Monday, April 23, 2018

Past Perfect: Judie Rothermel

April's Past Perfect featured quilt designer is Judie Rothermel.

Judie has been designing reproduction fabrics since 1987.

She's done many collections of Aunt Grace 1930s's repro prints.

Tea Leaves

And lots of miniature quilts

How many repro lines in 31 years!
What a gift for us traditional quiltmakers.

Sturbridge Stars

Her lines and quilt designs range across the 19th century and into the 20th.

Thirteen Stars from 2007.

Her quilts are often simple patchwork making the most of
 old-fashioned prints.

Stars & Bars

Centennial Quilt
She's known for her samplers too.

Heirloom Applique

Judie's Album Quilt

Judie's inspiration has been antique quilts from her own collection and from museums such as Old Sturbridge Village and the New England Quilt Museum. She and husband Bob ran the Schoolhouse Quilt Shoppe in Canton, Ohio for decades.

The shop is now open by appointment only.

Thanks to Judie and Marcus Brothers for providing us with so much of our stash of repro prints.

Nineteenth Century Schooldresses
One of her latest lines

Friday, April 20, 2018

Solar System Quilt

Solar System
A.D. 1876
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution

In 1866 Nathan Mills gave a lecture at a Quaker meeting house in Iowa. According to the church history, "The subject of his lecture was 'Astronomy.' The chart he used was a bed quilt so quilted as to represent the solar system."

Perhaps his visual aid looked much like Ellen Harding Baker's Solar System Quilt pictured above.
Sarah Ellen Harding Baker was living in Cedar County, Iowa ten years later in 1876, the date on this wool quilt.

She may be the "Iowa woman" referred to in an article copied in several newspapers in the winter of 1883-1884. "An Iowa woman has spent seven years in embroidering a solar system on a quilt."

Sarah Ellen Harding Baker (1847-1886)
From the Smithsonian's site

Had she started in 1876, seven years would make it 1883. Ellen Baker was busy in those years raising her five surviving children and embroidering stars.

An "astronomical quilt" was not that unusual. In 1853 the Washington Mechanics' Fair Instititute  listed many quilts shown at their first exhibit, among them M.F. Saffel's "astronomical quilt."

Eliza Sumner's 1848 "Family Register Quilt" 
also includes "A Representation of the Starry Heavens" and 
"The Sun and its Rays in their irregular order."

The quilt was documented by the Massachusetts project and featured in their book Massachusetts Quilts: Our Commonwealth. Eliza (1802-1856) lived in Spencer, Massachusetts

An 1873 story in the Chicago Tribune featured a Celestial Bed Quilt with no pictures.


Sold at Carlsen Gallery Auction
Quilt by an unknown maker representing the sun and
seven planets in circular orbits. Mars, perhaps, or
Mercury is red; Jupiter has stripes; Saturn rings and moons.

From Woodard & Greenstein
Suns, moons and stars are not unusual choices for

From Laura Fisher

From James Cox Antiques

But most seem to have no scientific function.

A celestial chart from 1834

E.H. Baker is buried in the Lone Tree Cemetery in Johnson County, Iowa.

I'd make one but I'd have to decide whether to include Pluto or not.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Thomas Allom: A Lancashire Cotton Mill in the 1830s

Women working at power looms in Lancashire about 1835
from a watercolor by Thomas Allom

Thomas Allom (1804-1872)

Thomas Allom was an architect and painter who visited a huge cotton mill
in Preston in Lancashire, England in the early 1830s.

Swainson, Birley & Company
a hand-colored engraving from an Allom painting of the Fishwick Mills

The Swainson and Birley mills had a history of over a century. Their buildings were variously known as the Bannister Hall Printworks and the Fishwick Mills.

 1882 cotton kerchief celebrating the Fishwick Mills

 Swainson was considered the best furniture printer at the time --- furniture being
a name for chintz. This ca. 1835 print is in the collection of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Allom probably had a commission to record the workings of the mill---the latest technology. His watercolors were engraved as prints and included in an 1835 book by Edward Baines: History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain

Black and white engraving in Baines's book.

Allom's picture of calico printing on cylinder presses is an
often reproduced engraving from the book. 

Border stripe printed by Swainson about 1835
The Victoria & Albert Museum has several prints from the Swainson mills
See the whole print here:

Carding, drawing and roving the cotton fiber.
Allom painted four steps in cotton print production beginning with carding the
raw cotton by machine.

The wood engravings produced for multiple printings are quite impressive. More impressive are the actual watercolors that Allom painted, which are in the collection of the Manchester Science Museum.

The paintings are described as "pencil, pen, sepia and wash"

Allom was working about five years before photographs.

His attention to detail is best seen in the paintings

Spinning the yarn on mule spinners, the second step.
(There were spinning jennies and spinning mules---named for work animals.)

Power-Loom Weaving, the third step

Note how many young women were employed. In 1835 a local medical examiner counted 433 mill employees between the ages of 11 and 18 of which 256 were girls. 

See the Allom paintings here

The accession numbers on the paintings indicate they were acquired in 1985. I would imagine
they were purchased at a Christie's Auction then. A real treasure.

Allom's painting of the mills
The 7-story main building opened in the mid 1820s  was known locally as the Big Factory

Read Baines's book here

And learn all about the "Great Mechanical Inventions"

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Tottenville Sisters #4: Dating the Quilts

How old are these Totten Family quilts?  Florence Peto and family member Ella Butler recorded a chronology in the 1930s. According to that:

The Smithsonian's with the initials BT was about 1812.

Charlotte Winter's watercolor from the WPA Index of American Design
The Farmers' Museum's Sunflower was older.

John Oster's watercolor from the WPA Index of American Design
The Staten Island Historical Society's is dated 1835.

All we have to go on here are watercolors and photographs. We have far more visual information about the quilt with the initials BT at the Smithsonian than we do about the Mary Ann Dubois quilt at the Staten Island Historical Society or the sunflower quilt. We can't really compare the actual prints but we can compare print style and I have to say I think these quilts were all made at roughly the same time.

The red and green above are two common fabrics in all three quilts.

The blues looks to be blue blotch-ground chintzes.

Reds: Turkey red grounds and several stripes and plaids

All from the same period. But what period?
Based on the fabrics: 
I'd say a transition between chintz fashion and calico fashion.

The two star quilts (and there is supposed to be a third) must have taken years to applique.

Pattern is a good dating clue here. I wrote about the sunflower yesterday.

Here's one dated 1832.

I doubt the Totten sunflower was made much earlier than the stars.

Irene Schaefer's watercolor of the BT quilt
at the Smithsonian.

The Rising Sun or Star of Bethlehem pieced design in the center doesn't appear until the early 19th century. Both star quilts feature stars pieced of a 9x9 grid of diamonds, 81 diamonds in each arm. The earliest date-inscribed similar design is in the collection of the Delaware Historical Society

"Catherine Collins Hur Work August the 7 1806."
Quilts dated in the first years
of the 19th century are rather scarce. 

The next date-inscribed large star in my picture files is 1835
the same year that is on the Dubois star. 

Made by Zerviah Miner of Litchfield, Connecticut, 1835.
Collection Madison Historical Society 

Detail of the Miner quilt also with 81 diamonds per point 
and pieced of reds and yellow small-scale prints

I have two block-style star quilts in the files dated 1839.

By Sarah Kyle, 1839. DAR Museum Collection

1839. From Julia's inventory at
Pique Trouver.

This is definitely a style that makes good use
of the newly fashionable Turkey reds.

BT- Smithsonian
The are dating it to the 1830s now.

The applique pattern is also a style characteristic. The Totten stars feature florals cut from chintz and leaves and buds cut from calicoes, an unusual combination.

The Smithsonian has another quilt dated 1818 with similar style in the medallion center.
Note the larger chintz florals and blue calico leaves.

Quilt dated "1818 Ann Dagg.s"

Dated 1837-38 by 
Adeline Wineberger Lusby in the Smithsonian
Cut-out chintz ranges from about 1775 to 1865.
Not much help.

Patchwork pattern tells us that the quilts could be as early as 1800 but much more likely to date from after 1825. 

The Dubois quilt dated 1835 may be the best indicator of date. 

Betsey Totten's marriage record 1795

But the problem with this late date is that Betsey Totten (BT on the Smithsonian's quilt) was only BT until 1795 when she married William Cole and became BC. I can't believe these quilts were made as early as the time of Betsey's marriage.

Who made the quilts?
The Totten sisters of Tottenville.

Letitia Totten Johnson is an unlikely candidate as she died in 1833 at 50.

The most likely candidate is Elizabeth Totten Cole  (1772-1860). 

Richmond County Bible Records
Betsey lived quite a long life,
dying at almost 90 years old.

But then there's Mary Totten Polhemus Williams(1781-1861) who lived a little longer than her sister and mentioned a Rising Sun spread in her will. Rachel's a possibility. Rachel Totten Johnson Butler (1778-1858) only lived to be 80. The quilts seem to have descended in the Butler family.

Have I solved any of the Tottenville puzzle? I doubt it.
If I were writing a caption for one of the quilts it might say:
One of at least four quilts attributed to the Totten Family of Staten Island, sometime in the first half of the nineteenth century. Four Totten sisters Elizabeth, Mary, Rachel and Letitia were born in the 1770s and '80s and lived into the mid-nineteeth century. One quilt is dated 1835 and they all may date to that time.
Recent quilt inspired by the Totten Rising Sun
at the Smithsonian and another applique. 
See the green lozenge shapes in the last border.
My notes just say Laura and Sandy. Know who made this one?

Laura Franchini and Sandi McMillan made the recent masterpiece. Thanks to commenters for the detective work. And for the suggestion that a Totten sister in law may have made the BT quilt. More Tottens!