December 30, 2011

Lucinda S. Russell Quilts

If a quilt is not inscribed with a name, it is difficult to know its origins.  Family traditions and oral history are notoriously inaccurate, but in some cases are the only guides we have to a quilt's history and connection to the Religious Society of Friends.

Lucinda and Mary Russell.  Photograph courtesy of
Jane Russell Johnson.

Lucinda S. (Buckingham) Russell (1830-1892) is pictured above with her daughter, Mary.  We do not know if she was Quaker prior to her marriage, but upon wedding a Quaker, Isaac S. Russell (1826-1916), Lucinda was told she should "put away her jewelry".  The implication was that she should conform more to the Quaker tenet of simplicity.

Several quilts attributed to Lucinda were displayed at the Virginia Quilt Museum in the 2008 exhibit Quilts and Quaker Heritage.  Lucinda's descendants refer to the ca. 1850 quilt shown below as a "Mariner's Compass" pattern, although Barbara Brackman cites other names of this pattern.  These other names include "Caesar's Crown", "Grecian Star", and "Whirling Wheel".

Photograph by Mary Holton Robare

Another quilt, referred to as "Radiant Star", was discovered in the New Market, Maryland, home where Lucinda once resided.  It is inscribed in ink with the name "Henry Russell".  Henry (born 1873) was Lucinda's son.  It is important for researchers to note that sometimes, as seen in other historical quilts as well as those made by Quakers, the name that appears inscribed on a quilt denotes ownership rather than maker.

Photograph by Mary Holton Robare

Initials and names that were stitched, stamped, stenciled, or inked on other household linens such as table cloths and sheets served as laundry marks.  These marks helped organize laundry as it went out and came back into use or storage from cleaning and pressing.  Similar marks on signature album and friendship quilts usually serve other purposes, such as extending sentiment toward a quilt recipient.  However, when just a single name or set of initials appears on a quilt, all possibilities should be considered.

(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2011

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