November 15, 2016

Researching Joy's Quilt

We introduced you to Joy Swartz and her red and white quilt in our last post.  Lynda is still researching the names that appear on the quilt and trying to find out enough about the people named to discover their stories.  Meanwhile, we would like to share with you some of the challenges of this kind of research.

Block inscribed with a decorative branch and the name of Susan Hoydsicke (?).  All
photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth unless cited otherwise.
Often, the first challenge one discovers is badly faded or illegible writing.  Without being able to transcribe the names on an inscribed quilt, the kind of information one can discover is greatly reduced.  Joy's quilt has, for the most part, clearly written or stamped names and, since the quilt has never been used or washed, almost all of the names are easy to read.  Where this isn't the case, it is mainly due to ink smudges or to migration which renders part of the name unreadable.  An interesting aspect (still needing research) of some of the blocks on Joy's quilt is the application of some sort of substance (perhaps bee's wax?) over the names to protect them from deterioration and fading. [Note:  One reader has suggested that the substance may have been placed on the fabric to provide an easier writing surface and is, in fact, under the signature.]  If any of you out there are familiar with this practice, please comment on this post and tell us what you know!
Block with a substance applied over the inked name to protect it.  This photograph
courtesy of Susan W. Greene.
A second challenge pertains to census records.  Census takers in the nineteenth century moved from house to house along a street or rural road, knocking on doors and asking the inhabitants to tell them who lived in the residence.  The head of household, usually a man, was recorded first by the census taker who wrote down what he heard.  It is common to find the same last name of a family spelled three or four different ways over census years, depending on how the census taker "heard" it and how he chose to spell what he heard.  For example, while doing the research for Lynda's book Philena's Friendship Quilt: A Quaker Farewell to Ohio, Lynda found members of the Hambleton family listed in census records as Hamilton, Hammelton and Hamildon.  Census record searches, as well as other Internet searches, are done by name and, if you are not finding people, you have to try different possible spellings of the last name and see what pops up.  In the case of Joy's quilt, Lynda has found in census records over time three different spellings of the name Faringer which appears seven times on the quilt.  These spellings are Ferringer, Fehringer, and Farringer.
Stamped block bearing the name Eliza H. Faringer.
A third challenge to identifying the people named on inscribed quilts is the nineteenth century tradition of naming members of each generation after a prior one.  This is especially true in the case of Quaker quilts.  Also, people tended to marry people from their communities and their distant family members (such as cousins) so last names were also passed on along with given names.  Figuring out which of many Eliza Faringers, for example, is the one named on Joy's quilt requires the knowledge of critical dates that separate generations.  One of the blocks that addresses an Eliza in verse displays a date of 1848.  The only other date inscribed on the quilt is 1857.
A date provided as part of an inscription can give an indication of the time frame in which a person may have lived. This can be misleading, however, because members of the Religious Society of Friends as well as other quilt makers often inscribed on their quilts the names of beloved family members who had passed away, along with the year of their death.  One example of this was a block inscribed "Whitson Cooper" with the date 1835 in Philena's quilt.  Whitson was her father who had died eighteen years before her quilt was made and dated in 1853.  
Block inscribed Susanna Douglas, Germantown, 1857.
A further challenge is determining the geographical locations of people named on a quilt when that location is not provided as part of the inscription.  Geographical location is the key to many Internet data bases that may provide information about the surroundings and history of the places where they lived, as well as their participation in civic, political, religious and other community activities.  If only a few of the quilt blocks indicate locations, these have to serve as the clues followed to find the geographical locations of others who are named on the quilt. Inscribed friendship quilts usually provide documentation of the people closest to the quilt recipient or quilt maker.  They will be generally from the same community, church group, or family groups.  In the case of Joy's quilt, Lynda is searching for information about the people in the areas of Philadelphia and nearby communities.  We'll see how well she does!
A block bearing the name of Martha Crout from Philadelphia.  Note the chain stitching that affixes
the red fabric to the block.
Again, our thanks to Joy Swartz for letting us explore what stories are to be told by her unique quilt.
(C)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.



November 2, 2016

A Profusion of Red

One of the many pleasures of attending the American Quilt Study Group Seminar in Tempe last September was meeting fellow-attendees Joy Swartz from Prescott, Arizona, and Florence McConnell from Manteca, California.  Lynda had spoken with Florence several times while writing a blog post about some Quaker blocks Florence had purchased that were made by members of the Bunting family. (Refer to our post dated April 15, 2015.)  Knowing our interest in Quaker quilts, Florence introduced Lynda to Joy who had, in tow, a quilt made with red print fabrics her husband had recently purchased at auction. The quilt had been described as "Quaker" and Lynda agreed to take a look at it and give her opinion.

Photo of a portion of the quilt that appeared in an auction catalog.  Courtesy of
Barbara Brackman.
Joy brought the quilt to the hotel room Lynda was sharing with Alice Kinsler and the three of them spread it out on one of the beds where Lynda took photographs of all of the blocks and the inscriptions either hand-written or stamped on them.  It was obvious that the names would have to be researched to determine whether or not there were Quaker identities present and Lynda volunteered to do the research. 
Alice (left) and Joy with the quilt. Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The white border, backing, and red print binding of the quilt were added to a much earlier central portion that features blocks appliqued with quarter-circles in the four corners and a central circle (resembling a Cheerio) where names and other inscriptions are added.  Two of the quilt blocks display dates - one, with an accompanying verse, is dated 1848 and another is dated 1857.  The central portion of the quilt measures approximately 75 X 75 inches and is comprised of seven 10 1/2 inch blocks across and seven down.  The more modern border is eleven inches wide, is mitered at the corners, and bears a modern red print, 3/8 inches wide, as binding.  An interesting feature of the quilt is the use of a chain stitch to affix some of the block elements to the white fabric beneath them.  The rest are affixed using a hand-applique stitch.
Block with elements affixed using a chain stitch.
Block displaying both hand-applique and chain stitching.
Lynda is in the process of researching the names that appear on the quilt and has so far identified at least two families who were members of the Religious Society of Friends. When she has finished more of her research, she will provide additional posts that tell the stories the quilt reveals.
Meanwhile, Florence McConnell called to point out that two photos of the quilt's blocks appear in Susan W. Greene's remarkable book on textiles titled Wearable Prints, 1760-1860.  Hoping to learn more about the origins of the quilt, Lynda contacted Susan to see if she knew who had owned the quilt before Joy's husband bought it at auction.  It turned out that Susan, herself, was the prior owner but she too had bought it at auction with little information about provenance.  Her main interest was the large number of different, pristine red prints (thirty by her count) used in the quilt.  She incorporated photographs of two of the blocks in her book (page 340) as illustrations related to the topic "Colored Discharge on Turkey Red and Madder."
The discharge technique was developed in 1811 by Alsatian textile manufacturers Koechlin & Freres using chemical means to bleach out (or discharge) patterns from already colored cloth, especially indigo blue and Turkey reds.  The technique was refined over time by the use of pastes containing various colorants to produce red prints bearing multiple colors and elaborate patterns.  These prints, mainly imported from France and England in the early to mid-nineteenth century, were popular for making children's clothing and often found their way into album quilts and the red and green quilts favored by mid-Atlantic quilt makers, including Quakers.
Reproduction "Quaker" quilt made by Lynda Salter Chenoweth for Mary Holton Robare.
Whatever stories will be told by Joy's quilt when sufficient research is completed, the center of the quilt itself provides a small "encyclopedia" of red print fabrics (some of which may be Turkey reds) available at the time it was made.  That time may end up being a range, such as 1845-1860, unless Lynda's research results in pin-pointing people and events that narrow the time span.
Photograph courtesy of Susan W. Greene.
Our thanks to Joy Swartz for generously making the quilt available for study and presentation on our blog, and to Florence McConnell and Susan W. Greene for contributing information about the quilt and its fabrics.
Greene, Susan W.  Wearable Prints, 1760-1860, History, Materials, and Mechanics.  Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2014.
Storey, Joyce.  The Thames and Hudson Manual of Textile Printing.  New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1987.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.