November 15, 2013

The Sandy Spring Quilt - Part 2

Researching the names, dates, locations, and verses found on the blocks of an inscribed quilt allows us to place the quilt in the context of historical communities.  However, just because a name appears on a quilt does not necessarily mean that person was involved in making the quilt - or even saw it!  For example, some people whose names appear on quilts are known to be deceased at the time of the quilt's making.  Attempting to identify a quilt's maker (or makers), recipient, and chain of ownership often involves separate avenues of research.  These quests can be fascinating.

Sandy Spring Quilt.  Photo by Neil Steinberg.  Courtesy of the Montgomery County
Historical Society, Rockville, Maryland.
The Montgomery County Historical Society in Maryland purchased the Sandy Spring Quilt from a dealer in the early 1980s. They determined that the women whose names appeared on the quilt were, for the most part, residents of Sandy Spring, a small town to the southwest of Baltimore and just north of Washington, D. C.
Sandy Spring Quilt, detail.  Block inscribed "H.B. Stabler".  Photo by Joanna Church. 
Courtesy of the Montgomery County Historical Society, Rockville, Maryland.
The Historical Society staff did not know much else about the quilt's origins until 1987 when they discovered some correspondence between a descendant of Sandy Spring Quakers and the Sandy Spring Museum.  Inquiring of the quilt's whereabouts, the descendant described a quilt which "could probably be called the Sandy Spring Quilt.  It was made by women of the neighborhood and given to Hannah Taylor upon her marriage to Robert Stabler of Edgewood, part of the Manor on the Spencerville Road, in 1858."
Disowned from the Orthodox Falls Monthly Meeting in 1852 for joining the Hicksites, Hannah and her husband got certificates of membership to the Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting in 1860.
Sandy Spring Meetinghouse, Sandy Spring, Maryland.  Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D. C. 20540 USA.
The original Sandy Spring Quilt correspondents have, over time, become unavailable to confirm when and why the quilt was made.  Without contradictory evidence to the assumption that the quilt described by the descendant is the one owned by the Montgomery County Historical Society, the idea that this quilt was made for Hannah's wedding provides a working theory.
Does genealogical data about the inscribers of the Sandy Spring Quilt support the theory that it was made for an 1858 wedding?  In the beginning, turning from questions of provenance to the inscriptions themselves raised more questions than answers.
Joanna Church, Manager of the Montgomery County Historical Society, performed a new reading of the inscriptions in 2006 which built upon research originally performed by Marian Jacobs in 1983.  Ms. Church's extensive knowledge of the area's early residents -- and fixing on the 1858 year of Hannah Taylor's marriage to Robert Stabler -- allowed for some new interpretations.  Additional genealogical research and cross-referencing yielded surer probable identities. 
Where the age of those named on the quilt could be estimated based on genealogical records, an age range from approximately two years to sixty-four years was established.  Nine of the people represented on the quilt were between nine and seventeen years of age. 
Given the popularity of quilt making as evidenced by diaries, the varying degrees of skill used to complete the quilt, and the ages of those named on the quilt in 1858, it is tempting to imagine quilt blocks being not only inscribed, but also made by novice quilters, possibly schoolgirls.
Sandy Spring Quilt, details.  Photos by Joanna Church.  Courtesy of the Montgomery
County Historical Society, Rockville, Maryland.
Of course, mismatched points can not be considered reliable determination of a maker's age.  Even very young schoolgirls produced magnificent historical needlework, but schooling in relation to the Sandy Spring Quilt is worth mention.  Of the thirty-four decipherable inscribed identities on the quilt, eleven (including some over the age of seventeen) appear on the list of "All the Scholars Since the Commencement of the Institution" of Fair Hill Seminary, also know as Fair Hill Boarding School for Girls.
Fair Hill, 1906.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,
Washington, D. C. 20540 USA.
Fair Hill Seminary opened in 1819 under the direct care of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting.  It was founded to "establish a boarding school for the guarded education of Friends' children", and operated on and off throughout the 1800s.  (During the Civil War, two-thirds of the students withdrew due to concerns over fighting in nearby Baltimore.  The school closed for good in 1865.)
Needlework and quilting were not listed as part of the formal curriculum at the time the Sandy Spring Quilt was made.  However, there were several early samplers made there.  We will share more about one Fair Hill scholar-who-quilted in our next post.
Portions of this post were adapted from an article first published by the American Quilt Study Group.  See Robare, Mary Holton.  "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.
Special thanks to Joanna Church, Collections Manager of the Montgomery County Historical Society, Rockville, Maryland.  See and visit Joann's blog at 



1 comment:

  1. Ladies what a lovely blog you have. I have been interested in quilt history for a long time. I began quilting in 1984 after the very first issue of Country Living magazine. I saw a quilt for the first time in that magazine and I was in my early 20s then. Now I think back and wonder why I never saw a quilt or it never registered before.. I later began to watch Lap Quilting on PBS with Georgia Bonesteel. Keep the good work.