Research Paper Presentations

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Family, Friends, Merchants, & Religion in the Early 1840s

Joyce Fullerton Smith

Harriet Miller Shinn was born in 1817, the eldest of five children of a wealthy New Jersey farmer. She and her sister were a year apart in age and learned to make samplers and quilts together as part of their education. Two of Harriet’s early quilts survive, along with a period sampler. These two album quilts, one with inscriptions, were both made about 1842.

Answering the initial question of why one quilter, Harriet, and her entire immediate family are inscribed on not only the family signature album quilt, but also on two other signature album quilts revealed information about the three makers of these quilts and insight about the relationships of their families and their friends. In addition, information about a previously unidentified quilter came to light, evidence of strong mercantile ties among a group of men, their wives and their families was found, and, perhaps most intriguing, indications of early Mormon influence on the local New Jersey community was discovered. These quilts are primary material documents, the study of which provides a wealth of information furthering our knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of community and social networks, the role of business associations, and the complexity of religion in a state of flux in the early nineteenth-century New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Joyce Fullerton Smith is a California fiber and folk artist who gained her interest in textiles and American history during her childhood in Australia and up and down the east coast. Memorable was her great-aunt Lauretta Eppler who gave her a quilt, handmade from small squares of early twentieth century shirting fabrics, long since worn out by too much loving. Joyce developed a curiosity about all things textile, particularly sewing, weaving, and basketry. Knowing no one who quilted, and unaware she “couldn’t”, Joyce made her first quilt for her niece with only her imagination and guidance from McCall’s Magazine. It was a charming appliquéd quilt with hand quilted lines twelve inches apart and stitches about three to an inch.

Joyce earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Pennsylvania State University and her Masters of Arts from Stanford University. She has been a teacher in Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and California, an arts and crafts camp director, a Girl Scout leader and trainer, and a member of AQSG since 2009. The Seminar at Cherry Hill, New Jersey, led to an exploration of the near-by home town and life history of the maker of several inherited quilts, a fascination with genealogy, and a love of chintz appliqué. Her early exploration into the history of her family album quilts was described in Blanket Statements, No. 107, Spring 2012.

The Chintz Gardens of Achsah Goodwin Wilkins: A Baltimore Quilter

Ronda H. McAllen

Achsah Goodwin Wilkins, one of the most prolific quiltmakers of early-nineteenth-century Baltimore, left a legacy of appliquéd counterpanes that reflect her eye for elegance and the grace of her privileged life in Baltimore’s elite genteel society. A collection of twenty quilts and counterpanes were inherited by the Goodwin descendents; sixteen of which document Achsah’s style of designing large chintz appliqué masterpieces. Her choice of imported English fabrics and the center medallion format was considered the high style of upper-class society. Her use of woven mock-Marseilles as the ground, an element making her creations rare and distinct, sets her apart from her contemporaries. This paper explores Achsah’s early life and family background and that of her husband, William, to argue that, while the works are attributed to Achsah, others, such as her mother, sister, enslaved persons, and free servants, likely played a role in their production.

Ronda Harrell McAllen is an independent quilt scholar and genealogist specializing in Baltimore Album quilts and Maryland history. She has presented at Colonial Williamsburg, the Daughters of the American Revolution Symposium, as well as the American Quilt Study Group. Her papers Jewish Baltimore Album Quilts was published in 2006 and Baltimore Album Quilts – New Research was published in 2017. Ronda has worked with numerous authors and quilt scholars on the origins and understanding of early American quilts and their makers.

Political Partisanship in the Tristan Furnishings

Kathryn Berenson

The medieval sister quilts known as the Coperta Guicciardini and the Tristan Quilt, in the collections of the National Museum of the Bargello, Florence, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, have fascinated the quilt world since these museums acquired them in the early twentieth century. Understanding of these rare textile survivors -- who made them and where and why -- is thwarted by loss of documentation over the centuries and is distorted by modern-day interpretation.

The two quilted furnishings, likely to have been hangings rather than bedcovers, hold twenty-two scenes representing an episode in the fictional story of Tristan, a member of King Arthur’s Round Table. In my presentation, “Political Partisanship in the Tristan Furnishings,” I place these scenes in narrative order based on contemporary manuscripts to create what is, essentially, a medieval graphic novel. (Although images of the Tristan Quilt have been available on the V&A Museum’s website, this will be the first time AQSG Seminar participants will have an opportunity to see images of the Coperta Guicciardini.)

The presentation includes discussion of the patron’s choice of this particular episode in the context of fourteenth-century arts and literature, and political and religious events specific to the Italian peninsula between 1370 and 1400. The conclusion reviews the interests of the Guicciardini family of Florence during that same period, whose twentieth-century descendants still owned these wonderful, evocative quilted furnishings.

My interest in textile history began while researching wholecloth French quilted needlework, progressed to seeking origins of corded Marseille quilting, and recently has focused on medieval quilted furnishings documented on the Italian peninsula. I have made innumerable presentations and written two books, contributed to two others, and published articles for journals and museums in the United States, France, Great Britain, and Italy.


A Regional Study of Vessel, Vine, and Floral Quilt Borders

Xenia Cord

Ohio, the Border State: A Regional Study of Vessel, Vine, and Floral Quilt Borders investigates one frequently used border as a harbinger of Ohio origin, even in the absence of provenance. Framed around a variety of design fields popular in the mid-nineteenth century, one specific border design is recognizable in many quilts of Ohio origin. Accumulated examples and genealogical research through three case studies combine to affirm Ohio’s established and progressive culture as fertile ground for the localization of this border design.

Using quilt borders as a clue to origin has not commonly been studied. Researchers have considered fabric color combinations, specialized fabric prints, block shapes and patterns, and localized constructions, recognizing that their common presence may identify quilts in time and space. Adding border designs and construction techniques to the compendium of localized quilt characteristics offers one more avenue of research in the study of quilt history.

Xenia Cord is an independent researcher who received her BA in History and English, and her MA in Folklore and American Studies from Indiana University. For twenty years she taught Folklore at Indiana University Kokomo, during which time she discovered quilts and AQSG. Since then she has served on the Board, been co-chair with Sally Ambrose of the initial Endowment fund drive, and been AQSG president. She has written numerous articles for Blanket Statements, and had two previous research papers accepted for publication in Uncoverings. Xenia is an Associate Fellow at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, and served on its International Advisory Board and as Acquisitions Coordinator. She is the co-author, with Kay and Lori Triplett, of Chintz Quilts from the Poos Collection, and is the 2018 Quilters Hall of Fame honoree. She makes, collects, and sells quilts.