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!
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 on 12/5/2015.
"The History of the Christmas Tree" accessed at 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.
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: 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
Personal correspondence with Penny Sisto.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.


October 16, 2015

"19 Stars: Quilts of Indiana's Past and Present" - Indiana State Museum Celebrates Indiana's Bicentennial

A major quilt exhibition was hanging at the Indiana State Museum while members of the American Quilt Study Group were holding their annual Seminar in Indianapolis last month.  The exhibition featured nineteen historic star-patterned quilts in the Museum's collections and nineteen quilts of star-theme made by contemporary quilt makers, most specifically for the exhibition.  The purpose of the exhibition was celebration of Indiana as the nineteenth state admitted to the Union.

Exhibition staff were on hand to answer questions about the quilts, give permission to photograph the quilts, and hand out detailed descriptions of those quilts that were part of the Museum's collections.

The following are a few of the contemporary quilts on display.  All photographs are by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.

Bohemian Fireworks made by contemporary quilt maker Sandra Peterson.
The Culver Black Horse Troupe.  Makers: Judy Laval Morton, Lydia Stoll,
and Miriam Graber.
Tranquility.  Makers: Terri Degen Kolb and Cathy Franks.
Chicken & Stars.  Makers: Sherry McConnell and Linda Lupton.  A message
is placed on the lower right corner of the quilt.  It reads: "Eat more beef!"
Stars and Sparks.  Makers:  Judy Tescher and Elaine Reed.
Indiana Sunburst.  Makers: Judy Laval Morton, Lydia Stoll, and
Miriam Graber.  The portion of this quilt within the central red border appears
 to have been inspired by a quilt made by Mary (Betsy) Totten
Polhemus Williams (1781-1861) of New York.  The "Totten Quilt" is dated
 1825-1835 and is a holding of the Smithsonian National Museum of
American History (object number TE*T08153).
Encircled Stars.  Maker: Anita Hardwick.
There were two gallery spaces used for this exhibition - one for the contemporary quilts and another for the historic quilts.  Standing in the hallway leading to these spaces, there is a stunning view of Indianapolis through large glass walls with a crane protruding upward from an industrial exhibition on the floor below.
The second gallery room contained nineteen historic quilts that are holdings of the Indiana State Museum.  Here is a sampling of these wonderful quilts.
Eight Pointed Star pattern pieced comforter quilt, 1926.  Indiana State Museum,
Indianapolis, Indiana.  Museum ID No. 71.968.063.0520.
The name "C.F. Norris" with the date 1926 is embroidered on the upper right hand border of this quilt.  According to Indiana State Museum object records, the quilt belonged to the family of William F. Norris.  He was a druggist in South Whitley, Indiana, from 1901-1950.  Museum records include a family history and newspaper clippings along with information about Mrs. Norris's button collection.
Feathered Star pattern red/green pieced quilt, ca. 1840-1870.  Indiana State Museum,
Indianapolis, Indiana.  Museum ID No. 71.969.091.0057.
The maker of this quilt is unknown but the donor, Audra Rosemary Breedlove (Mrs. Bryan) Harris said that it was used by Elsie Myrtle Barlow Breedlove (1880-1962).  Elsie was born in Brownsburg, Indiana, and married Fred M. Breedlove on February 12, 1909 in Indianapolis.
Lone Star, Blazing Star or Star of Bethlehem pattern pieced quilt, 1880. Indiana
State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana.  Museum ID No. 71.2010.068.0001.
This quilt was made by Anna Marie Arnold Clemmons for her husband Joseph T. Clemmons on the occasion of his thirty-fourth birthday.  They lived in Fountaintown, Shelby County, Indiana, at the time the quilt was made.
Detail of the Anna Marie Arnold Clemmons quilt.  The inscription, embroidered in red chain stitch, reads:
"J. Clemmon [sic] married A W Arnold March 22, 1866."  A second inscription on the right, bottom corner of
 the quilt reads: "Presented to J Clemmons on his 34 birthday by his wife."
Blazing Star pattern quadrant pieced quilt, 1860-1880.  Indiana State Museum,
Indianapolis, Indiana.  Museum ID No. 71.981.011.0001.
The maker of this quilt is unknown.  It was used in Tipton County, Indiana, by the donor's grandparents, Catherine (1848-1927) and William T. Carr (1848-1928).
Stars/Goose Foot pattern quilt, 1930-1940.  Indiana State Museum,
Indianapolis, Indiana.  Museum ID No. 71.989.01.401.
This Amish quilt was made by Sarah Miller Troyer in Goshen, Elkhart County, Indiana.  It is a reversible quilt with the back side displaying a Plain Quilt/Hollow Square pattern using a medium blue cotton sateen field with quadruple borders.  Attached to the back is an original David Pottinger muslin label that says the quilt was made by Sarah Miller Troyer for her daughter Ella (Troyer) Schmucker in Goshen, Indiana, ca. 1935.
The variety of star-themed quilts used for the Indiana State Museum's 19 Stars exhibition highlighted the creativity of both historic and contemporary quilt makers and produced an interesting and informative experience for all who attended.
The exhibition did not, however, contain only star-themed quilts.  Some of the contemporary quilts hung among the "stars" depicted or symbolized events in Indiana history. Two of these quilts, made by international fabric artist Penny Sisto, will be the subject of our next post.
Our thanks to the Indiana State Museum for permission to photograph the exhibition quilts and for the detailed object records cited here.
Newell, Aimee E.  "More Than Warmth: Gift Quilts by Aging Women in Antebellum America."  In Uncoverings 2008, Volume 29 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group, Laurel Horton ed.  (The Totten Quilt is featured in this article along with a color photograph.)
Notes taken by Lynda Salter Chenoweth while viewing the exhibition.
Object records provided by the Indiana State Museum.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.



October 1, 2015

American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) Seminar 2015: A Look at Indiana State Museum's Amish Crib Quilts

One of the tours offered this year at AQSG's Seminar in Indianapolis was a behind-the-scenes look at Amish crib quilts in the storage area of Indiana State Museum.

Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana.  Source of photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The Museum's Amish collections consist mainly of quilts, clothing, toys, dolls, and home furnishings collected by David Pottinger and purchased from him in 1988 as the Pottinger Amish Collection.  David Pottinger traveled frequently to northern Indiana for work purposes and in 1977 moved to Honeyville, Indiana, in the heart of Indiana's Amish settlement.
In her Keynote Address at Seminar, Janneken Smucker, Assistant Professor of History at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, described how Pottinger became integrated into the Amish community as a trusted neighbor and friend, developing an admiration and interest in the Amish members of his community and the household objects they made for daily use.  According to Smucker: "Pottinger's presence in this community shaped not only the market for Midwestern Amish quilts -which was virtually untapped prior to his attention- but the way many Amish began to think about their own quilts."
Pottinger purchased the quilts he collected directly from Amish families who wished to sell them.  His personal acquaintance with these families enabled him to meticulously document each quilt's history including who made it, for whom, when, and on what occasion.  The information he collected was recorded in ink on pieces of muslin which he basted to the back of each quilt.
Our access to the storage rooms where the Amish crib quilts were laid out for viewing began with a ride on a massive freight elevator used to move museum holdings from one floor to another.  Inside, you felt as if the ascent would take you to a large artist's loft and an array of massive canvases. Two locked doors led to the storage area where we were greeted by one of the Museum's curators who, with a helper, conducted the quilt turnings that followed.
Amish crib quilts laid out on a bed and two tables at the Indiana State Museum.
All photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Following is a sampling of the many crib quilts we saw, admired, and discussed during this rare behind-the-scenes opportunity.
The green quilt shown here on top of other quilts was made ca. 1880 by Suzanne (Mrs. Seth) Smucker of Nappanee, Indiana.  It measures 47" X 33".  Suzanne was born in 1844 and passed away in 1913.  Her children were born 1877-1892.  The quilt was passed down through the family to Suzanne's granddaughter, Mrs. Dan Yoder, who lives in Medford, Wisconsin.  The quilt fabrics are all cotton except for one blue wool or cotton/wool mixture.  The quilting displays nine stitches to the inch through a thin batt.  It is backed by a single piece of dark blue-green cotton.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.01.455.)
This Nine Patch crib quilt was made ca. 1890 by Catherine D. Hochstetler who married Aaron Beechy in 1877.  They lived in Emma, LeGrange County, Indiana. Catherine was born in 1868 and passed away in 1950.  The quilt was purchased from her grandson, Levi L. Yoder, and was acquired as part of the David Pottinger Collection of Amish Quilts.  The quilt measures 43" X 29" and is comprised of pieced Nine Patch wool blocks en pointe.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.01.441.)
This Sixteen Point Star crib quilt was made by Susie A. Schrock Miller (Mrs. Henry L. Miller) of Topeka, Indiana, ca. 1911-1927.  It measures 54" X 39".  The navy fabric is pieced in several places on all blocks to form the desired size.  It is quilted with navy thread nine stitches per inch and the back is comprised of five irregularly sized pieces of dark blue cotton.  The quilt displays an original Pottinger muslin label sewn to the back.  Susie was born December 13, 1888 and was known to be one of the area's best quilt makers.  She and her husband had eight children between 1911-1927.  The quilt was purchased from her granddaughter Mrs. Owen Hershberger. (Museum ID No. 71.989.001.0437.)
The black and yellow Concentric Rectangles quilt seen at the top of this photograph is unusual for an Indiana Amish Quilt.  This pattern is more typical of those used for Amish quilts in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  This medallion-style quilt was made by Mary Hostetler (Mrs. Daniel F.) Bontrager ca. 1915 in LeGrange, Indiana.  It measure 36 1/2" X 34".  The quilting stitches average seven per inch, applied through a thin batt that appears to be an older quilt.  The backing is the same golden yellow sateen used on the front  of the quilt.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.001.0439.)
The Flower Basket quilt in the foreground was made by Susanna (Mrs. John H.) Yoder in Topeka, Indiana between 1920 and 1930.  It measure 35" X 39" and is backed with burgundy fabric featuring a cream muslin provenance label in one corner.  Susanna was born in 1869 and died in April, 1943 in Topeka.  The quilt passed to her daughter's son, Levi Noah Eash, who sold it to David Pottinger.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.001.0430.)
This Amish Crazy Patch quilt was made by Susan (Mrs. Joseph C.) Smucker for her children who were born in Ohio.  It was purchased by David Pottinger in Goshen, Indiana, from her oldest daughter, Mary Ellen (Mrs. Menno D.) Hershberger, who may have brought it with her to Indiana from Ohio.  Her mother, Susan, married Joseph C. Smucker in Geauga County, Ohio, in 1916 and had eight children there between 1918 and 1931.  The quilt measure 40" X 34" and is comprised of cotton and wool pieces of varying shapes.  The patches are outlined in red feather stitching.  A provenance label is attached to the back.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.01.434.)
The following photographs are provided to illustrate the variety of crib quilts in the collection we were shown.  Although detailed descriptions were provided to us of all of the quilts we viewed, only the foregoing descriptions are presented here.  You may visit the web site of Indiana State Museum at for more information about these quilts.
Our trip to the Indiana State Museum included, in addition to the viewing of the Pottinger Amish Collection of crib quilts, an exhibition of 20th and 21st century quilts honoring the statehood of Indiana.  This exhibition, titled Nineteen Stars for the Nineteenth State, will be the subject of our last post about Seminar in Indianapolis.
Many thanks to the knowledgeable and helpful staff of the Indiana State Museum for an enjoyable and informative visit!!
Description of the Keynote Address given by Janneken Smucker at the AQSG web site at
Kathleen McLary.  Amish Style: Clothing, Home Furnishings, Toys, Dolls and Quilts.  Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Museum object records provided by Indiana State Museum.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.