Tag Archives: civil war

Civil War Sampler: #11B Sidebar, Kansas City Star

Funny story…a sidebar to my Civil War Sampler series.

So, remember how I said that in the introduction to the Civil War Sampler book, Ms. Brackman stated that most of the patterns actually came from 1930s newspapers and are not necessarily Civil War era patterns? Well, one of the newspapers she mentions is the Kansas City Star. (Doesn’t that just sound like it should be a quilt block pattern in and of itself anyway?)

Being a lifetime resident of the state of Ohio and not even particularly “into” news, I had never heard of the Kansas City Star until sometime after I started working at my current place of employment, the Special Collections and Archives at Wright State University Libraries.

There, we have one of the world’s largest collections of material about the Wright Brothers, who are widely credited with inventing the world’s first practical airplane. In addition to items related to aviation and to Wilbur and Orville, all of which seem to be obvious “givens” in anything called the “Wright Brothers Collection,” there are also many materials pertaining to other members of the Wright family, such as their father Bishop Milton Wright and their younger sister Katharine.

Katharine Wright, the youngest Wright sibling and only girl, spent much of her life unmarried, devoted to her father and brothers (Wilbur and Orville were also unmarried), in many ways filling in for her mother who had died when Katharine was a teenager. (More about Katharine Wright on our blog at work.)

But late in life, she fell in love with her former Oberlin classmate, widower Harry Haskell, and in 1926 at the age of 52, she married him. They were only married a few years before Katharine died in 1929.

What does all this have to do with the entry title or the quilt sampler?

Haskell was the editor of the Kansas City Star from 1928 until his death in 1952 (source). According to the National Quilt Museum, the (apparently famous) Kansas City Star quilt patterns began being published in the newspaper starting in September 1928 and continued until 1961.

This obviously includes the 1930s, which is the publication time period for most of the Kansas City Star patterns that are re-purposed in Brackman’s Civil War sampler book. (To clarify: only a handful of the 50 patterns did come from the Star – most came from elsewhere – but of the 4 or 5 that are  KCS patterns, all appear to be from the 1930s.)

I’m not saying that Harry or Katharine particularly had anything to do with this quilt thing. (It sounds like from the National Quilt Museum’s page about the KCS quilts, that it was mostly Edna Marie Dunn‘s doing?)

I can’t find any evidence in the Bishop Milton Wright diaries that Katharine did any quilting herself – but maybe such a thing was so commonplace as to be barely worth mentioning at that time? Supposedly (ref here and here), there is a quilt made by Katharine’s mother Susan on display at Hawthorn Hill, but I can’t find any pictures of it. Again, probably pretty common activity, right? Milton does mention creating a quilt pattern himself in 1857 (see diary entry: April 23, 1857), which was prior to his 1859 marriage. Interesting.

The Katharine Wright/ Harry Haskell/ Kansas City Star quilt pattern connection is probably just one of those weird little coincidences. It seems there’s no escaping the many and varied interconnections of history. Isn’t it fun?

(Note: The first pattern in the book to come from the Kansas City Star is #11: Blockade, which was published in 1938.)


Civil War Sampler #11: Blockade

My 11th Civil War Sampler block is Blockade.

Blockade, completed February 22, 2019

Blockade, completed February 22, 2019

The North setup a blockade of ships all around southern seaports to try to cut off the South from their important maritime trade connections (both bringing supplies in and shipping goods out, such as cotton to Europe). So having that cut off (or at least hindered, because of course there were always the blockade-runners!) caused many hardships for southerners (both civilians and soldiers).

The story in the quilt book (and also on Brackman’s blog) comes from the memoir of a woman who lived in Alabama during the Civil War and talks about what they had to do to keep shoes on their feet.

But when I thought of “the blockade,” the first thing that came to my mind was the massive seaport at Charleston, South Carolina. I later (in writing this post) found the following illustration, published in Harper’s Weekly, 1861 Sept. 21, and made available online by Library of Congress, that shows “The Blockade of Charleston:

“The Blockade of Charleston,” Harper’s Weekly, 1861 Sept. 21, made available online by Library of Congress

(Believe it or not, the ship on the left is apparently named “Vandalia,” which is also the name of a city where I previously lived. Weird.)

You can learn more about the blockade at Charleston specifically in the Charleston Post and Courier‘s “Charleston at War: Charleston harbor key blockade target” (2011 Feb 5) and the South Carolina Encyclopedia‘s article about blockade-running. (After skimming through the latter article, I suppose that I should start thinking of Wilmington, North Carolina, first in these situations: “Charleston was the second-most-active port in the Confederacy (Wilmington, North Carolina, was first).”)

Anyhow, getting back to my quilt square. I had a heck of a time picking colors for this one. I’m not typically great with the symbolism thing. (I also like poetry to rhyme and/or at least make really good logical sense—if I like it at all.) And so the first thing that came to my mind with this block and all its…sort of…nested…layers of triangles…was to recreate the image of, I guess, an island, surrounded by water: so, green and flowery in the center, something resembling sand outside of that, and blues around the outside for the water.

Here are some of the fabrics I considered:

Fabric stash musics for Blockade

Fabric stash musics for Blockade

When I couldn’t find anything in my stash that did this the way I wanted (finding a green I liked with any blue I had was especially problematic), I guess I got a little symbolically whimsical, and I am pleasantly surprised at the results. (I was really afraid this thing was going to turn out horrible and full of clash!)

Let’s look at that square again:

Blockade, completed Feb 22, 2019

Blockade, completed Feb 22, 2019

The red did a good job of representing all kinds of things, especially the “heart” of the southerners and also the little puffs look like cotton (and a little like hearts in some cases); also could be blood and fighting and suffering.

Then, the blue with the little…leaves?…well, I thought those could sort of look like the sails of ships, the Union blockade ships, and hey the Union uniforms were blue, too! And with a print like that, I try to be particular about which way the design is pointed, like in this case, I wanted all the sails “pointing up.” Although, it probably would have been better for the southerners if I’d turned some of them upside-down (although I am a Yankee, so…).

The red cotton puffs are sort of doing battle with the blue leaf-sail-ships both out in the ocean (the outer-most triangles) and also (figuratively) on the in-land as folks struggle to get the goods they need, to figure out how or if they can send their crops out to trade, etc.

And then, less symbolically, we have all the different variations of tan in between, as the “sandy” beach bits. The innermost brown/tan with the flowers on it looked like something that would be more in-land (like crops or flowers or what-have-y0u—-this is where I really wanted a green like grass but nothing looked good). And then the other two light tans- the one with the very pale dots was more like sand to me, and the one with the reedy leaves I thought kind of looked like the reeds or seaweed or plants you might find on or near the beach. (This coming from someone who has lived in the Midwest their entire life and only been to the ocean about a dozen times, so…)

The only other thing that jumps to mind about this block was…”Holy triangles, Batman!” This thing has 24 triangles in it, of various sizes. There was a lot of staring at the thing, trying to figure the best direction to iron each seam and also which piece(s) to attach next.


My “supervisor” judging my triangle seams, when he wasn’t walking on them, or stalking a bug in the lights.

See you next time!

Note: This post was actually composed in March 2019, much closer (than usual) to the time when the block was created – I didn’t want to forget all my thoughts when doing this one, which had a lot more “thoughts” than the others! But I kept it in draft until the posts for the earlier blocks were done as well.

Civil War Sampler #10: Yankee Puzzle

My Civil War Sampler Block 10 is Yankee Puzzle:

Yankee Puzzle, completed February 11, 2019

Yankee Puzzle, completed February 11, 2019

Both the Yankee Puzzle story on Barbara Brackman’s blog and the one in the book (which is what I’ve been using) center on Lincoln’s struggle concerning union and slavery. Nothing in the text particularly inspired anything with regards to colors or patterns, so I just browsed my stash for what looked good at the time. I went with another pink and green combination (the first was in Block 6, Port and Starboard) – this time with a theme of roses!

(Perhaps I should have read ahead, seeing as Block 14 is actually called “Rosebud,” but that’s a story for another time! And have I read ahead through the entire book even now? Of course not!)

Detail of center, Yankee Puzzle

Detail of center, Yankee Puzzle

Only tangentially related: The book story includes a quotation from a letter Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune (for publication, of course). I know little about Horace Greeley but that he was a big deal at the time…but every time I see his name, it makes me think of Andrew Greeley, an author (and Catholic priest) who wrote one of the first books I ever really loved: Irish Gold, which I read for the first time my senior year of high school. I was first attracted to this series by way of the fourth book’s cover graphic (this links to image only, not description, because spoiler alert!), which I saw while browsing the bookshelves at the local Wal-Mart: it featured a young couple holding hands while strolling through a cemetery — which, of course, spoke to me.

Civil War Sampler #9: Peace and Plenty

My Civil War Sampler Block 9 is Peace and Plenty:

Peace and Plenty, completed November 3, 2018

Peace and Plenty, completed November 3, 2018

There isn’t actually a story about Peace and Plenty on Barbara Brackman’s blog. She says that the book (which is what I’ve been using) contains 10 patterns that weren’t done on the blog and that she therefore has to write new stories to go with them.

Nothing in the story in the book particularly caught my imagination, so I just picked out some colors I liked for this one. More red, white, and blue, haha. This one had so many different pieces, I felt like I could “get away with” using the two lights that are the same print but in different colors. I guess I could have gone “wild” with six different colors entirely (which is how the one pictured on the blog is- there’s a picture of it but no story, on the blog), but that looked like “too much” for me. I had enough trouble choosing these six fabrics, haha.

Civil War Sampler #8: Fox and Geese

My Civil War Sampler Block 8 is Fox and Geese:

Fox and Geese, completed October 20, 2018

Fox and Geese, completed October 20, 2018

The stories about Fox and Geese on Barbara Brackman’s blog center on the siege of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and U.S. Navy officer Gustavus Fox, who was attempting to relieve Fort Sumter with supplies but was unable to do so before the fort was surrendered to the Confederates.

For my colors, I went with orange, like a fox, and a pretty blue with what looks (to me) like cotton fluff to sort of symbolize both the sky (for the geese) and also the state of South Carolina (the blue and the cotton). The light has a light brownish flowery, viney print that I just thought went well with everything else and could maybe look like…little beaks, or feathers, or just foul-like coloration? (OK that’s a stretch.)

Incidentally, in between completing this quilt block and writing this blog post, I traveled to the Charleston, South Carolina, area on a family vacation. Here are a couple of photos I took during my visit to Fort Sumter:

Lisa at Fort Sumter, SC, June 2019, with Charleston in the distance

Lisa at Fort Sumter, SC, June 2019, with Charleston in the distance

I definitely get that Fox had quite a ways to go to try to re-supply the fort with food. It’s pretty far out in the harbor, away from the land in either direction. You can see how far away Charleston is in this photo, for instance. I guess that makes sense – if this is your harbor defense, you want the defending (presumably from ships coming in from the ocean side, foreign invaders) to start happening way out there before they get too close.

Fort Sumter's Battle Flag, photo by the author, June 2019

Fort Sumter’s Battle Flag, photo by the author, June 2019

This enormous flag flew over Fort Sumter until the fort’s surrender. It’s kind of amazing to me that we still have it at all. Here’s what the exhibit text panel said:

This 10-foot by 20-foot tattered storm flag flew over Fort Sumter during the bombardment of April 12-13, 1861. On the second day a Confederate projectile shattered the flagstaff causing members of the Federal garrison to rush onto the parade ground, amid exploding shells and burning timbers, to retrieve the fallen flag. They carried it to the ramparts where it was hastily nailed to a wooden pole and re-raised. The tiny nail holes are still visible along the flag’s left border.

If you are ever visiting that area, I highly recommend a visit to Fort Sumter, as well as nearby Fort Moultrie, both operated by the National Park Service.

Civil War Sampler #7: Strength in Union

My seventh Civil War Sampler block is Strength in Union:

Strength in Union, completed October 15, 2018

Strength in Union, completed October 15, 2018

This one is extremely straight-forward in the choice of color and pattern. It’s all very patriotic with red, white (light), and blue and tiny stars in each fabric.

There’s really not much more to tell on this one. The stories from Barbara Brackman in the book (can’t find this one on her blog?) discuss earlier secession threats (I legit just typed “threads” the first time- ah quilting) prior to the Civil War.

One such threat came as early as the 1780s, regarding the ill-fated Articles of Confederation, which gave a bit too much power to the individual states. Like, seriously, guys, are we gonna be one nation or not? I remember being assigned this long, dry book about the Philadelphia Convention as the last reading assignment for the term, in one undergrad class…and weirdly really enjoying it. Like, OK we’re not leaving here until we sort this thing out, should we just scrap the old one and start again? yes? yes? OK latch the windows, let’s do this thing… Aww yes.

During the War of 1812 (basically the LAST last battle of the American Revolution, England’s last hurrah before they REALLY gave up), there were those who thought maybe the United States shouldn’t stay united.

In the early 1830s, there was the Nullification Crisis, which again boiled down to individual states looking out for themselves and finding ways to “nullify” federal laws that harmed their own interests.

The three above are mentioned in Brackman’s book. There’s only so much room in the book, of course, but a few other things that come to mind where everybody had to do some crazy “dancing” to try to placate many individual states (or regions), with “battle lines” drawn basically North/South, included the Missouri Compromise (1820), the (failed) Wilmot Proviso (1846), and the Compromise of 1850/ Fugitive Slave Law (1850). These were all mostly about slavery, and the ones that passed tended to “keep things even” as to slave states vs. free states, particularly in the Legislative Branch. (This was very important to everyone at the time, as they failed to deal one-and-for-all with the issue of slavery—until the Civil War.)

One last thought on this…reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 speech “A House Divided” :

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

That first line is evidently a paraphrase from the Bible, Gospel of Mark 3:25, in which Jesus says: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Civil War Sampler #6: Port and Starboard

My sixth Civil War Sampler block is Port and Starboard:

Port and Starboard, completed September 21, 2018

Port and Starboard, completed September 21, 2018

To be honest, there is nothing symbolic about the colors in this one. I just felt like putting pink and green together. It’s not a combo I usually gravitate towards, but at the same time I know it goes all right together, so I figured, what the hell, this is as good a time as any to try it out. 

Honestly, the only other thing I can even think to say about my particular block is that I did that thing I like to do, with the dark pink at least, where if the print has a noticeable pattern, I try to pay attention to which direction things are “going” and plan accordingly so they’re not all random and “messy” looking. So, if you look closely, you’ll see that on two of the dark pink “bow-ties” (for lack of a better term), the vines are “growing” downwards and on the other two, they “grow” up.

The stories Barbara Brackman told for Port and Starboard center around the Union capture of Port Royal Sound near Charleston, South Carolina. As usual, there is more on her blog than what she could fit in the book, and one of the additional bits is the following sentence:

The city of Beaufort was the largest town in the area of swampy island  plantations owned by the Rhetts, Barnwells, Pinckneys and Colcocks and worked by thousands of slaves.

If I wanted to get REALLY silly (and lie to you), I could say, “Oh yeah, I totally used pink in this one because of the Pinckneys.” Untrue. Didn’t even read that until I looked up Brackman’s “Port and Starboard” blog post to write this entry.

BUT, I do vaguely recall from history class(es) that the Pinckney’s were kind of a big deal in South Carolina. Ah yes, two of them (both named Charles) signed the U.S. Constitution.

Apparently, you can still visit the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, a bit outside of Charleston (about 20 minutes inland from Isle of Palms) — which sounds kind of awesome and has the added bonus of being a National Park site and therefore free.