Thursday, August 17, 2017

More Thoughts on the Tree of Liberty Block

A couple of months ago I did a post on the 1859 Tree of Liberty quilt block from Esther Blair Matthews's "Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album Quilt" in the collection of the Virginia Quilt Museum.

Esther, born the year of American Independence 1776, has left us a confusing inscription:
"Tree of Liberty & United States." 

Her tree has 35 circles, thought maybe to represent the 33 states in the Union in 1859. Esther lived till 1866 so she saw the admission of the 35th state when Union West Virginia seceded from Confederate Virginia in 1863. But that was nothing for Esther to celebrate. Her family were Virginia Confederates from Rockingham County, near Harrisonburg.

Quilters are currently interpreting the quilt
Here's Doreen Johnson's Tree of Liberty.

The quilt is said to have made for her grandson, Addison Blair Martz who enlisted in the Confederate Virginia Infantry a few days after the first shots at Fort Sumter in April, 1861. According to a family bible:
"Addison B. Martz son of Hiram & Hannah Martz died May the 5th 1863 from the effect of a wound received in the Battle of Chancellorsville May the 3rd 1863."

The first Liberty Tree

The major problem in interpreting Esther's symbolism is the loss of cultural references over the generations. Were we examining the quilt in 1860 we might guess she was referring to the Liberty Tree of 1765 when Britain's Stamp Act enraged Boston's colonists who decorated an old elm tree on with lanterns, posters and effigies of the tax collectors.

Dawn at Collector with a Needle
found a print for each of Esther's circles.

Forty-five lanterns held political symbolism, linking the young rebellion with John Wilkes whose periodical The North Briton had incurred the wrath of the government for criticizing the King in the 45th issue.

No. 45 became a slogan of protest in England and in Boston.

Cream pot with a radical slogan from the
collection of Colonial Williamsburg

Teapot with portrait of John Wilkes.
He was such an icon of liberty that
Americans named their children for him:
John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's murderer was one.

Whether or not the first Liberty Tree actually had 45 lanterns we will never know, but the idea of a Liberty Tree was copied as an image of rebellion. John Adams noted in his diary in May, 1766:
"Saw for the first time a likely young button-wood tree, lately planted on a triangle made by three roads. The tree is well set, well guarded, and has on it an inscription, ‘The Tree of Liberty, and cursed is he who cuts this tree.' "
The slogan "45" was understood by all as a symbol the government should be more responsive to the citizens.

 Silversmith Paul Revere's No. 45 Punch Bowl.
45 toast were often offered.

In 1768 in Norwich, Connecticut, according to a local 19th-century history:
"An entertainment was given at Peck's tavern, adjoining Liberty Tree, to celebrate the election of Wilkes to Parliament. The principal citizens, both of town and landing, assembled on this festive occasion. All the furniture of the table, such as plates, bowls, tureens, tumblers and napkins, were marked 'No. 45.' ... The Tree of Liberty was decked with new emblems, among which, and conspicuously surmounting the whole, was a flag emblazoned with 'No. 45, Wilkes & Liberty.' "

Disneyworld has a Liberty Tree with lanterns.

If we were more familiar with the 18th-century concept of a Liberty Tree we might see related meaning in Esther Matthews's quilt, but then again 35 circles are not 45 lanterns. The idea of an elm tree with lights does give us a little insight into her meaning. We can wish she'd left an explanation of her symbolism, but I bet she thought she had.

Neva Hart has done much biographical research on Esther (whose birth name was Easter).
Read more here:

Tree of Liberty by Pamela Eubanks Winfield

And see what the stitchers who are making blocks from Esther's quilts are up to here:

Kay Butler's version of the latest block the Rainbow.

Post Script: One reason the number 45 lost its meaning is that other numbers associated with the Revolution like 13 and 76 replaced it in our iconography.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Happy Hour

From the Reiter Baltimore Album in the collection
of the Museum of American Folk Art.

Around here everybody else's autumn sedum looks like this.

Mine looks like this.

Last year I thought it might be deer nibbling but now I know the culprits.

Not only do the house finches demand a free drink every evening,
they want a salad bar too.

Photographic evidence. Mrs. Finch to left of pole about to
help herself.

From the Connecticut Quilt Project
and the Quilt Index.

It's one thing to lose your fruit to the birds.

But the whole plant! They balance on the top of the stem,
bend over and take a bite.

The sedum keep trying to bloom.

I could of course stop providing a happy hour.

But I guess I enjoy the finches more than I would the
pink flowers.

These last few birds are from a book Karla Menaugh & I did a few years ago. Juniper & Mistletoe is available in our Etsy shop.

Juniper & Mistletoe by Georgann Eglinski
and the Sewhatevers

The birds squawk if they don't think there is enough water.
I run and get them more.
They are as spoiled as the dog.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Past Perfect: Judy Martin

Colorado Log Cabin by Judy Martin about 1983

August's Past Perfect Quilt Star is Judy Martin, my old friend from Quilters' Newsletter.

We worked together at the magazine in the eighties. She lived in Colorado and was an editor. I mailed the editors articles in manila envelopes. It was fun to be at the center of what was happening. Judy had kids and moved to Iowa. But she never stopped making innovative quilts. (She counts over 250.)

35 years later quilters are still making Judy's Colorado Log Cabin (and not giving her enough credit.) It's the perfect example of an updated classic. She simply added a couple of seams to create secondary patterns. Brilliant!

Supernova is up in Iowa now

The Iowa Quilt Museum has a show of her recent work. Do go to Winterset, Iowa to see 
Innovation Meets Tradition: Judy Martin Quilts. It's up till October 1st, 2017. The quilts on display focus on Log Cabin and Star quilts, patterns she's explored for years.

Red Sky at Night

Over the years she has designed simple quilts and complex quilts.

Galileo's Star from the exhibit.

And simple quilts that look complex.

Hollywood Boulevard

Some of her designs are so "of course" that people tend to think they have always been around and they are free to use her ideas without any credit. All the pictures on this page are copyrighted by Judy Martin.

Wedding Bands with its staggered star borders
has been influential recently

  She's written over 20 books and published most of them with husband Steve. 

One of my favorites is an early book Patchworkbook, a design how-to for piecing.

Scrap Quilts is another early favorite. There is Colorado Log Cabin
on the top shelf.

Judy is from San Diego and grew up with a "mother who sewed and a father whose engineering profession encouraged mathematical practicality. She was at home with the sewing machine and with graph paper at an early age."

Flowering Star

Judy really did a lot to define the end-of-the-20th-century quilt and she is working on the 21st century now with new techniques and traditional designs.

Wave on Wave

Capistrano is in her 2010 book Stellar Quilts.
It's a variation on Flying Swallows.
See a post on the traditional block here:
Iowa Quilt Museum
Winterset is a 3 hour drive from Lincoln, Nebraska so you could see two of your favorite quiltmakers' work in one midwestern trip. Edyta Sitar's quilts are at IQSC's Quilt House in Lincoln, Judy Martin's in Iowa.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Ridiculously Popular Pillar Print

Nine patch with a pillar print border.
 Collection of the National Museum of American History
Smithsonian Institution
# 75.6381

Pillar print with a range of colors on
"a fancy trellis ground printed by block"
according to Linda Eaton. You can barely see the diamond-grid background.

It seems that everybody was buying this particular pillar print about 1830

"Pillar with baskets of fruit and flowers"

And why not? It had everything: Pillar with a bowl of fruit on the capital and between
the pillars a floral basket with some extra roses.

Detail of the Smithsonian's.

And a lot of curlicues.

The print was considered quite appropriate for borders for pieced quilts.

Four-patch from the Wilber family of Swansea, Massachusetts. 
Collection of Old Sturbridge Village. 
I color corrected the photo to see what colorway the border print was.

Old Sturbridge Village has two quilts with different colorways in the borders. You learn to recognize the chintz by the swag below the basket which makes a rather prominent loop.

She's cut up the print for the alternate squares and used the baskets for the border.

Collection: Old Sturbridge Village

The Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt has a nine patch, thought to be English, made about 1830.

This one is a little mysterious. The nine patches
look much later than the chintz. But then again: maybe
the pillar print was reproduced towards the end of the 19th century.

Collection of Historic Deerfield 
from Mass Quilts & the Quilt Index.

And in an era when striped bedcovering was the rage, the chintz made a fashionable whole cloth quilt. Above three lengths with the red ground.

Florence Montgomery was the Winterthur Museum's textile curator for many years. In her 1970 catalog Printed Textiles: English and American Cottons and Linens 1700-1850 she showed three versions in the museum collection. Her comments on the striped version below:
"Pillar with baskets of fruit and flowers. Roller printed, about 1830...[with] additions of yellow and a brown striped ground. By making these changes ...different chintzes could be offered at little additional cost."  (page 325, fig. 371)

In her 2014 update of the Winterthur catalog Linda Eaton shows five examples with the most outrageous being the stripe Montgomery described (#C-258, page 293). She notes different print quality in the various pieces with the details printed by cylinder and additional color added with blocks. The brown stripe above was printed over the top by "surface roller." 

Note to self: If fabric not selling well suggest printing an unrelated stripe over the top 

 A collage of 10 colorways

I now have found 15 colorways with variations in background and figure colors.

Wholecloth quilt from the Connecticut project:
Chocolate brown ground with red and white figures.

That's darker than this light brown version in
the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 

Winterthur also has a two-color toile-style piece as a pillow cover.

Eaton shows this one on a green ground with the addition of a white discharged
tassel and lace. The column is marbleized here. 

So what was the source of the "Pillar with baskets of fruit and flowers," as Montgomery called it. Linda Eaton says "Printed in Britain; 1830s." I'm guessing Lancashire County in England where the many mills produced rather inexpensive furnishing fabrics for export. More than one mill might have printed this popular print.

I have been working on this post for a couple of weeks and last week I was going to say with authority that the fabric was a favorite with Northerners, particularly New Englanders. You just don't see it in Southern quilts, I thought.

But then I found Ann Adeline Orr Parks's panel medallion in the North Carolina Quilts book. Ann (1803-1835) was a young woman in her late 20s or early 30s when this quilt was made. Her husband David Parks owned a dry goods store in Charlotte, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina.

I wonder if anyone cut the basket out of the white chintz
to applique in Broderie-Perse fashion.

Another quilt attributed to Mecklenberg County below, this one dated 1833, confirming the estimated date of early 1830s.

1833 Grandmother Kendall for Ethel F. Munday. Brunk Auction.

Apparently they liked the red ground pillar print in North Carolina too. I imagine the print was sold by dry goods retailers from Maine to Savannah. It would be hard to find another print with more than 15 variations.

Terry Terrell has commented on my Facebook page:

"Your obsession pillar print pictures show two slightly different prints. Most show smaller acanthus leaves on the capitals and flowers baskets on right with fruit baskets on left.

Note the baskets...  (fruit basket on right, flowers on left) and the acanthus leaves on the capitals are larger and swing upward like an old-fashioned mustache. Your red example at the bottom left, and the yellow example at the bottom right are like the attached picture. So which is the copy and which is the original? I have been trying to guess for some time."
Thank you, Terry. I guess we have 16 variations unless it's the same as this one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Theirs may be unfaded red, while the one Terry sent is faded to pink.

Sandra Starley contributed this blue and white version.

Then I found an answer to my question: Did anyone ever cut out the basket for a cut-out chintz motif? See the book Chintz Quilts from the Poos Collection, pp 287 & 140. She's cut the basket (They call it Bias Weave Yellow Basket) from the chintz four times for the corners of a feathered star.

They mention a quilt with similar basket in the center from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum collection #1997.007.0454.

I am going to have to give up counting and go with my original estimate of Ridiculously Popular.