July 1, 2015

A Memento of Our Old Matron: The House of Industry Signature Quilt (Part 2)

This post continues the article published by Lynda and Mary in the American Quilt Study Group quarterly newsletter, Blanket Statements, in Spring 2014.


The House of Industry was established in 1798 by a group of Quaker women, most of whom appear in minutes of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.  (Endnote 4)  They were initially inspired and led by Ann Parrish after a devastating yellow fever epidemic left scores of women and children destitute in Philadelphia and its environs.  Known first as the Friendly Circle, this group became known as The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor when, in 1815, forty-six of their unmarried members incorporated the organization.  (Endnote 5)

Copy of the incorporation document enacted in 1815.  Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The organization first provided paid employment to poor women by giving them the materials to spin flax and wool in their homes.  It soon became apparent that the poor conditions of these women, often living in tiny, unheated rooms with their children and other family members, were not conducive to productive work.  In 1798, the Society decided to provide a house to accommodate spinning in a warm and spacious environment. (Endnote 6)  With incorporation in 1815, the House of Industry expanded the women's work to sewing and they began to make shirts, chemises, wrappers, bed clothes, pillow cases, petticoats and other items including quilts and comfortables, "soft thick quilts, used as substitutes for blankets and laid under the bedspread."  (Endnote 7)  Two quilting frames were donated to the House by John Bacon in 1841, a year in which 212 comfortables and thirty-one bed quilts were completed. (Endnote 8)
Detail of the House of Industry Quilt.  Photograph by Joseph Coscia, Jr.
Courtesy of the Arch Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The women's work was overseen by House managers appointed on a rotating, weekly basis from the membership of the Society.  They prepared the materials to be sewn, monitored the quality of the work, and provided weekly production reports.  (Endnote 9)  In addition to the volunteer managers, the House employed cooks, an elderly "Nurse" to watch over the children of those hired to sew, and a house Matron.  Ann Oliver Burns, born in England about 1791, became the first Matron of the House of Industry in 1826. (Endnote 10)  The widow of Jacob Burns, Ann was not a Quaker but rather a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  She received room and board as Matron and, in 1842 and 1844, earned an annual salary of $80.00 (the equivalent of $2,500 in 2013 dollars).  (Endnote 11)
Herr's article indicates that all of the blocks in Ann's quilt (seventy-six) display names of members of the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.  (Endnote 12)  Fifty-five of the names are those of Society managers actively serving at the House of Industry during the years 1840-1845, roughly the period of time when Ann's quilt blocks were being made.  The name of S. [Sarah] Wistar, an additional manager, is inscribed as Ann's "sincere friend" on the quilt's dedicatory panel.  Sarah herself was the recipient of a "Wistar Family Quilt" in 1842 dedicated to her by her nephews.  A block bearing the name of Ann Oliver Burns appears in this quilt, along with blocks bearing the names of other House of Industry friends.  Sarah's quilt is a holding of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Endnote 13)
Wistar Family Quilt.  Detail of block inscribed with the name "Ann Oliver Burns" 1842."  Photograph
courtesy of Carolyn Ducey and the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska.
To be continued.
The endnotes began in our prior post dated June 15, 2015,  They are continued here.
(4)  William Wade Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Volume II (Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, 1938), various.
(5)  Margaret Hope Bacon, Mothers of Feminism, The Story of Quaker Women in America (Philadelphia: Friends General Conference, 1986), 80 and The Constitution, By-Laws and Rules of the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor, Incorporated First Month, 1815 (Philadelphia: printed by James M. Armstrong, Inc., undated).  Preamble.  Note: The successor to this organization is the current Female Society of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting which still performs many charitable acts.
(6)  "Notebook of Catherine W. [Wistar] Morris, 1802", Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections, HC.Coll 1234, 1 volume, Z.2.22.  Note:  The "headquarters" of the Friendly Society was the home of Ann Parrish on Ramstead Street.  The House of Industry, according to Elizabeth W. Comfort, "The Female Society - Now and Then" in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting News (Volume XV, No. 5, August 1977), had various locations over time.  Society "Minutes" (cited below) refer to a location in Ramstead Court before it was moved to 70 North 7th Street in 1846.  The House was located at 112 North 7th Street at the time of Ann Burns' death in 1883, as attested by her home address on burial records.
(7)  Eliza Leslie, Miss Leslie's Lady's House-Book (Philadelphia: E.L. Carey and A. Hart, 1840), 313.  Thanks to Virginia Vis for this reference.
(8)  Sandra Sudofsky, "Research Notes", undated, "Minutes of the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor", 3rd mo 29th 1841, Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections, The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor Minutes, 1795-1978, 20 volumes, HC.Coll 1234, Z.1.1 - Z.1.10 and "Weekly House of Industry Reports, 1840-1845", Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections, House of Industry Weekly Reports 1830-1846, 8 volumes, HC.Coll. 1234, Z.2.7.  The Minutes and House of Industry Weekly Reports are hand-written and arranged according to date (inscribed in the Quaker style) without pagination.
(9)  The Minutes of the Society for the years 1840-1844 indicate that women were employed at the House of Industry only during the winter when the weather was cold and productivity would be increased by providing a spacious and warm environment for the sewing activity.  The Society usually opened the House in December and closed it by early April.
(10) "Minutes", 3rd mo 10th 1883, 1850 census records, and Historical Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, Reel 943, accessed through www.ancestrly.com.
11)  "Minutes", Treasurer's Reports for years ending 11 mo 30th 1842 and 11 mo 30th 1844.
(12)  Herr, "Quaker Quilts and Their Makers", 13.
(13)  For more about the Wistar Family Quilt, IQSC2005.059.0001, search the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's online collections and refer to Carolyn Ducey and Jonathan Gregory, What's in a Name?, Inscribed Quilts (Lincoln, NE: International Quilt Study Center  & Museum, 2012), 11-13.
(c)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.


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