Making a Living Making Quilts: A Historical Perspective

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ann Adeline Orr Parks: Family in the Fabric Business

One of four chintz applique quilts attributed to
 Ann Adeline Orr Parks (1803-1835) of Charlotte, 
documented in the North Carolina project

We have many impressive collections of a body of work by quiltmakers working in the past century such as Rose Kretsinger, Anna Williams and Bertha Stenge, but groups of quilts by 19th-century quiltmaker are rare. We can look to state and regional quilt projects for family collections.

Ellen Fickling Eanes in the North Carolina project pictured four quilts by Ann Adeline Orr Parks of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Adeline Parks (she may have been called by her middle name) was born November 28, 1803 in Mallard Creek, Mecklenberg County in the western part of the state and lived her life in that county. She married David Parks of Charlotte on February 6, 1827 when she was 23.

David Parks is among the Merchants listed in an 1844 Charlotte directory.

See the last post on quilts in drygoods dealers' family quilts:

Note the beautiful striped chintz for the final border with butted
rather than mitered corners.

The Parks quilts use a variety of chintz-scale prints, some of them quite popular with quiltmakers in the 1820-1850 period. Each central focus is a furnishing panel, often with these panels trimmed in various ways around the edges.

The fruit panel at the center of this one is framed with strips cut
from a pillar and basket print that was quite the rage at the time.

Variations on that print

Brunk Auctions
Chintz quilt attributed to "Grandmother Kendall,"
 Mecklenburg County NC with the same print in its dark borders, dated 1833

Even more popular was the palm tree and pheasant print, which is cut up and appliqued in the corners of the Parks quilt with an unusual scalloped edge. Note also another early-to-mid-19th century stripe that would have worked better had the corners been mitered.

Read more about the palm tree print:

Tryon Street about 1910, where David Parks's store and later 
Parks & Hutchinson was located

The Parkses were prosperous. We can see it in the quilts and city records. David Parks moved from being a drygoods merchant to making investments in railroads and banks. He was active in Democratic and later Confederate politics, the Presbyterian Church and was mayor of the city in the late 1850s, but much of this was after Ann Adeline died.

The David Parks Building was at 24 Tryon Street. Here's Tryon mid-century.

They are recorded as having only one child, Mary Adeline born in February, 1835. Ann Adeline died on September 10th that year at the age of 32, leaving an infant and a 38-year-old husband who soon married again.

David's second wife was widow Ann Chambers Locke Beyers, wed on July 11, 1837. The second Ann Parks raised Mary Adeline and must have emphasized the importance of these quilts, which were handed down to Mary Adeline's descendants.

Mary Adeline married Ebenezer Nye Hutchinson and left one child David Parks Hutchinson, born in 1853, when she died young at 23 in 1858. Ann Adelaide's grandson known as Parks Hutchinson was also raised by a stepmother. He lived to be 69, dying in 1922. Family quilts, treated with reverence, were a legacy from a mother and grandmother never known.

Ann Adeline's husband's obituary. He'd been Charlotte's oldest citizen at the time.

David Parks and both his Anns are buried in Elmwood cemetery. At the Parks monument
a stone for David Parks and off to the corner of the photo A.A. (for Ann Adelaide?)

When Ellen Fickling Eanes interviewed a family member almost thirty years ago she was told:
"It cannot be questioned that in her short adult life Adeline Orr Parks made all of these quilts. Ann Byers Parks, David Parks's second wife, who had the quilts in her possession for fifty three years, always attributed them to Adeline, leaving no doubt about the maker. Adeline's daughter, Mary Adeline, died at twenty-three and Ann raised her child, David Parks Hutchinson. Through Ann's bequest the quilts have come down to Adeline's descendants through his family."
So how did Ann Adeline come to make so many quilts? Perhaps her position as wife of a fabric merchant gave her access to much expensive material from England and much leisure time (the Parks family owned slaves). Or perhaps the quilts were good marketing---showing what could be done with store merchandise. One can also imagine a scenario in which one of the luxuries you could buy at David Parks's store was a chintz quilt, stitched by seamstresses (free or slave) under Ann Adeline's direction. Perhaps these four quilts were unsold merchandise.

Chintz quilts must have been the fashion in Charlotte in the early 1830s.

Charlotte's Mint Museum owns a chintz panel quilt from
 another prosperous family, the Caldwells. This one is signed
Sally Roxana Caldwell and dated 1833 on the reverse. The borders
have mitered corners.

Born about 1813, Sally Roxana, wife of a physician, was a little younger than Ann Adeline, but of her generation with children of similar age. They probably moved in the same social and political  circles in a town of 20,000 people. See a post on the Caldwell family and note that David Parks replaced Dr. P.C. Caldwell as Charlotte's delegate to the Secession Convention at the beginning of the Civil War.

While looking through the Quilt Index I noticed the panel chintz quilt on the left in the collection of the DAR Museum, thought to have gone from South Carolina to Mississippi to the museum.

Ann Adeline's quilt uses the same floral fabric in the final border adjacent to a neatly cut stripe. A mitered corner would have finished these quilts off nicely, but both have the awkward butted corners usually seen towards the end of the 19th century. Was the same hand directing the look of the borders?

This caused me to look closer at Ann Adeline's construction. All four of her quilts have butted corners in the final borders. And notice the odd edging---scallops! and one with round corners---visual evidence of  the same designer's hand.

Did someone add late-19th century borders to Ann Adeline's centers? This is doubtful as the identifiable border chintzes are mid-century prints. It just may be that A.A. thought this was a fine finish (and it does take a little less yardage.)

In our blog about chintz panels we included two of Ann Adeline's with this floral panel seen often in Carolina quilts. Note the similarities between the center of hers and the top below it in the collection of Historic Columbia (SC). Parts are cut in a clever way to make the most of center bouquet, frame and four corners.

Uncut panel from the Winterthur Museum collection.

See our panel blog post:

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Family in the Dry Goods Business

Medallion chintz quilt attributed to Jane Weakley Leche (1792-1855)
Collection of the Virginia Quilt Museum. Estimated date: 1825.

Ad for David Leche & Son, 1845

Pennsylvanian Jane Weakley married Irish immigrant David Leche in 1819 and moved to Baltimore where her husband was a successful dealer in textiles, a dry goods merchant. See more about the family here:

My first thought about having a husband in retail fabric sales was that Jane had access to a lot of fabric at wholesale prices, permitting her to indulge her quiltmaking hobby with some "British, French & China Dry Goods." 

But then I started thinking about how many other quiltmakers shared her good fortune. For example, Adeline Parks.

Quilt attributed to Ann Adeline Orr Parks

When Adeline married David he was in the dry goods business in Charlotte, North Carolina. He did well and retired in 1855, long after her death when she was in her early thirties.

Collection of Colonial Williamsburg

For many years a large group of appliqued bedcovers has been attributed to Achsah Goodwin Wilkins (1775-1854) of Baltimore, whose husband William Wilkins (1767-1832)  was a well-to-do drygoods merchant in business with his brother Joseph at a store at 165 Baltimore Street in the first half of the century. 

Joseph Wilkins (1782 - ca 1850) and his wife Mary Cooke Bedford

Dr. William Dunton first wrote about the quilts associated with the Wilkins family in his 1945 book Old Quilts. He found several in the families of Wilkins family descendants and concluded they had been made under the direction of Achsah Wilkins by free or enslaved seamstresses in a form of "quilt industry."
Smithsonian Collection, inscribed A.G. Wilkins, 1820 at a later date.

In her 2018 paper "The Chintz Gardens of Achsah Goodwin Wilkins" for the American Quilt Study Group Ronda Harrell McAllen notes an 1819 ad she found from Wm. & Jos. Wilkins & Co. offering "a few sets of very elegant printed moreens, chintz patterns, a new article, which will be sold in sets to private families." (He apparently wasn't selling the chintz sets, which we assume to be companion prints, to the competition.)

She also notes that Achsah's daughters' husbands left inventories with their wills indicating the family had 72 quilts in their possession at the time the wills were read---"extraordinary, even for very wealthy families...."
A pair of quilts by Lucinda Ward Honstain at the 
International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Lucinda Ward Honstain's famous pictorial quilt dated 1867 includes a block with a wagon labeled W.B. Dry Goods, which researchers have linked to her brother Thomas's store Ward & Burroughs. Lucinda's father, another Thomas, was also in the drygoods business in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Her husband was a tailor for two decades before the Civil War and her sister was a professional dressmaker. This was truly a family in the drygoods business. Was Lucinda's quilt a form of advertising? A quilt like this one displayed in a store or at a fair would certainly sell some calico.

Dr. Dunton also showed this midcentury Baltimore chintz quilt, noting that Mrs. Kunkel owned it in 1945 and had inherited it from her aunt. "The maker of this quilt is unknown but it belonged to Mrs. Annie G. Broadbent who conducted an exclusive dry goods business of Charles Street, Baltimore, between Lexington and Fayette during the Civil War."

The dry goods district about 1910
As an Atlantic Ocean port Baltimore was
 full of dry goods stores in the 19th century.

Anna Gordon Broadbent (ca 1800-ca 1891), listed as a drygoods merchant, was married to Gershom Broadbent who is also listed as a dry goods merchant at 18 North Charles Street in city directories. A William Broadbent was a dealer in "French fancy goods."

What role did being in the dry goods business have to do with these elegant quilts?
1) Luxury fabrics at wholesale prices encouraged female hobbyists to make luxury quilts.
2) The quilts were models made by family or professional seamstresses to promote the fabrics.
3) The quilts were made by family or professional seamstresses and sold in the store.

Baltimore Pilot & Transcript
November 2, 1840
Comforts---Comfortable Comforts
"Just finished, a large supply of Comfortables, an excellent article for the approaching winter; a person ensconced beneath one of these truly comfortable articles can bid defiance to the rudest attacks of his frosty majesty. Apply...corner of Lombard & Light streets."

Betts Family quilt, Colonial Williamsburg #1970-194

 UPDATE: Terry reminded me of the Betts family's South Carolina quilt in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg. The medallion framed by diagonal stripes includes a popular striped poppy fabric. The quilt descended in the family of James Betts, Charleston dry goods merchant. Betts, confined to a chair, is said to have finished the quilt, perhaps after his wife Emily Margaret Silliman Betts appliqued the center. Emily died at 28 years old in 1841. James never remarried and lived into 1875.

Betts advertised widely in the South before the war. He seems
to have been both a storekeeper (a retailer) and a merchant (a

See a post on the poppy print and advertisements for similar stripes for "bordering quilts" here:

Detail of a quilt in the Charleston Museum

Another family of quiltmakers in the drygoods business:
Hugh Rose Banks had an antebellum store in Charleston, South Carolina

Above: One of seven chintz quilts attributed to the Banks/Eason/Dodderer families; this one made for Hugh's daughter Margaret's marriage to James M. Eason in the mid 1840s.

See this album dated 1844-1847 at the Charleston Museum here:

Monday, November 19, 2018

Women's Work: Designing Calico

Priscilla Bell Wakefield (1751-1832)

Priscilla Wakefield was an English Quaker philanthropist from Tottenham, a member of the Barclay's banking family, who founded the Lying in Charity for Women, a maternity hospital for the poor in 1771. A few years later she began a School for Industry to teach girls academics and needlework skills. A practical woman and an excellent artist she realized a basic cause of women's poverty was the lack of acceptable female occupations.

In 1798 she published Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex; with Suggestions for its Improvement.

Some of her suggestions:
"Designs for needle-work, and ornamental works of all kinds, are now mostly performed by men, and those who have a good taste, obtain a great deal of money by them; but surely this employment is one [that] should be appropriated to women."

See a post on Madame Lauzin's New York pattern shop here:

Radical in 1798, this idea seemed the status quo fifty years later in England and the U.S.

Wakefield also advised women with artistic talent to consider doing wood engraving for publications, miniature painting and scientific illustration, which she had done herself, writing and illustrating Reflections on Botany (1796) and other scientific books.

Another suggestion:
"Patterns for calico-printers and paper-stainers are lower departments of the same art, which might surely be allowed as sources of subsistence to one sex with equal propriety as to the other."
Detail of a painting, a design for a cotton print by 
William Kilburn (1745-1818) About 1790
Victoria and Albert Museum

Paper-stainers must refer to wallpaper designs. Calico-printers is obvious. Whether it's a lower art?

British female textile workers at Burnley
They look to be wearing some kind of leather waist protectors.

Working as textile machine operators had been acceptable work for women since the first mechanized factories opened in the late 18th century....

And back into the early years of the European cotton printing industry.
These women are adding dye details with brushes, called penciling.

Applying pattern with a wood block

Nineteenth-century employee perhaps doing the metal work on a calico
printing cylinder.

We do not find so much about textile designers creating pattern for industry as we do pattern makers selling to craftswoman, but Wakefield's advice was reasonable and female designers do appear in records.
Mary Phinney Von Olnhausen (1818-1902)
You may remember her as a nurse in the television
series Mercy Street

Mary Phinney Von Olnhausen's Civil War memoir mentions her career as a textile designer. Single, left to her own devices in 1849 after her father died, the 31-year-old enrolled in Boston's School for Design for Women, one of several institutions founded in the 1840s and '50s to train women in occupational skills and to assist American manufacturers with product quality. 

A Cocheco Mill print from an 1884 sample book
in the Cooper Hewitt

Mary Phinney went on to work as a textile designer at the Cocheco Mills in Dover, New Hampshire and the Manchester Mills in Manchester before volunteering to work in Union hospitals during the war. She married a German-born dyer she met in New Hampshire.

Philadelphia School of Design for Women.
Edwin Forrest House, which still stands

The Philadelphia school was founded as a private charity by Sarah Worthington Peters in 1848

Sarah Worthington King Peters (1800-1877)

The school was taken over as a branch of the Franklin Institute in 1850, becoming the largest art school for women in the U. S. under director Emily Sartrain at the end of the century.

Emily Sartrain (1841-1927) at 27
She was a professional mezzotint engraver.

 Again, women learned commercial arts such as lithography, design for wallpaper, carpeting and other textiles and wood engraving, the method used for newspaper and magazine illustration.

How many of the design school graduates obtained jobs in textile design is unknown, but there must have been a reasonable chance of employment or the schools would not have been so successful. How many female "pattern drawers" made a living either in free-lance work or as mill employees is also unknown.

Mallow wallpaper design by Englishwoman 
Kate Faulkner for Morris & Company
Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum