Quilts of the Civil War at NY Historical Society

Pat Young

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Now through August:

To mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-1865), the New-York Historical Society presents a groundbreaking traveling exhibition, Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, organized by the American Textile History Museum. The exhibition uses quilts, textiles, clothing, and other artifacts to connect deeply moving and insightful personal stories about the war, its causes, and its aftermath with the broader national context and public history.

Find out more here.
 

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JPK Huson 1863

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OH my gosh, bet that's a super, super exhibit, thank you! I think the quilt shown here is the famous Civil War Bride's Quilt,
http://thecivilwarbridequilt.blogspot.com/

There's an entire ' club' built around recreating this woman's Civil War experience, very cool, the link above tracks some of them. We have some of it here in a thread.

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/civil-war-bride-quilt-aka-bird-of-paradise-quilt.91617/

“ The Bird of Paradise Quilt Top, made during the Civil War period, is thought to be an unfinished marriage or wedding quilt. This idea is supported by the vertical rows of appliqued blocks that feature pairs of birds and other animals. In addition to these animal pairs, other symbols of union and fertility can be found on the bedcover; they include birds tending nests of eggs, flowers, and fruits. The only aberration appears in the two top blocks of the quilt top. A single female figure is appliqued onto one block, but the square next to her is nearly empty, save for the decorative leaves and flowers. Newspaper templates, including a template of a male figure, were found with this quilt top, suggesting that perhaps the quilt was never finished, and the marriage it was intended to celebrate never took place.
The quilt top also features depictions of famous nineteenth-century racehorses and of an elephant named Hanible (?), who had traveled throughout New York State during this period with his trainer.”

"The Civil War Bride Quilt Blog is for those of us making the quilt from the pattern by Corliss Searcey of Threadbear in Castlemaine, Victoria," Is the tag line from the first blog spot you'll find. There's also more information on her somewhere here- no time this morning to put my finger on it, remember finding something in a Google book.

Thanks very much for head's up, Pat, these old things are just endlessly wonderful.
 

18thVirginia

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What a great exhibit!

The second quilt looks like it's based on a kind of wool quilt that was typical, not usually made for beauty but for warmth--but upgraded with the flag and silhouette piecing.

There's been talk on other threads about a lack of interest in Civil War events, but there was just recently a thread on Civil War Photographs at a museum in New Orleans. Can we easily quantify how many people will visit museums where Civil War exhibits are featured?

My personal experience as I've gathered information for some family stories to give to the grandchildren, is that there's interest in the "how's" of daily life, or of the ordinary soldier's life, or about horses or supply lines and less on battles.
 

Pat Young

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What a great exhibit!
There's been talk on other threads about a lack of interest in Civil War events, but there was just recently a thread on Civil War Photographs at a museum in New Orleans. Can we easily quantify how many people will visit museums where Civil War exhibits are featured?

My personal experience as I've gathered information for some family stories to give to the grandchildren, is that there's interest in the "how's" of daily life, or of the ordinary soldier's life, or about horses or supply lines and less on battles.
I think you are right. You can draw people into the broader study of history by looking at the material culture of the people of the time.

I think that instead of the regular lamenting of "lack of interest" here, we might do better to help publicize these exhibits as well as popular culture vehicles like "Lincoln" and "12 Years a Slave". We have a year left in the Sesqui and we should figure out how to make it count.

Certainly here in New York major cultural institutions like the Met and the NY Historical Society have mounted major exhibits and programs on the war which seem to be discounted in the discussion of the Sesqui because they don't involve battlefields and reenactors and they appeal to the general public beyond the Civil War Community.

Since no toy soldiers or Confederate Battle Flags are sold at the gift shops and the visitors are typically art or culture fans rather than Civil War buffs these manifestations of people's interest in the period are discounted as "not really about the Sesqui."
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Ha! Awfully happy to see that line of study, too- it's fascinating to me, thought that was just evidence of adult all-over-the-place ADD or something. Tool down our list of threads in Ladies Tea- members have brought us SUCH a cool list of this kind of every-day life ' stuff'- too absorbing, isn't it? Our member, RobertP and his wife inherited an amazing, amazing standing and untouched museum quality, ENTIRE household of items they share when these subjects come up, too many to provide links to- I keep saying it's like a virtual museum of he era we get to view for free. It's as you said- these things which were part of plain, old life at the time seem awfully important, since it's the world these folks woke up to every day, you know? Down to the tea cups our women drank from, discussing the news- to that incredible quilt ( wait until you see it ) RobertP's grgr ( forget how many? ) grandmother designed, for the Confederacy- it's ridiculous, it's so cool. Get this- that thing is stained with water, with red iron in it, from the waters of the RED RIVER, no lie! Literally twice part of History, designed as a proud statement, then fell into THAT river at THAT time,when the family had to be uprooted because of the war! Make your toes tingle, doesn't it?

Then what happens, one of those items gets posted, we'll get other members with family items with stories attached who bring their treasures, too- there's a clock thread, knock your socks off, a few others. Didn't mean to get so lengthy, just have always been flattened by this side of things. Kind of good to know we haven't just been poking around in folk's closets for no good purpose. :smile:
 

Pat Young

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Ha! Awfully happy to see that line of study, too- it's fascinating to me, thought that was just evidence of adult all-over-the-place ADD or something. Tool down our list of threads in Ladies Tea- members have brought us SUCH a cool list of this kind of every-day life ' stuff'- too absorbing, isn't it? ...
Then what happens, one of those items gets posted, we'll get other members with family items with stories attached who bring their treasures, too- there's a clock thread, knock your socks off, a few others. Didn't mean to get so lengthy, just have always been flattened by this side of things. Kind of good to know we haven't just been poking around in folk's closets for no good purpose. :smile:
A lot of that material culture was produced by Civil War Era women. Because of their exclusion from many aspects of civil society we don't always have their words preserved, but we can read their quilts.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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" Search for Civil War clues on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum (Can you find the flag for New York's 39th Regiment? What about the soldier's uniform that still has dirt and grime from the last day of battle?) " ( From the above website Pat provided )

Whoa. Who does that? How awesome an idea for an institution to yank on children's heads, get them interested in History while making it fun for the ones who may not have been bitten yet? VERY cool, thanks for the head's up!! New York does an awfully good job with this kind of thing. Even ' just ' county historical societies tend to have incredible amounts of organized resources and as for the libraries? Forget about it- hand's down, the most pleasant folks for one thing. Rochester? You never call them without someone staying on the phone for a good 20 minutes longer than you'd think, turning over ever stone- heck they find stones you never knew existed FOR you. As for their Civil War collection- when I win the Super Bowl and someone sticks a camera in my face, the answer to ' Where are YOU going? ' isn't going to be ' Disney Land '. It'll be ' Rochester Library '.
 

Pat Young

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" Search for Civil War clues on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum (Can you find the flag for New York's 39th Regiment? What about the soldier's uniform that still has dirt and grime from the last day of battle?) " ( From the above website Pat provided )

Whoa. Who does that? How awesome an idea for an institution to yank on children's heads, get them interested in History while making it fun for the ones who may not have been bitten yet? VERY cool, thanks for the head's up!! New York does an awfully good job with this kind of thing. Even ' just ' county historical societies tend to have incredible amounts of organized resources and as for the libraries? Forget about it- hand's down, the most pleasant folks for one thing. Rochester? You never call them without someone staying on the phone for a good 20 minutes longer than you'd think, turning over ever stone- heck they find stones you never knew existed FOR you. As for their Civil War collection- when I win the Super Bowl and someone sticks a camera in my face, the answer to ' Where are YOU going? ' isn't going to be ' Disney Land '. It'll be ' Rochester Library '.
They started the Spring Break week at NYHS with a Civil War living history presentation by reenactors.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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There's a thread here on the famous ' Gunboat Quilts ', too- which is fascinating- even more so than just the concept which kills you enough. The women had a tough time, as you said, being able to contribute but this they WERE able to do and in a very real not to mention effective way. Something as frivolous and household-bound as a QUILT exchanged for a massive, deadly machine of war. You look at the quilts too, and these were not merely ' quilts' but the women pulled all the stops out in displays of unbelievable embroidery- truly museum quality, the kinds of stitches you see on the christening clothes worn by royal infants. Can't remember from the top of my head the money raised- direct contributions resulting in entire SHIPS produced, but it's impressive as heck!!

Funny, too- while it's not tough to find some information on these lovely old things, there's not a ton of it. Considering the achievement and the bizarre concept- you'd have thought it'd be one of the sterling, much-fussed over events of the war.
 


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