February 1, 2016

Before the Sarah Wistar Quilt: Researching Her Ancestors

One of the unique features of the Sarah Wistar Quilt at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum is a block displaying an annotated, pen-drawn family tree.

Portion of the Sarah Wistar Quilt showing her family tree between two eight-pointed
stars.  International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2005.059.0001.
Photograph courtesy of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.
 
Detail of the Sarah Wistar Quilt showing the pen-drawn, annotated family tree block.
Photograph courtesy of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.



The large circle on the trunk of the tree contains the names of Caspar Wistar, the progenitor of this line of the Wistar family, and his wife, Catherine Jansen (Johnson) Wistar.  Sarah Wistar, recipient of the Sarah Wistar Quilt, was the daughter of Richard Wistar, Caspar's grandson and Richard's wife Sarah Morris Wistar.

Caspar immigrated to Philadelphia in September, 1717 from a small farming community called Hilsbach in Baden, Germany.  His father made his living as a forester and huntsman to the Elector Palatine and, by tradition, had the authority to pass his position on to his oldest son.  Caspar, however, had greater plans for himself and embarked for the New World at age twenty-one hoping to establish himself there as a man of wealth and distinction.  Just how he was going to do this, with only nine pence in his pocket upon arrival and lacking knowledge of the English language, remained to be seen.

Caspar went to work on the docks of Philadelphia hauling ashes to earn a little money.  Somehow, he encountered someone who taught him how to make brass buttons and he developed a successful button business catering primarily to the working classes of Philadelphia.  His buttons, a necessary and highly sought after eighteenth century product, gained renown for their durability and the quality of their workmanship.  When sold outside of Philadelphia, Caspar's buttons were referred to as "Philadelphia buttons."

Within four years after arrival, the success of Caspar's button business enabled him to purchase a house and a lot on Market Street in Philadelphia and, by 1724, he was engaged in a secondary career buying and selling real estate to German immigrants.  He was also ready to start a family of his own.  In 1725, he joined the Religious Society of Friends, not only to marry Catherine Jansen, a member of a prominent Germantown Quaker family, but also to become closely associated with the Philadelphia community of wealthy Quaker merchants.  He and Catherine were married at the Abington Monthly Meeting house in 1726.  Over the years, they had seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood.

Early print of the Abington Meeting House.
 
After his marriage, Caspar continued to expand his entrepreneurial activities by importing goods from Germany for sale in Philadelphia and, in 1739, establishing a glass manufacturing business in partnership with four glass blowers who had emigrated from Germany.  They called their enterprise the United Glass Company.  There had been other attempts to establish domestic glass making in the Colonies, but these failed for various reasons, not the least of which were the pre-Revolutionary trade restrictions imposed by the British government to prevent competition with goods manufactured in Britain.   
 
Caspar located the glassworks on a 2,000 acre parcel of land he purchased in 1738 along Alloways Creek near Salem, New Jersey.  Before long, a small town named Wistarburg grew up around the glassworks and the glass manufactured there became know as Wistarburg glass.
 
Road sign placed where the Wistarburg factory once stood.  Source of
image: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic; author Nancy Chambers.
 
The manufactory produced mainly window glass and bottles, for which there was high demand.  Ensa Kummer (see sources) reports that the glassworks produced 15,000 bottles a year.  Needless to say, Wistarburg bottles are highly collectible antiques - many were produced but many were also broken and those that have survived fully intact are greatly sought after.
 
Examples of Wistarburg glass bottles displayed at the site of the old Wistarburg glassworks.
Source of image:  "The United Glass Company located at Wistarburgh," Part 1 by Stephen Atkinson
published on the Internet by Ferdinand Meyer V, President , Federation of Historical Bottle
Collectors and Peachridge Glass,
 
Caspar Wistar passed away in 1752 and the glass business and its sixty employees were taken over by his son Richard.  It continued operations in the early years of the Revolution but seems to have been shut down for a time in 1776 or 1777.  In 1780, Richard put the manufacturing complex up for sale and the Wheaton Arts Center article cited below provides this sales description of the property and glassworks.
 
"The GLASS MANUFACTORY in Salem county, West Jersey, is for sale, with 1500 Acres of Land adjoining.  It contains two Furnaces, with all the necessary Ovens for cooling the Glass, drying Wood, &c.  Contiguous to the Manufactory are two flatting Ovens in separate Houses, a Store-house, Pot-house, a House fitted with tables for the cutting of Glass, a stamping Mill, a rolling Mill for the preparing of Clay for making of Pots, and at a suitable distance are ten Dwelling houses for the Workmen; as likewise a large Mansion-house containing six Rooms on a Floor, with Bakehouse and Washhouse.  Also a convenient Store-house.[...] There are about 250 acres of cleared Land within fence, 100 whereof is mowable meadow, which produces hay and pasturage sufficient for a large stock of cattle and horses employed by the Manufactory.  There is Stabling sufficient for 60 head of cattle, with a large Barn, Granary, and Waggon-house.  The unimproved Land is well wooded, and 200 Acres more of meadow may be made.  The situation and conveniency for procuring materials, is equal if not superior to any place in Jersey."
 
Richard died in 1781, before the property sold, and it then passed to his widow and children The manufactory had, by then, begun to produce glass once more but all production ceased in 1782.
 
Caspar Wistar, the German forester's son who hoped for a better life in the New World died at age fifty-six a wealthy and prominent merchant of Philadelphia.  His button manufacturing business was still thriving at the time of his death, as was the United Glass Company he founded with four fellow-German immigrants.  He owned several farms and large parcels of land in three counties of Pennsylvania and had assets totaling 60,000 pounds, close to three times the amount held by most of Philadelphia's wealthy merchant class.  Further, Caspar took his membership in the Religious Society of Friends seriously, producing a line of Quaker descendants who contributed much to the city of Philadelphia and the history of the Religious Society of Friends.  Sarah Wistar, as a member of the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor, was just one of these descendants.
 
The Sarah Wistar Quilt.  International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska. 
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
Sources:
 
Anonymous. Wistar Family" A Genealogy of the Descendants of Caspar Wistar, Emigrant in 1717.  Compiled by Richard Wistar Davids, Philadelphia, 1896.
 
Author not cited.  "The Wistars and Their Glass 1739-1777."  Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, 1989. 
 
Kummer, Ensa  "Caspar Wistar (1696-1752". At Immigrant Entrepreneurship, February 16, 2011. 
 
Palmer, Arlene.  "Glass Production in Eighteenth Century America: The Wistarburgh Enterprise."  In Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 11 (1976), pp. 75-101.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.
 

 
 
 
 


January 15, 2016

Beyond the Sarah Wistar Quilt: Researching Her Extended Family

One of the highlights of the 2012 American Quilt Study Group seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska, was the opportunity to visit the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and its extensive collection of quilts. On display during seminar was an inscribed quilt made in 1842-43 for Sarah Wistar and presented to her by her nephews "Rd. [Richard] Wistar Jr. and W. [William] Lewis Wistar."  (We shared a detailed description of this quilt on our blog posting of October 20, 2012.)

The Sarah Wistar Quilt.  International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University
of Nebraska, Lincoln, 2005.059.0001.  Photograph courtesy of the International
Quilt Study Center & Museum.
 
Our description of the quilt included information about its recipient, Sarah Wistar (died 1866), and her association with the House of Industry and the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor, both of which were Quaker organizations.
 
Inscribed quilts are unique because they display the names of families and community members who joined together in the past to create the quilts as fundraisers, memorials, or gifts, often presenting them to someone about whom they cared.  The names on a single quilt metaphorically freeze that quilt in time and point to a period of history in which the named entities lived and (by extension through research) to the social, political, commercial, and religious environments that made up their daily lives.  The ability to reconstruct history from inscribed quilts makes them documentary treasures and rewarding research subjects.
 
The Wistar family represented by Sarah Wistar's quilt was a large and prosperous Quaker family whose members contributed much to the history of Philadelphia and to American history in general.  As part of the "history" in www.quakerquilthistory.com, we'd like to explore with you some other members of Sarah's large, extended family.  Moving from the 1840s to the 1860s and beyond, we'd like to introduce one of Sarah's distant relations who lived from 1860 until 1938.  His name was Owen Wister.
 
The progenitor of the Wistar family in America was Caspar Wistar (1696-1752) who emigrated from Germany in 1717 and settled in Philadelphia.  (More about Caspar next time.)  Sarah Wistar descended from this line of the family.
 
Caspar's younger brother, John Wister (1708-1789), founded a 'junior line" of the family when he came to Philadelphia in 1727 and successfully engaged in the wine trade.  John's last name was recorded as "Wister" when he entered the country and it was never officially changed.  John and his second wife, Anna Catherine Ruebencamm, settled in Georgetown where, in 1744, they built a then-country house they called Grumblethorpe which became the family seat of this Wister line.
 
Grumblethorpe at 5267 Germantown Avenue, Germantown, Philadelphia,
Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
Owen Wister, the subject of this post, was a fifth generation descendant of the John Wister line of the family and a distant cousin of the Sarah Wistar for whom the Sarah Wistar Quilt was made. Owen, born in 1860, was not a member of the Religious Society of Friends, nor were his parents Owen Jones Wister, a physician, and Sarah Kemble Butler.  Interestingly, Owen's mother was the daughter of Fanny Kemble, the famous British Shakespearean actress wildly popular in both Britain and American at the time.
 
Fanny Kemble. Steel engraving by Johnson Wilson and Co., after a painting by Alonzo Chappel
after a painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1873.  Source of image: Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division and Wikimedia Commons.
 
Inheriting her mother's flare for drawing attention to herself, Owen's mother assumed the role of grand lady and was described as sweeping "[...] into the opera and symphony concerts in black velvet and black lace" and carving "[...]at the table while wearing white kid gloves."  Her mother, Fanny, once wrote of her:  "S[arah] was as fond of her baby [Owen] as I think she could be of any creature too nearly resembling a mere animal to excite her intellectual interest, which is pretty much the only interest in infants and adults that she seemed to me to have."  Fanny's memoirs make no mention of any affection displayed by her daughter Sarah for either her husband or her son.  (Baltzell, 300.)
 
With such an indifferent parental environment, it is probably fortunate that Owen's parents sent him to boarding school in Switzerland and to St. Paul's in New Hampshire for his primary education.  In 1878, Owen entered Harvard majoring in music and developing a talent for musical composition and dramatic writing.  There he actively participated in the Hasty Pudding shows and wrote for the Lampoon and the Advocate.  Owen developed many friendships while at Harvard, including one with Theodore Roosevelt that lasted a life time.
 
After graduating from Harvard summa cum laude, Owen studied music in Paris for a year, hoping to develop a viable career as a composer.  His father was against supporting this venture and when it did not produce immediate results, Owen returned home and went to work for a bank in Boston.  Finding the work not to his liking, he decided to return to Harvard to study law (which he did, graduating in 1888 and being admitted to the bar in 1890).  In the meantime, however, he was close to a nervous breakdown, prompting his doctor to recommend rest in a new environment - namely the west, far away from the hustle and pressures of Philadelphia and Boston.
 
Owen Wister.  From the Owen Wister Collection, American Heritage Center, University
of Wyoming.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
At his doctor's recommendation, Owen traveled to Wyoming in the summer of 1885, the first of several trips he would make to the west between 1885 and 1900.  Taken by the pristine natural environment of the west, his evolving view of the character of western cowboys, and what he saw as a conflict between western frontier values and those of the "civilized" east, he kept extensive notebooks of his impressions that would form the basis for many of his later novels and short stories.
 
In an article for Harper's Monthly in 1895, Owen described the central theme that informed his western fiction.  It is paraphrased here by John D. Nesbett.  "The cowpuncher, in Wister's terms, is a natural nobleman who has both racial and cultural ties with the Anglo-Saxons.  The Westerner is not just a herdsman but a horseman, for 'in personal daring and in skill as to the horse, the knight and the cowboy are nothing but the same Saxon of different environments.'" (Many of the opinions Owen derived from this belief would find little acceptance in today's world.)
 
Wister's most famous novel.  Source of image;
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
 
Wister's most famous and successful novel was published in 1902 as The Virginian, A Horseman of the Plains. In its first year, The Virginian sold over 200,000 copies and, over time, has been adapted for the stage, produced as five separate films, and inspired a long-running television series.  The book has never been out of print and, according to Castle Freeman, Jr."  Wister's novel "[...] is the template on which every western since has been cut.  All the essential characters are to be found there, not only the noble, nameless hero, but also the eastern tenderfoot narrator, the high-spirited, virginal schoolmarm, hostile Indians, cattle rustlers, the shrewd camp cook, the callow kid, and the devious, doomed villain."
 
Owen Wister on one of his visits to the west.  Courtesy of the Owen Wister Collection,
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
 
Owen married a cousin, Mary Channing Wister, in Philadelphia in 1898 and had five children by her, two daughters and three sons.  Mary died giving birth to their sixth child, another daughter, on August 24, 1913.  Mary became well-known for her support of education and many other projects to improve life in Philadelphia.  During their time together, she was widely loved and far better known than was her husband.
 
Wister became a prolific writer, not just of Westerns, but as a biographer, essayist, playwright, librettist, and non-fiction author.  He became disillusioned with the west as it was invaded by more and more of the "civilization" he'd grown to despise, and he was not receptive to the fame The Virginian had bestowed upon him, especially in the form of autograph-seekers whom he considered unintelligent and illiterate.
 
Owen passed away on July 21, 1938 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
 
Owen Wister's grave stone, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.  Source of image:
Wikimedia Commons.
 
Sources:
 
Ancestry.com Public Member Family Trees accessed 12/27/2015.
 
Baltzell, E. Digby.  Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia.  New York: The Free Press, 1979.
 
Freeman, Castle Jr.  "Owen Wister, Brief life of a Western mythmaker: 1860-1938."  In Harvard Magazine (July-August 2002).  accessed at http://harvardmagazine.com/2002/07/owen-wister.html  on 12-16-2015.
 
Nesbett, John D.  "Owen Wister: Inventor of the Good-guy Cowboy."  At WyoHistory.org, A Project of the Wyoming State Historical Society accessed at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/owen-wister on 12-30-2015.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016
 
 







January 1, 2016

An Old Robinson Family Quilt

Robinson Family Quilt, c. 1840, on display at the Winchester-Frederick County Historical
Society.  Collection of the family of J. Kenneth Robinson.  All photographs of this quilt by
Mary Holton Robare.
 
This eight-pointed star quilt, estimated c. 1840, was handed down for generations with a note attached describing it as an "old Robinson family quilt."  The quilt measures 93.5 X 95.5 inches including its 5 inch-wide border.  The blocks measure 7 X 7 inches, and the back, consisting of 35 inch-wide muslin panels, was rolled to the front to form a binding.  The quilting is done in double and triple rows.
 
 
 
Like many quilts this old, there is staining and deterioration of fabric, yet it still provides windows into history.
 
 
The Robinsons are a fascinating and powerful family in the history of Winchester and Frederick County, Virginia.  They appear frequently in the Quaker records of Hopewell Monthly and Centre Meeting.  The father of the current owner was James Kenneth Robinson (1916-1990).  A prominent orchardist and businessman, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Virginia State Senator for many years.
 
Friends Meeting at Winchester, Virginia, 6/3/1928.  The meeting house is on the corner
 of Piccadilly and Washington Streets. J. Kenneth Robinson as a child is seen farthest
right, front row.  Source of image: The Robert MacKay Clan family history website.
 
J. Kenneth was the son of Ray (1883-1948) and Ida Helen (Robinson) Robinson.  They shared a last name and were distant cousins, so the quilt could have been made by any number of Robinson ancestors. Some explanation for the prevalence of the Robinson surname rests with the sheer number of descendants who stayed in one locale.  Here is some family information from a history, titled The Robinson Family, published in 1909.
 
 
"From the very earliest settlement of the Valley, this family name appears.  Some trace of their entrance to this Shenandoah section, from the head springs of Robinsons River, which are found East of the Blue Ridge, referred to in Lord Fairfax's grant as his starting point.  The family is of Irish origin; and some have thought they came with the immigration that came direct from Ireland through the influence of the Scotch Irish element that settled in the Valley in 1734-8.  The ancestor of this branch of the family was James Robinson, who was a noted Irish weaver.  There are so many descendants of this old emigrant that we will only mention a few names familiar in the Back Creek section during the 19th Century, commencing with Andrew A. Robinson, who was born in this section 1781.  He was the father of Archibald, Jackson, James, Jonathan, Mary Jane, David, Josiah, Joseph, Andrew A., and William, and perhaps more.  Following the various lines, we find the name quite numerous.  Nearly all those named are dead, having filled out their useful lives principally as farmers, noted for their good management.  Their homes were attractive and unstinted hospitality prevailed.  Connected with the Society of Friends, they were non-combatants during all wars, though several of this name appear during the Revolutionary War as soldiers.  During the Civil War, they were for the Union."   (Cartmell, 473.)
 
This detail of the Robinson Family Quilt shows one of the quilt's four pinwheel corners.
 
While there are too many Robinson ancestors in the line to count, we can trace at least one direct line to a known quilt maker.  J. Kenneth's father, Ray Robinson, was the son of James Langley Robinson (1844-1915) and Sallie Gertrude (Robinson) Robinson (1861-1944) - again, these spouses shared the Robinson surname.  Sallie's mother, Mary Jane (Clevenger) Robinson (1831-1904) made several quilts, including a quilt we featured in our post of February 15, 2013.
 
Mary J. Clevenger Quilt, c. 1850.  Detail of block stamped with her name.
Collection of Barbara Harner Suhay.  Photograph by Carroll DeWeese.
 
In fact, the names of closely-related mid-nineteenth-century Robinsons also appear inscribed or stamped on the Holllingsworth Family Album Quilt, c. 1858 (collection of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society) and the Cather-Robinson Quilt, c. 1848 (collection of the Willa Cather Institute of Shenandoah University).
 
 
Despite condition, we feel that any quilt that has been saved in one family for 175 years has some stories to tell, in both its fabrics as well as the histories of the people who owned it.
 
Sources:
 
Cartmell, Thomas Kemp.  Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, Virginia.  Winchester, VA: The Eddy Press Corporation, 1909.
 
Personal interviews with Robinson family members. 
 
"The Robert MacKay Clan" family history website at http://www.robertmackayclan.com/steergen/steerpic/meeting.html.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.
 
 




 



December 14, 2015

Christmas Trees and Their Anti-Slavery Symbolism

Decorating evergreen trees as part of the celebration of Christmas was a long-standing tradition in European countries well before the practice was adopted by Americans.  This European tradition was introduced to America by a number of means including the influx of German immigrants into Pennsylvania during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and drawings of decorated trees at Queen Victoria's Windsor Palace and other royal residences that were featured in newspapers and magazines in the 1840s and 1850s.

Osborne House Christmas tree as illustrated in Godey's Lady's Book, December 1850.
Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
Decorated Christmas trees in America were further inspired by a published account of a tree in the home of Charles Follen in 1835, written by the British author Harriet Martineau.  Follen, a professor of literature at Harvard University, a children's rights advocate, and an outspoken abolitionist, had erected the traditional Christmas tree of his German homeland for his son's holiday delight and to be shared by Christmas visitors, including Harriet Martineau.
 
Charles Follen.  Frontispiece of Collection Works (1841)  published by his wife, Eliza Follen, after
his death in 1839.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
Harriet Martineau by Richard Evans (died 1871).  Collection of the National Portrait Gallery,
London, England.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
Charles Follen's abolitionist zeal and incendiary rhetoric on the topic of slavery partially cost him his position at Harvard, which he lost in 1835, and later resulted in his dismissal as an ordained clergyman at a Unitarian church in New York City.  On his way to another clerical position in 1839, the steamboat on which he was traveling sunk during a storm and he never reached his destination.
 
Follen's dedication to the anti-slavery cause was echoed by many men and women, black and white, who formed anti-slavery societies in the early 19th century and worked vigorously to bring to national attention the plight of the enslaved in America.  In 1834, members of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society founded by William Lloyd Garrison began holding Christmas fairs in Boston to raise money for the abolitionist cause and to use these fairs as a means to promote their anti-slavery sentiments.  Soon, anti-slavery societies in Philadelphia, New York, and other cities engaged in fund raising and messaging through the sale of donated items at Christmas fairs, many of which displayed mottoes and slogans promoting the cause.  In the January 2, 1837 issue of Garrison's paper, The Liberator, the following slogans were cited as some of those appearing on sales items:  "Twenty five Weapons for Abolitionists" (on bunches of quills); "The doom of Slavery is sealed" (on wafer boxes); "Wipe out the blot of Slavery" (on pen wipers);  "Trample not on the Oppressed" (on needle books made in the form of small shoes); and, "May the use of our needles prick the consciences of slaveholders" (on needle books, many of which were made by members of the society holding the fair).
 
Depiction of a female slave and motto often applied to articles sold at anti-slavery Christmas
fairs.  Based on an engraving by Josiah Wedgewood of a male slave which read "Am I Not
a Man and a Brother?"  Source of image:  From George Bourne, Slavery Illustrated in Its Effects
 upon Women (1837), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
 
The women of the anti-slavery societies, in particular, promoted the idea that slaves had fewer rights than children and that they deserved a right to the caring consideration of Christians, as did children and all human beings.  These women worked publically to expose the brutality of the institution of slavery, adopting an evergreen bough or shrub as a symbol of the freedom they sought for the enslaved.  When this symbol was replaced at anti-slavery fairs by the decorated Christmas tree at the end of the 1830s, the Christmas tree became the seasonal anti-slavery symbol for freedom.  It also promoted a new image of Christmas - a holiday characterized in the 18th and early 19th centuries in America as an occasion for raucous behavior and drunkenness.  (Refer to our post of December 29, 2013 and the diary entries of Quaker Elizabeth Drinker for first-hand accounts of Christmas behavior in Philadelphia during this period of time.)  The Christmas tree became a symbol of gift-giving to and the care of children who, themselves, came to symbolize the victims of slavery.
 
The Christmas Tree.  Wood engraving by Winslow Homer (1836-1910).
Published in Harper's Weekly, Volume II, 25 December 1858, p. 820.
Source of image: Wikimedia Commons.
 
Many of the women who co-founded and participated in the activities of the anti-slavery societies were members of the Religious Society of Friends.  The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society was one of the most active and influential female societies in the country, boasting a membership that read like a "who's who" of both Quaker and non-Quaker female abolitionists.  This society began holding Christmas fairs to raise money for the abolitionist cause in 1835.  It continued to do so until 1861 and the end of the Civil War.
 
When it was first proposed to hold Philadelphia fairs as a fund-raising activity, there was active and vociferous discussion about whether or not members of the Religious Society of Friends should participate.  Such events were regarded with suspicion and "disapprobation" by some, especially if they occurred during a week in which Monthly Meetings were held.  It was finally agreed to call these events sales, rather than fairs (which implied frivolity and entertainment rather than a serious endeavor).  Their first sales were small in scope and featured simple articles for purchase.  As time went on, the name of the events changed to "fairs" and they became more and more elaborate with donations from wealthy families in England as well as America, raising more and more money for the cause.
 
Portrait of Lucretia Mott by Joseph Kyle (1815-1863).  Painted in 1842 when she was 49 years old. 
 Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
In 1842 there were still some members of the Religious Society of Friends who did not approve of Quakers participating in the fairs.  That year, some of the sale items from England and elsewhere arrived too late to be included in the fair and a leading member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, Lucretia Mott, volunteered to use her home as a venue for selling the items.  Venerable as Lucretia was as an internationally known voice for the freedom and equality of all men and women, this generous offer resulted in a visit from Quaker elders who let her know that they strongly disapproved of the "light-hearted proceeding" these sales represented and of her vanity in letting an engraved image of herself be included in the sale. Nonetheless, the Philadelphia Christmas fairs continued and so did Lucretia until her death in 1880!
 
 
WE WISH YOU ALL A JOYFUL HOLIDAY
SEASON & A HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS
NEW YEAR!!!
 
 
Sources:
 
Hansen, Thomas S.  "Charles Follen, Brief life of a vigorous reformer: 1796-1840."  In Harvard Magazine, September-October, 2002.
 
Rush, N. Orwin.  "Lucretia Mott and the Philadelphia Antislavery Fairs."  In Bulletin of Friends Historical Association, Vol. 36, No 2 (Autumn 1946), pp. 69-75.
 
"The Christmas Tree as an Anti-Slavery Liberation Symbol" accessed at http://www.pubtheo.com/page.asp?pid=1418 on 12/5/2015.
 
"The History of the Christmas Tree" accessed at http://mymerrychristmas.com/history-of-the-american-christmas-tree/ on 12/5/2015.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.

December 1, 2015

Dot's Circus Quilts

Dorothy "Dot" Everett (Pidgeon) Berry (1899-1987) was a birthright member of Hopewell Meeting, Virginia.  She was known in her later years as a prolific knitter, making up patterns as she went along while rocking in a chair with a cat on her lap and a drink at her side.  She was born into a many-generations family of Religious Society of Friends members and grew up on the Pidgeon family farm, "Circle Hill, that spanned Frederick and Clarke Counties, Virginia.  Dot was Mary Holton Robare's grandmother-in-law and Mary had the great pleasure of knowing her for seven years.

Circle Hill farm house built ca. 1800.  Photograph taken about 1900.  Courtesy of
Ellen Berry.
 
In addition to her knitting, Dot made quilts for family members and, as far as we know, they were all variations of the same pattern.
 
Dot's earliest known surviving quilt was made for her first cousin-once-removed, Cynthia Evans, around the time of her birth in 1926.  Cynthia's mother had grown up on Circle Hill farm as a member of Dot's family.  She was one of four children living on the farm that included Dot, her sister, Cynthia's mother Hannah Williams, and (for a while) James Williams, so baby Cynthia was more like a niece than a cousin to Dot.
 
Circus Quilt, detail.  Made ca. 1926 by Dot Berry for Cynthia Evans.  The quilt was photographed
in an exhibit of Quaker Quilts held at the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, June 2014.
It is shown folded into the Society's "falcon head" or "hooded" cradle along with a doll that Dot
knitted as a toy for Cynthia ca. 1926.  Collection of Mary Holton Robare.
 
There is interest from quilt history scholars in the pattern Dot used to make the quilt.  Each block may have had its own name, and multiple names have been recorded for similar quilts.  Marin F. Hanson discussed this in 2006 in the publication Textile.  A very similar quilt appeared on the cover of Uncoverings 2010, the annual journal of the American Quilt Study Group.  In this journal, Virginia Gunn's research cites the Spring 1926 issue of McCall Needlework and Decorative Arts for publishing the pattern (no. 1633) as a "Picture Patchwork Quilt."  Interestingly, Dot's family always referred to it as a Circus Quilt, depicting scenes in cars of a circus train.
 
Cynthia's quilt.  Collection of Mary Holton Robare.
 
Around the time Dot made Cynthia's quilt she was either living in (or just returning from) Peru.  She had left the rural Virginia farm of her upbringing to travel the world with her husband, Edward Willard Berry.  As a geologist, he took his wife on around-the-world tours three times.  While in Peru, she gave birth to her first child, Mary-Susan Berry (born 1928).
 
Edward Willard, Dorothy, and Mary-Susan Berry.
 
There was a history of needlework and quilt-making in Dorothy (Pidgeon) Berry's family.  Her grandmother was Sarah (Chandlee) Pidgeon, maker of the Pidgeon Family Quilt that is in the collection of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
 
Pidgeon Family Quilt, ca. 1850.  Photography by Barbara Tricarico.  Collection of
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
 

Dot made "Circus Quilts" for her grandchildren decades after she made Cynthia's quilt, adapting the pattern each time.  While Cynthia's quilt contained a top, bottom, and batting, Dot's subsequent pieced works were constructed in various ways.  For her grandson, Christopher Robare, she backed a pieced top for the then three-year-old with a cozy red plaid wool. She also added a strip of cotton for tucking under at the feet and labeled this piece with embroidery on a corner.
 

Dot's Circus Quilt for Chris and detail of labeling.  Collection of Christopher
and Mary Holton Robare.
 
When Dot made a quilt for her grandson, George Berry (born 1960), she chose different colors.  She also used nine-patch blocks as corner blocks within the sashing which she further embellished with embroidered numbers and letters.  This quilt was a gift to Mary from George's widow.  It holds special memories of George who was a member of the Urban Search and Rescue Teams that went to Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center to help following the tragedies experienced there.  Despite all he had witnessed, George maintained a cheery outlook on life.
 
Dot's Circus Quilt for George.  Collection of Mary Holton Robare.
 
Three of Dot's Circus Quilts on display in the Abram's Delight house museum of the Winchester-Frederick
County Historical Society, June 2014.
 
Something about these "Circus" or "Picture Patchwork" block patterns captured Dot's attention enough to make bedcoverings for children in her family over the span of many decades.
 
Selected Sources:
 
Baumgarten, Linda and Kimberly Smith Ivey.  Four Centuries of Quilts.  Williamsburg, VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2014.
 
Gunn, Virginia.  "McCall's Role in the Early Twentieth-Century Quilt Revival."  In Uncoverings 2010 edited by Laurel Horton.  Lincoln NE: American Quilt Study Group, 2010.
 
Hanson, Marin F.  "Exotic Quilt Patterns and Pattern Names in the 1920s and 1930s".  In Textile, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2006.
 
Robare, Mary Holton.  Quaker Quilts: Snapshots from an Exhibition, Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, June 13-15, 2014.  Winchester, VA: Hillside Studios, 2014.
 
Virginia Consortium of Quilters.  Quilts of Virginia: The Birth of America Through the Eye of a Needle.  Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.
 







November 15, 2015

"Tell Her Please Be Saving Calico Peices [sic] for Hannah for She is Making a Quilt and We Never Get Calico Here"

With these words, Anna Briggs Bentley asked a family member to remind her mother to save calico pieces for a quilt her daughter was making.  The letter was written 12th mo 14th, 1834 to relatives in Maryland from Green Hill, the Bentley's homestead in Columbiana County, Ohio.

Tile silo - all that remained of Green Hill in 2002.  Photograph by
Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
Anna, her husband Joseph and their six children at the time migrated to Ohio in 1826 from depleted family land near Sandy Spring, Maryland.  They settled near Salem, Ohio, a town founded in 1806 by Quakers Zadok Street and John Stranghan.  Ohio was very much a frontier in 1826 and the Bentleys had to clear land before they could begin farming and raising crops for sale, barter, and to feed their family. Times were particularly difficult, with little or no cash to buy life's necessities.  The Bentleys, like so many new settlers in the area, had to rely, in part, upon the generosity, sharing, and labor of their neighbors and fellow-Quakers to get through the early years at Green Hill.
 
Anna was a prolific letter-writer, corresponding with members of her family whenever she could take time from her continuous child-bearing, illnesses, and household and gardening chores.  Fortunately, her letters have been preserved by the Maryland Historical Society and, edited by Emily Foster, were published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2002 as American Grit, A  Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier.  This remarkable collection of correspondence gives an untarnished view of life on the American frontier in the early 19th century and the hardships endured by early settlers.
 
Anna's letters, themselves, testify to the scarcity of cash and the products one would normally be able to obtain easily in cities farther east.  Paper was a commodity she often lacked and so made efficient use of what little she had, when she had it.  She wrote horizontally across each page as one would normally do, but then turned the page sideways and wrote horizontally across what she had written.  This technique is readable (try it!), conserved paper, and also reduced the cost of postage.  An example of this technique is shown below on a letter in the archives of Haverford College.
 
Portion of a letter from William D. Cope to Henry Cope, October 22, 1826.
From the Cope Evans Family Papers.  Courtesy of Quaker and Special Collections,
Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania.
 
Paper was not the only thing Anna lacked during the early years at Green Hill.  Without sufficient cash income, she constantly struggled to keep her family clothed.  Once they had a small herd of sheep, wool became available to her which she, her neighbors, and her children carded, washed, and spun into yarn for making stockings and knitted items, or delivered to a local fuller who processed it into either woolen cloth or a linen/wool fabric known as linsey-woolsey.
 
Purchased photograph of an unknown girl spinning wool.  Collection of
Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
Much of the family clothing was made from "linsey" as Anna called it.  She wrote on 1st mo 22nd, 1832:  "Thy fears, dear Mother, were too true with regard to our not getting our linsey in time.  It was taken to the fulling mill the week before the freezing cold weather began and there it staid till last 2nd day.  We got the 20 yds fulled for the he part of the family.  I cut out a pair of pantaloons for Jos 2nd day night and finished them, a monstrous pair for our monstrous Aaron, and a pair for Franklin I finished after midnight last night. [. . .]  The linsey is very good.  The other 29 yds for the she folks will be done tomorrow week."  (Foster, 136-137.)
 
The wool and linsey-woolsey cloth, along with flannel made of woolen yarn, formed the basis of the Bentley family wardrobe.  This, their utilitarian clothing, was supplemented by shipments of used clothing and, sometimes, fabric sent to them by their relatives back in Maryland.
 
Anna wrote about one of these shipments during 8th mo 1829.  She described a large box of childrens' clothing as follows:  "There was an excellent black coat that looks like silk, a pr of cinnamon-colored trousers, ditto a very handsome buff waistcoat for Granville, a pair of nice silk stripe drilling, 1 of linnen drilling and one of light stripe pantaloons for Franklin, a waistcoat, 8 shirts, and a nice blue cloth coat with J. Kempton's name in the lining (I don't know how it came there) for Franklin, a pr drilling trousers  and 8 coats and great coat and hat for Thomas, an excellent most new furred hat for Granville, a leghorn for Franklin, a pretty little leghorn which I have trimmed for Aliceanna, a calico frock for Maria, one for Hannah, a gingham for Deborah.  Oh dear, this ain't near all [. . .].  (Foster, 102.)
 
By way of explanation, drilling is defined by Florence M. Montgomery in Textiles in America 1650-1870 as "a heavy linen cloth."  She defines gingham as "a striped cloth woven with multiple-stranded warps and wefts and noted for toughness of texture.  In the West, it was a cloth of pure cotton woven with dyed yarns often in stripes and checks."  Montgomery quotes Thomas Sheraton's Encyclopedia (1804-07) to provide a broad definition of calicos.  "In commerce a sort of cloth resembling linen made of cotton.  The name is taken from that of Calicut, the first place in which the Portuguese landed when they discovered the Indian trade [. . .]  Calicoes are of different kinds, plain, printed, stained, dyed, chintz, muslins, and the like all included under the general denomination of calicoes."  Leghorns were hats made from the straw of an Italian wheat and imported into America from Livorno (a city previously called Leghorn).  They were popular in various styles from the early 1800s but especially during the 1860s.
 
Plate from Godey's Ladies Book showing Godey's Fashions for June 1864. 
 The women are wearing leghorn hats made of straw and variously decorated.
 
On 8th mo 14, 1830, Anna wrote to her sister near Elkton, Maryland.  This letter reveals some of the types of fabric available to those living in Ohio by that time.  She wrote: "What a change there is in the dress of the people here since we came.  Then 1 decent calico and plenty of homemade was sufficient; now there is scarcely an old woman of my acquaintance that could not count 3 nice dresses to my 1.  They have their silks, pongees, bombazets, merinos, while poor me is as contented as any of them when I can put on a clean, whole (ragged and dirty I will not go) calico dress with cape of the same."  (Foster, 173.)
 
A variety of 19th century calico pieces.  Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
 
Montgomery cites a trader in 1807 who wrote that "pongee is a peculiar kind of silk, very strong and wears a great while, that it may be had of all colors and of different qualities."  (Montgomery, 327.)  Bombazet was a worsted cloth of either plain or twill weave finished without glaze.  Merino was cloth woven from the wool of merino sheep.
 
By 1836, calico was being produced in large quantities in America.  Susan W. Greene cites Leander Bishop as saying that by 1836 "the United States printed one hundred and twenty million yards of calicoes.  The Hudson Calico Print Works of Marshall, Carville and Taylor was in a high state of efficiency, having 42 block printers and five printing machines, two of which printed four colors at a time, and three of them three colors.  The machines were all of the best models in England whence they had been recently imported [. . .]."  (Greene, 47.)
 
A variety of calicos in a four-poster child's bed quilt from the 19th century.
Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
 
Anna's 1834 plea for calico pieces for Hannah's quilt seems to relate more to her isolation on the Ohio frontier and her lack of access to both the cash and dry goods needed to obtain it than to its general availability.  Some of the family calico dresses she refers to were existing dresses sent to her by relatives back east to be modified for her use or the use of her daughters.  Calico was, in fact, available - just not easily available to Anna.
 
Sources:
 
Bishop, J. Leander.  A History of American Manufactures 1608-1860.  Philadelphia: Edward Young, 1868.
 
Foster, Emily (ed.).  American Grit, A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.
 
Greene, Susan W.  Wearable Prints, 1760-1860, History, Materials, and Mechanics.  Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2014.
 
Montgomery, Florence M.  Textiles in America 1650- 1870 with Foreword by Linda Eaton.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 


November 1, 2015

Remembering Frances Slocum

Two of the contemporary quilts displayed at Indiana State Museum as part of the 19 Stars exhibit were conceived and made by internationally-known fabric artist Penny Sisto.  Penny was born in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland and, while working for the British Ministry of Overseas Development, served as midwife and clinic assistant in health facilities for the Maasai, LuBukusu and Kikuyu tribes in East Africa.  Here she learned to add beading and collage methods to the needlework skills of embroidery, applique, and quilting she had learned from her grandmother.

Penny Sisto.  Our thanks to Penny for permission to use this photograph.
 
Penny's studio is in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, where she makes figural art quilts, many related to social justice issues.  When Indiana State Museum decided to display quilts in celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial, Penny offered two of her remarkable quilts based on Indiana history and the real-life story of Frances Slocum.
 
There are several early accounts of the story of Frances Slocum as well as more recent books and blog posts concerning her life.  These accounts differ on some points but the basic story is provided here.  Frances was one of ten children born to Jonathan and Ruth Tripp Slocum, a Quaker couple residing in Warwick, Rhode Island, until they left for the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania in 1777.  Here they found British troops and Native American tribes engaged in the Revolutionary War against Americans.  Other families fled the area in July 1778 when the Battle of Wyoming erupted and the British forces, in alliance with Seneca warriors, destroyed a fort near Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where the Slocums lived.  Over 300 settlers were killed during this battle and its aftermath.  Believing that their non-combative Quaker faith and friendly relations with local Native Americans would protect them, the Slocums remained where they were.  Later that fall, their homestead was attacked by three Delaware tribesmen while the men of the family were away and Frances, then age five, was abducted while her mother looked on in horror.
 
"The Capture of  Frances Slocum", a print appearing in the late 1860s in tabloid
accounts of the abduction.
 
By one account, Frances was traded to a childless Miami couple for animal pelts shortly after her kidnapping.  This couple adopted her as their own child and cared for her as she grew into a beautiful young woman with distinctive auburn hair.  They named her Maconaquah, Miami for Little Bear, and Frances easily assumed their customs and language.  She married a Delaware man named Tuck Horse in 1790 but the marriage was an unhappy one marked by domestic violence, prompting her to leave Tuck Horse and return to her adoptive parents.
 
Some time later, Maconaquah was walking through the forest and came upon a man who had been injured in battle.  He was a Miami warrior named Shepcoconah and Maconaquah led him home where she and her adoptive parents nursed him to health.  Once able, Shepcoconah helped Maconaquah's father provide meat and other game for the family.  Before her father died, he gave Maconaquah to Shepcoconah to be his wife.
 
Shepcoconah moved the family to Indiana after the War of 1812.  There they lived on the banks of the Mississinnewa River near Peru.  Shepcoconah became Chief of the Miami but gradually lost his hearing and stepped down as Chief.  During this time, he and Maconaquah had four children; two daughters who survived to adulthood and two sons who did not.
 
After foregoing his chiefdom, Shepcoconah moved the family farther up river about nine miles above Peru, Indiana.  Here he built a large log house for them as well as a trading post.  Soon a settlement of both whites and Native Americans grew up around the house and trading post - a settlement called Deaf Man's Village with a population of 1,154 by 1830.
 
Deaf Man's Village.  Watercolor by George Winter, 1839.  Courtesy of the
Tippecanoe County Historical Association, Lafayette, Indiana.
 
In 1835, an Indian trader named Colonel George Ewing, who spoke fluent Miami, encountered the light-skinned Maconaquah while at the trading post and inquired about her background.  She revealed to him that she was white, having been abducted fifty-seven years before by Delaware warriors.
 
Picture of Frances Slocum, signed Jennie Brownscombe, from the book Frances Slocum; The Lost
Sister of Wyoming by Martha Bennett Phelps, 1916.  Source of image: Creative Commons,
 
Ewing sent a letter recounting his meeting with Maconaquah to the postmaster of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who was also the publisher of the local newspaper, The Lancaster Intelligencer.  Nothing was done with the letter until August 1837 when a new owner of the newspaper came across it and published this part of Ewing's letter:  "There is now living in this place among the Miami Tribe of Indians, an aged white woman who, a few days ago told me that she was taken away from her father's house on or near the Susquehanna River when she was very young.  She says her father's name was Slocum, that he was a Quaker and wore a large-brimmed hat."
 
The Slocum family had unsuccessfully searched for Frances from the day she was abducted.  When they got word of the letter, they began corresponding with Colonel Ewing and two of Frances's brothers and one of her sisters made a trip to Deaf Man's Village to try to identify their sister.  Her identity was confirmed by an injury to one of her fingers inflicted by one of her brothers with a hammer when they were children.  A second meeting took place while they were there. This one was in Peru with Maconaquah traveling to her family bearing a haunch of venison as a gift.  They tried to convince her to return with them to Pennsylvania but she refused, preferring to live among the people, customs, and language of her childhood and maturity. 
 
A treaty between the Miami and the U.S. Government enacted in 1840 threatened to cause the forced removal of Maconaquah, her family, and other tribal members to Kansas.  She appealed this provision, requesting permission for her family to stay.  Her case was argued by John Quincy Adams before Congress and she and her heirs were granted by law the land where they lived in the amount of one square mile (640 acres).  Maconaquah died at her home on March 9, 1847.  She was seventy-four years old and was buried next to the log cabin where her husband and two sons were buried.  In 1900, both her white and Native American descendants erected a monument to her and her husband on the site.
 
The grave of Frances Slocum, Slocum Cemetery, Somerset, Indiana.  Author: Sarah Stierch. 
Source of image: Creative Commons.
 
The story of Maconaquah inspired Penny Sisto to make two quilts related to Frances and her life.  The first, titled Frances Slocum's Landscape, is shown below.
 
Frances Slocum's Landscape.  Maker: Penny Sisto.  Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Use of photograph courtesy of Penny Sisto and Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
Penny shared this about the work by email:  "The portrait quilt shows Frances Slocum as an older woman who stands strong in her Journey.  She is steadfast and yet in her eyes a great sorrow hides.  She is a woman who has had to find her own place in the universe.  I show her in 'see spirit' as a white Crane - graceful, still, and a good hunter/provider."  (By "see spirit", Penny means that when she visualizes Frances's Medicine Spirit, she sees her as a White Crane.)
 
The second quilt, titled Frances Slocum's Totem, captures the child's memories of her abduction.
 
Frances Slocum's Totem.  Maker: Penny Sisto. Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Use of photograph courtesy of Penny Sisto and Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
In Penny's words:  "The totem quilt shows the child Frances Slocum remembering her kidnapping as a child would, in a series of vignettes - the men on horseback, bright flashes of color and faces against the moon lit sky.  Her adopted Grandmother speaking to her about the snowy white Medicine deer, the visions she saw in the tipi by the fire, Grandmother morphing to Sacred Bear, Leaping Salmon in the rivers.  The memories stack one atop the other forming a totem."
 
We are grateful to Penny for sharing her thoughts and for helping us introduce you to her remarkable quilts.
 
Sources:
 
Ancestry.com Public Member Trees, Stauton/Stanton Family Tree, accessed 10/25/2015.
 
Cottman, George S.  "Sketch of Frances Slocum" in The Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1905.
 
 
 
McKinney, Helen E.  "Frances Slocum: White Woman In a Native American Culture" in Pioneer Times USA, An Online Journal of Living History, at http://www.graphicenterprises.net/html/frances_slocum.html.
 
Personal correspondence with Penny Sisto.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.