November 27, 2012

Anne Parrish and the Aimwell School

Anne Parrish was born on October 17, 1760 in Philadelphia, the daughter of a prominent Quaker family.  Her upbringing included dedication to charitable works and, when her parents contracted yellow fever in an epidemic in 1793, she vowed to devote herself to a life of philanthropy should they be spared.  They survived and Anne's first philanthropic act was to create, along with twenty-three friends, a committee called the Friendly Circle.  This group was later known as The Female Society of  Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.  It was the first women's charitable organization established in America.

The Society opened The House of Industry in 1795, providing poor women with paid employment as spinners and weavers, and giving older women employment as "day care providers" for the children of the women working there.

A year later, Anne and some of her fellow-Quakers founded a school for needy girls later known as Aimwell School for the Free Instruction of Females.  The school was first conducted in Anne's home on North Second Street in Philadelphia.  As the number of students grew, the school was moved to other quarters on the north side of Cherry Street east of 10th Street.

Watercolor of the Aimwell School for the Free Instruction of Females.  The Historical
Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), David J. Kennedy watercolors, David J. Kennedy painter.
Courtesy of the Historical Society of Philadelphia.
The number of students attending Aimwell School varied over time from ten to fifty or more.  Eight Quaker women voluntarily shared the teaching duties, in turn, until the increasing number of students required the help of paid teachers.  The curriculum included reading, writing, arithmetic, and the development of sewing skills.  The Aimwell School survived in various forms and at a variety of locations until 1923.
As was the case in most private boarding and day schools for girls in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the young women at Aimwell learned sewing skills by completing samplers that required the mastery of a variety of stitches for marking domestic linens and that would eventually lead to proficiency in embroidery.  The sampler shown below was worked by Aimwell student Rebecca Bachellor and was completed in 1828.
Sampler worked by Rebecca Bachellor.  The sampler was in the collection of
Joseph and Ann Fassnacht of Canandaigua, New York, and then was  passed to their
daughter and son-in-law, Chris and Linda Montague.  Photograph courtesy of Ann Fassnacht.
Many early Quaker schools are known today for the samplers worked by their students and for the specific teachers who guided these artistic efforts and often determined the motifs representative of their schools.  Samplers were "show pieces" that families kept and passed on to the next generations.  Many of them have survived and, today, they have become collectors' items for both private citizens and museums.
Other sewing skills were also taught at Quaker schools to prepare young women for domestic life and to provide them with a modest means by which they could support themselves.  Two examples of these skills include a Quaker mending and darning sampler showing examples of the stitches used for these domestic tasks (refer to page 114 of Samplers and Samplermakers, An American Schoolgirl Art, 1700-1850 cited below) and a quilt in the collection of the Historical Society of Moorestown, New Jersey.
Quilt made by the students of Aimwell School in 1847 for their teacher, Sarah D. Powell. 
Collection of the Historical Society of Moorestown.  Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell,
President of the Historical Society of Moorestown.
This inscribed quilt measures 104 inches by 114 inches and is comprised of blocks known as both Chimney Sweep and Christian Cross in pattern.  Its quilting stitches are even and straight, and it is bound using a woven tape of beige, brown, and yellow.  Woven tape binding brings to mind past discussions of the beige and green "Trenton Tape" associated with quilts of New Jersey.  Once thought to be a local commercial product that suggested a firm New Jersey attribution for quilts bound with it, more recent observations are that woven tape was actually widely produced, even in homes.
Woven tape used to bind the quilt.  Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
The quilt blocks, including a dedicatory block, are inscribed in black ink.
Block presenting the quilt to Sarah D. Powell.  It reads: "Presented by the Pupils of
the Aimwell School to their Teacher, Sarah D. Powell, 1847."  Photograph courtesy
of Lisa Hammell.
As can be seen by the photographs below, some of the students decorated their name blocks with embellishments in ink.  Also note the clarity and beauty of some of the handwriting.
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
The workmanship displayed by this quilt, as well as the inscribed penmanship, indicate that the students of Aimwell School were receiving sound educations in sewing and writing.
We thank Lisa Hammell and the Historical Society of Moorestown for generously sharing this treasure so we could share it with you.
Bacon, Margaret Hope. Mothers of Feminism, The Story of Quaker Women in America.  Philadelphia: Friends General Conference, 1986.
Edmonds, Mary Jaene.  Samplers and Samplermakers, An American Schoolgirl Art, 1700-1850. New York: Rizzoli and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.



November 16, 2012

Quilts in the Baltimore Manner

As described in the immediately preceding post, "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" is a current exhibit at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fok Art Museum at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia.  The exhibit runs through May 11, 2014 and is beautifully curated by Linda Baumgarten and Kimberly Smith Ivey.

In mid-nineteenth century America, Album quilts were a popular form amongst Quakers, but they were hardly the only ones to make quilts in this style.
How did Quakers learn about the patterns and techniques used in Baltimore Album Quilts?  Friends could be disowned for (among many other things) marrying outside the faith but a disownment was not equivalent to, for example, an Amish shunning.  As painful as was the practice of disownment from the Religious Society of Friends, letters and diaries indicate disowned Friends -- some of whom were making quilts in the newest styles -- continued social relationships with memnbers of good standing.  Also, Quakers had regular contact with the society-at-large through business dealings.  Thus, despite the closed nature of their religion, they had opportunities to be exposed to new quilt trends, including Baltimore Album-style quilts. 
The images in this post show just some of the non-Quaker quilts on display in the exhibit, "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner".
Detail of foregoing quilt.
And, for those of you who are interested in chintz, here is a splendid example attributed to Achsah Goodwin Wilkins.
All photographs by Mary Holton Robare.  To learn more about a recent discovery of another Achsah Goodwin Wilkins-style quilt, visit
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.


November 11, 2012

A Quaker Quilt and "Apple Pie Ridge Stars" at Colonial Williamsburg

On November 9, 2012, Mary had the great pleasure and honor of presenting a lecture titled "Tracking the Apple Pie Ridge Star" as part of the conference "Influences on American Quilts: Baltimore to Bengal" at Colonial Williamsburg.  The conference included an incredible line-up of speakers and topics.  It coincided with a splendid exhibition of "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" that was co-curated by Linda Baumgarten and Kim Ivey. The exhibition runs through May 11, 2014.

The exhibitiion in the Foster and Muriel McCarl Gallery of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum "showcases 12 fine examples of the Baltimore Quilt tradition with a sampling of quilts made in nearby counties as well as in parts of Virginia."  It includes the c. 1850 Pidgeon Family Quilt inscribed primarily by Quaker members of Sandy Spring Meeting, Maryland, and Hopewell Meeting, Virginia, and compiled by Sarah Chandlee Pidgeon.
Exhibit gallery, "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" at Colonial Williamsburg.  Pidgeon
Family Quilt is seen at left.
After Mary's many years of research into the Pidgeon Family Quilt, and its appearance in several publications, it is a thrill to see the quilt so beautifully displayed, being enjoyed by so many.
Mary Holton Robare and the Pidgeon Family Quilt.
As explained in the museum's labels, lights are low and on timers, and quilts are hung behind protective glass to minimize stress and exposure to potentially harmful elements.  Remarkably, the textiles are highly visible even under low lights.  Below is a detail of one block of the Pidgeon Family Quilt.
The "Apple Pie Ridge Star" block pattern was previously addressed in this blog's posts of February 4th and 22nd, 2012.  Although this pattern appears on a cluster of five related mid-nineteenth century Quaker quilts, it is not exclusively Quaker.  It was favored by many groups, such as the Methodists who compiled one of the exhibited quilts for a traveling minister.  You can see its fleur-de-lis-style medallion ("Apple Pie Ridge Star") fourth from the left in the top row of this quil top.
"Album Quilt Top" probably assembled by Mrs. William George Eggleston, 1844-1847,
Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland.  Colonial
Williamsburg Museum purchase 1999.609.2.  

Versions of this pattern also appear on the following quilt.
Exhibited "Album Quilt", 1846, Baltimore, Maryland.  Maker unknown.
Colonial Williamsburg Museum purchase 2009.609.3.
Detail of the two "Apple Pie Ridge Star" blocks that appear in the quilt above.
All photographs by Mary Holton Robare.
You can download a brochure of the recent conference here:
And learn more about the current quilt exhibit here:
Learn more about the Pidgeon Family Quilt and the "Apple Pie Ridge Star" here:
Carter, Hazel. "Apple Pie Ridge Star Quilts." In Blanket Statements, 100.   Lincoln, NE: American Quilt Study Group, Summer, 2010.
Robare, Mary Holton.  "The Apple Pie Ridge Star." In Blanket Statements, 86, edited by Gaye Ingram.  Lincoln, NE: American Quilt Study Group, 2007.
_________________  Quilts and Quaker Heritage: Selections from an Exhibition, Virginia Quilt Museum May 3-September 22, 2008.  Winchester, VA: Hillside Studios,2008.
_________________  "Cheerful and Loving Persistence: Two Historical Quaker Quilts." In Uncoverings, 2007, edited by Joanna E. Evans.  Volume 28 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group.
_________________  "Quaker Networks Revealed in Quilts." In Proceedings of the Textile History Forum.  Cherry Valley, NY: Textile History Forum, 2007.
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, 2012.