printed in New Lisbon, Ohio,copied an article from the New York Evening Postenumerating the "oddities of the World's Fair."

"An abolitionist baby quilt, is one of the oddities of the American department. It is a handsomely worked blue silk affair, patriotically studded with all the stars of the Union, and inscribed in embroidered letters with the following verses:

State linked to State...Oh, Unity divine!
Our cherished Washington, the praise be thine.
And yet, alas! by thee, regarded not.
One curse remains---a monstrous, hideous blot

But should thy spirit in new form burst forth.
The stain to 'rase that tarnishes the South:
This proffered Quilt would proudly claim to be
Spread oer the cradle of his infancy.

The Anti-Slavery Bugle's readers undoubtedly approved of the verses alluding to a "monstrous, hideous blot," a stain to erase tarnishing the South. They needed no explanation that the blot was slavery.

August 9, 1853

The reporter at the Charlestown,Virginia (now West Virginia) Spirit of Jefferson must have viewed the quilt in the cloth. (S)he first stated approval of the Abolition idea, the poetry and the needlework. The poem had "a beautiful indistinctness regarding the exact person or thing this rare quilt is ambitious to cover for the second and third persons amalgamate rather confusedly throughout...." (Here we have a case of editorial criticism needing a little editing...)

But then there are remarks on the "careless stitching...some confusion of tints," with a conclusion, "The baby quilt is a remarkable clumsy piece of needlework."

Let's hope Mrs. Hollander and the unnamed embroiderer "who received a medal at the London exhibition of needlework " did not read the newspapers of Western Virginia. 

The interior of the Crystal Palace exhibit hall at the 1853-4
Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in Bryant Park, New York City.

The photos of the quilt were taken by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now named Historic New England). The quilt was on loan from a private collection, descendants of Mrs. Hollander.

More on Mrs. Hollander next week.

Here's a link to the 1853 article about the exhibit case: