July 1, 2016

Independence Day

July 4th is the day set aside each year to celebrate American independence.  With the date fast approaching, Lynda noted that the main fabric in a reproduction quilt she is making celebrates, not only independence, but also the "illustrious sons" of this country's liberty.  The quilt she is reproducing is not a Quaker quilt, but rather an Ohio Star quilt made in the 1840s that is part of a private collection.  Given the coming holiday, however, she thought it appropriate to acknowledge the commemoration of American independence by writing about the reproduction fabric she is using in her quilt.

The original quilt has Ohio Star blocks separated by blocks of a light-red pillar print.  The border of the original quilt is a blue pillar print.  Lynda was unable to find appropriately-colored reproduction pillar print fabrics but remembered that she had a piece of fabric in her stash that might well do to separate the blocks of Ohio Stars.  This fabric was produced by Windham Fabrics as part of its Williamsburg line and is titled "America Presenting at the Altar of Liberty Medallions of Her Illustrious Sons."  It is a reproduction of an English furnishing fabric printed about 1785 for the American market.

Partial panel from the Windham reproduction fabric "America Presenting at the
Altar of Liberty Medallions of Her Illustrious Sons," Windham pattern No. 30747. 
All photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
The  commemorative fabrics produced in England for American consumption so soon after American independence indicate the value seen by the British in exploiting the new American market, regardless of the British defeat that produced it.  These fabrics were copper-plate printed on cotton or linen, using single colors of red, blue, purple, or brown, and depicting allegorical, mythological, and historic figures copied from existing paintings and prints of the time.

The fabric Lynda is using depicts George Washington being crowned with a wreath by a figure of Fame.  The personification of Liberty attends an altar to the right assisted by Minerva, Commerce, and another symbolic figure.  (These are located to the right of the altar and are shown in the photograph below.)  Washington is accompanied by America, designated by her feather headdress, holding a medallion featuring the portraits of two men.  According to Florence Montgomery:  "The artist of this grandiose allegorical scene relied on the engraving by Valentine Green, after John Trumbull's painting of the youthful George Washington, and on portrait engravings of famous Americans by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, published in both French and English editions."  (Montgomery, 279,)

Minerva, Commerce and another figure to the right of the Altar of Liberty.  Detail of the
Windham Fabrics reproduction fabric titled "America Presenting at the Altar of Liberty
Medallions of Her Illustrious Sons."
 
The portraits portrayed on the fabric's medallions include those of  Benedict Arnold, Silas Deane, John Dickinson (a Quaker), William Henry Drayton, Benjamin Franklin, Horatio Gates, John Jay, John Laurens, Joseph Reed, William Thompson, and Fredrich Wilhelm Von Steuben.
 
 " Benedict Arnold?," one might ask! Prior to his defection to the British in 1780, Arnold was considered a hero of the Revolutionary War.  Two years after his defection, the war ended with the Battle of Yorktown and the American defeat of the British.  The fabric depicting Benedict Arnold on one of the medallions was printed about 1785 but probably was designed earlier.  Perhaps word of Arnold's treacherous actions had not reached England before the fabric plates were engraved.
 
Benedict Arnold.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
Evidence of the use of figures on textiles that were copied from other media is provided by the figure of George Washington on a similar fabric of the same period titled "The Apotheosis of Washington and Franklin."  The standing figure of Washington on both fabrics is identical with the exception that  his head is bare on the fabric shown above but bears a hat on the Apotheosis fabric.  This fabric shows him standing, reins in hand, in a chariot drawn by leopards and accompanied by a figure of America holding a plaque that reads:  "American Independence, 1776."  Above them, Benjamin Franklin and Athena are portrayed being led by Liberty toward the Temple of Fame carrying a banner that reads: "Where Liberty Dwells There Is My Country."
 
Lynda's reproduction quilt top (soon to be quilt) contains other elements reminiscent of American independence.  These are the stars that separate blocks of the commemorative fabric.
 
Portion of Lynda's reproduction quilt top showing the use of Ohio Star blocks
to separate the blocks of commemorative fabric.
 
The fabrics used for the Ohio Stars are reproduction fabrics from Lynda's stash, some of them from the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) fabric line titled "Circa 1825" by Sharon Yenter & Jason Yenter for In The Beginning Fabrics (2014).  The following photographs show fabrics from this line.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lynda had been wondering what to call this quilt, once it is finished.  Since it inspired this post, she has decided to call it Independence Day.
 
 Happy 4th of July to all of our American readers!  And, have a lovely summer to our other readers throughout the world.  We thank you all for visiting our blog.
 
Sources:
 
Affleck, Diane L. Fagan and Paul Hudson.  Celebration and Remembrance, Commemorative Textiles in America, 1790-1990. Lowell, MA:  Museum of American Textile History, 1990.
 
Frankliniana Data Base, The Philips Museum of Art, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA accessed 6/26/ 2016 at http://www.benfranklin300.org/frankliniana/result.php?id=679&sec=1.
 
 Montgomery, Florence M.  Printed Textiles, English and American Cottons and Linens, 1700-1860.  New York: The Viking Press, 1970.
 
Powell, G. Julie.  The Fabric of Persuasion, Two Hundred Years of Political Quilts.  Chadds Ford, PA:  Brandywine River Museum, 2000.
 
(c)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.
 

 
 
 
 




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