Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Westering Women: Block 4 Lone Elm

Westering Women Block 4
Lone Elm by Becky Brown
using Old Cambridge Pike prints

Trees were such a rarity beyond the United States border that they became guideposts on the trails. In the first days out early travelers looked for the Lone Elm, an important marker at a fork in the road. 

The two main trails from a map "endorsed" by the DAR in the 20th century.
The trails split in what is now eastern Kansas.

One road was the Oregon/California trail going northwest. The other branch was the Santa Fe trail going southwest for traders to Mexico.
Arrival of the Caravan at Santa Fe, 1844.
The Mexican War brought Santa Fe into the U.S. in 1848.

Women were infrequent travelers on the Santa Fe trail as it was primarily a road for commercial trading traffic, so we have few records from the female perspective. One mentioned last month was Anna Maria Morris, an Army wife.

Susan Magoffin (1827-1855) about the time of her trip to Santa Fe,
dressed in the large scale stripes so popular in the 1840s.

Susan Shelby Magoffin, an 18-year-old newlywed from Kentucky, is another exception. She had married a Santa Fe trader and accompanied him in 1846.

June 11:
"Now the Prairie life begins! ....This is the first camping place....There is no other tree or bush or shrub save one Elm tree, which stands on a small elevation near the little creek or branch. The travellers allways stop where there is water sufficient for all their animals....We crossed the branch and stretched our tent. It is a grand affair indeed....conical shape, with an iron pole and wooden ball; we have a table in it that is fastened to the pole...Our bed is as good as many houses have: sheets, blankets, counterpanes, pillow &c."
The Lone Elm did not last long in its role of trail marker. Short-sighted travelers soon cut it down for fuel. 
"I first saw Lone Elm camp ground in 1854.... The old tree was lying on the ground, the greater part of it being burned up." 
W.H. Brady's memories read at the dedication of the Lone Elm monument by DAR in 1906.

Lone Elm by Nancy Swanwick

Typical D.A.R. marker for Santa Fe trail

In 1902 the Daughters of the American Revolution
embarked on a project to record the trails' locations.

Subtle traces of the trails at Lone Elm.

Lone Elm is a park in eastern Kansas where one can still see the ruts from the wagons at the creek crossing.

Fifty years later a photographer recorded
the rut cut in stone in the far west.

In some places those ruts are quite deep and long lasting. In the grassy plains the traces are called swales.

Lone Elm by Linda Mooney

BlockBase #809 is as rare as a tree on the Great Plains, a traditional tree block based on a grid of 6, rather than 5 or 8 or 14 (all hard to cut for a 12" block.) This variation was published in the Kansas City Star in 1934 as Christmas Tree or Pine Tree. Because no native pines grow on the plains (not enough rain) we can call it an elm for the Lone Elm.

Cutting a 12" Block

A - Cut 1 square 6-7/8" x 6-7/8". Cut in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 2 triangles.

B - Cut 9 dark squares and 6 light squares 2-7/8" x 2-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles.You need 18 dark and 12 light triangles.

C - Cut 3 squares 2-1/2" x 2-1/2".

D - Cut 1 square 5-7/8" x 5-7/8". Cut in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 2 triangles.

E - Cut 1 rectangle 9" x 2"

Notice on the map near the top of the page we are making little geographical progress. This is probably because I live near the arrow and I want to include all the sites near us. We've gone about two days travel.
Next month---progress.

Lone Elm by Denniele Bohannon

Another shading option

The traditional set.

Read Susan Magoffin's diary at this link from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Union Quilt at an Annapolis Hospital

Portland, Maine from the Robert N Dennis
 collection of stereographs

In late 1862 sixty women of Portland, Maine, organized the Young Ladies' R F Society "to aid the Ladies San. Com.tee [Sanitary Commission] of Portland in their efforts to improve the condition of our sick and wounded soldiers." In 1865 they made a list of their accomplishments, which included many handmade shirts, drawers, slippers and sheets. And at the bottom of the list:

Two Union Quilts.

See the list here:

The Naval Hospital in Annapolis

Their list and some of their correspondence is in the collection of the Maine State Museum. One of their Union Quilts was sent to the U.S. General Hospital in Annapolis where nurse Adeline M. Walker of Portland, perhaps friend to some in the group, wrote a letter of thanks in April,1863.
"Wish you could hear all the fine things said about your beautiful Union Quilt. I called the ladies into my room and a Council of War was held over the ingeniously - constructed work, and it was unanimously voted that the young “R. F’s” had shown them selves to be possessed of wonderful genius – talent, taste – skill, patience – wit – industry – piety – patriotism, originality – and I know not what else – but to sum up – it was the best thing of the kind ever seen by any of them — To-day the quilt has been on exhibition in my ward ..."
The secretary of the R F's was Maria T. Hersey, daughter of a well-to-do Portland merchant and ship owner Theophilus C. Hersey. Nurse Walker wrote about hospital conditions,

"Many of the new patients have died – and, nearly all, of Typhoid Pneumonia."

Typhoid was a common disease with a mortality rate of abut 33% at the time.
Two years later the disease claimed Adeline Walker at 35.

This CDV photograph is dated
to 1864 and said to be a post mortem
portrait of a nurse at the Annapolis Hospital.

The nurses at the Naval Hospital have been fairly well remembered. Adeline Walker was one of nine Maine nurses, assisting head Adeline Tyler.

Adeline Blanchard Tyler (1805-1875)
was head nurse until she resigned due to ill health in 1864.

Read more about the nurses there at this link:

The post war book Women's Work in the Civil War has information about
the Annapolis women and "Sister Tyler"

Brady portrait of "Sister Tyler."

But what did that "ingeniously constructed" Union Quilt look like?

Perhaps it resembled another patriotic  Maine quilt from the time:

Read more about the Maine nurses in Annapolis:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quilt Guild Block of the Month Programs

First three Westering Women blocks by Barbara S.

Sheila in Nova Scotia wrote the other day:
"Would it be okay if our quilt guild used the Westering Women Block of the Month as our Guild BOM starting in September? I am the program director for our small guild and I am planning on doing a BOM starting in the fall and I think this would be perfect, however I would like your permission to do so.
I would direct them to your blog to retrieve the patterns and there will most likely be around 30 members who would participate or hoping for even a few more .
Regards ,
Sheila for the Thistle Quilt Guild"
I was glad to give her permission and I'm taking this opportunity to give all of you guild members permission to use these series Block of the Month programs that I post.

Barb V is making them 9 inches.

I leave the posts up there so they are relatively easy to access. I've created a Pinterest page which gives you links to the various topics and posts.

Brenda just finished her Threads of Memory top.
A link to the blocks:

I'm happy to have guilds use them for their non-commercial purposes. I post these without charge for two main reasons. One is to give people ideas for using reproduction prints.

Madison by Jean Stanclift
from Threads of Memory

The other is to give quilters an accurate history of needlework. I'm interested in history framed in the broader context of women's history, western American history and particularly Civil War history. I spent several years working for museums in the public outreach and education department.

Rochester by Becky Brown
Each of the twelve stars in Threads of Memory
tells a true tale of the underground railroad and
escape from slavery.

 What better way to teach history than with quilt patterns?

Kathie's Threads of Memory

So do feel free to use the Block of the Month designs I've posted. I've also done several Block of the Weeks----a little much for a guild, but you could pick twelve favorite posts and give the members links to those.

Reitje's Austen Family Album - 36 blocks
for fans of Jane Austen and Regency history.

As Sheila suggests the guild just needs to provide a link to the post. The instructions are up there on the cloud (with corrections and suggestions from past block makers).
Here's a Pinterest page with links to lots of posts from Austen Family Album. Scroll down to the bottom. (Pinterest always starts at the bottom and works its way up to the top.)

Becky Brown, Grandmother's Choice
49 blocks on the history of the women's rights movement.

For fabric and color inspiration you'll find models by Becky, Dustin, Bettina and others who have helped me out.

Grandmother's Choice by Mary & Martha Tours

Pick a dozen.

I realize there are guild members who have no computer access so if you must---print out the directions for them. We can hope a BOM may be incentive for learning how to access patterns on the internet.

And do send photographs of quilts in progress and finished.

We'll be starting a new Block of the Week for 26 weeks in 2016 soon on my Material Culture blog page:
Look for the first post about a William Morris tour of England on May 7th.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Seven Stars/Seven Sisters 2

Most of us today would call the block "Seven Sisters."

We tend to believe in some Civil War symbolism, as in this caption from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's website:
"Folklore has it that the seven stars in the block represented the first seven Southern States to secede from the United States before the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as President on March 4, 1861."

See a Missouri quilt in their collection and a photograph here:

A quilt signed Texas Fergerson from Cindy's Antique Quilts

Seven stars on a Confederate apron.

I have used the name Seven Sisters as a symbol of the early Confederacy.

 But I couldn't find a history of that name for this particular pattern before the 1930s.

Here's the pattern in BlockBase as #241.

The earliest published name I was able to find was Seven Stars,
which the Ladies Art Company of St. Louis included in their early catalogs
dating to about 1890

I would guess a similar quilt won a premium at the Nobles County, Minnesota, fair in 1892:
"Mrs. M. L. Belknap Quilt-seven stars."

Ruby McKim, whose patterns were so influential about 1930, called it Seven Stars...

and so did Eveline Foland when she sketched it for the Kansas City Star
in 1931.

The Star published it again with different shading as Seven Stars

In 1935 Carrie Hall called it Seven Stars
and wrote that the design offered "many possibilities
and makes a very attractive quilt." She didn't mention
any symbolism.

Here's her actual block at the Spencer Museum of Art (rather surprising to see that it's yellow.)

The Nancy Page syndicated newspaper column gave it two names in 1933.
"Seven Stars or Seven Great Lights"

Says Nancy:
"Mrs. John Evans of Pueblo, Colorado, is the donor of this old-time favorite. She says that her mother received it recently from the grandmother who made it when she lived in Arkansas. The grandmother called it "Seven Stars" but Mrs. Evans would like to rechristen it and call it "Seven Great Lights."
That name didn't catch on.
You may notice different designers
constructed the seven stars in
different fashion

When did the pattern get the name Seven Sisters?

The earliest reference: The Nancy Cabot column in the Chicago Tribune printed the pattern on March 13, 1933, and captioned it "Seven Sisters." Loretta Leitner Rising, the columnist, dedicated the quilt to the seven lovely daughters of old Virginia's Fowler family and gave the block two other names: Seven Stars and Virginia Pride. Nancy was a particularly imaginative writer so quilt historian tend to discount her accounts of names, dates and sources.

And who are the Fowler sisters? 

Perhaps I've made too much of the pattern and the symbolism. I certainly cannot find any kind of a paper trail that leads me to believe the pattern had the name Seven Sisters before 1933 or any Civil War meaning.