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October 29th in History



October 29th in History

Quiltmaker Lora King's Hands,

Meadows of Dan Baptist Church Quilting Group,

September 14, 1978,Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996

African-American folk artist Harriet Powers, now nationally recognized for her quilts, was born in rural Georgia on October 29, 1837. Using traditional appliqué technique, Powers recorded local legends, Bible stories, and astronomical events on her quilts. Considered among the finest examples of nineteenth-century Southern quilting, Powers's work is on display at the Smithsonian Institution and is featured in the online exhibition Seven Southern Quilters.

In 1938, one hundred years after Powers's birth, Mayme Reese shared her own memories of quilting in turn-of-the-century South Carolina with a Federal Writers' Project interviewer. Just as the beauty of Powers's work transcended race and class, Reese's recollections suggest fine quilting was a skill Southern women of all classes appreciated. Reese remembered:

Sometimes rich white women would hear that such and such a person had won the prize for pretty quilts, they'd come and ask that person to make them a quilt…Sometimes they'd make it and sometimes they wouldn't…If they did make it, they'd get around five dollars…Sometimes they'd furnish the scraps and sometimes they wouldn't. Most of the time, though, they'd buy pieces of goods and give it to the person who was making the quilt to cut up.

"Mrs. Mayme Reese," New York City, September 21, 1938.

American Life Histories, 1936-1940

October 29th in History

Interior of Elling O[h]nstad Sod House,

Fairdale, North Dakota,

June 24, 1923.

The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920

October 29th in History

Harmony in the Home,

Fairdale, North Dakota,

circa 1890.

The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920

Although prized for their beauty, quilts were necessities of life for pioneer families. Quilts not only adorned beds, but also served as makeshift doors, windows, and cloaks. Patching quilts to keep large pioneer families warm was one of many housewifely duties. Writing about newly wed Anne Janette Kellogg, Gerald Carson characterized the lot of the early Michigan wife:

Thus began another woman's life in pioneer Michigan—the hanging of the almanac from the clock shelf, the childbearing, the round of baking, sewing, washing, canning, threading dried apples on strings, the interminable making of carpet rags; quilts and comforters; filling bed ticks with oat straw; of ironing, patching and mending.

Gerald Carson, Cornflake Crusade, pages 85-86.

Pioneering the Upper Midwest, ca. 1820-1910

October 29th in History

Sewing a Quilt,

Jennie Pettway and another girl with the quilter Jorena Pettway, Gees Bend, Alabama,

Arthur Rothstein, photographer,

April 1937.

October 29th in History

Making a Quilt from Surplus Commodity Cotton,

Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia,

Jack Delano, photographer,

October 1941.

October 29th in History

Grandmother from Oklahoma with Grandson, Working on Quilt,

Kern County, California,

Dorothea Lange, photographer,

February 1936.

FSA/OWI Photographs, 1938-1944.

During the Depression, the handcrafting of quilts from scraps and surplus materials helped rural Southerners survive hard times. Photographers of the Farm Security Administration documented quilting activities in small towns throughout the United States. These photographs also reveal the social and intergenerational nature of the pastime.

Sharing the work of quilting with friends and neighbors lightened the burden and created an occasion for fun and conversation. New Englander Ella Bartlett recalled the quilting bees of her youth for an WPA interviewer in 1938:

We would think we'd got everybody quilted up, when some mornin' there'd be a knock at the front door and some boy or girl would be there to say that 'Ma sent her compliments' and would I come to her quiltin' bee, and then we'd know another of the girls had got engaged.

"Ella Bartlett," Brookfield, Massachusetts, December 19, 1938

American Life Histories, 1936-1940

Contemporary quilters continue to carry on this American craft tradition, creating quilts in the classic patterns and developing innovations as well. The online collection Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996 contains materials from American Folklife Center field projects documenting quiltmaking as it is practiced in the United States today. The collection includes 181 sound recordings of quilters talking about their work and their quilting methods.

October 29th in History

Portrait of Mamie and Leonard Bryan on Porch in Front of Quilt,

Lyntha Scott Eiler, photographer,

September 10, 1978.

Listen to Mamie Bryan.

October 29th in History

Bertha Marion at Quilt Frame,

Terry Eiler, photographer,

August 1978.

October 29th in History

Sabe and Donna Choate Standing in Front of Quilt Draped on Fence,

Geraldine N. Johnson, photographer,

September 25 or 26, 1978.

Listen to Donna Choate.

Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996

Search the collection Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996 on quilt patterns like star, flower basket, and log cabin. The special presentation The Lands' End All-American Quilt Contest highlights the work of contemporary quilters. Also featured are biographies of quilters from the

Blue Ridge and a Gallery of Photographs.

Additional American Memory pictorial collections holding photographs of quilts and quilters include: FSA/OWI Photographs (both color and black-and-white collections) Buckaroos in Paradise,1945-1982 The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920 Search the American Life Histories, 1936-1940 on the word quilt for a variety of references to quilting as a social activity. See especially the narratives of Addie Patterson, Ella Bartlett, and Sarah Bonds. Read "Customs and Traditions" for reminisces of quilting "frolics" in South Carolina. The American Memory Collection Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910 examines the experience of settling this region in the nineteenth century. The collection's 138 volumes contain many references to the importance of quilts as a staple of the pioneer household. Search the full text on quilt or quilting bee to read about the place of quilts in everyday life and the opportunity for socializing quilting provided.

Carl Schurz

The sun has risen bright and clear, and the view spread out before me presents so cheerful and sweet a picture that I am distinctly encouraged to hope we shall be very happy here.

Carl Schurz to Margarethe Meyer Schurz,

October 29,1855,

Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz, 1841-1869.

Pioneering the Upper Midwest, ca. 1820-1910

On October 29, 1855, recent German immigrant Carl Schurz wrote his wife, Margarethe Meyer Schurz, expressing hope for their future happiness. A political refugee from the tumultuous revolutions of 1848, Schurz soon gravitated toward political life in the United States. Exactly five years later, Schurz corresponded with his wife from the Lincoln campaign trail.

October 29th in History

Carl Schurz,

Mathew Brady, photographer,


Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920

Although Schurz initially supported William H. Seward for the Republican nomination, he welcomed the prospect of a Lincoln presidency and assured the nominee,

I shall carry into this struggle all the zeal and ardor and enthusiasm of which my nature is capable. The same disinterested motives that led me and my friends to support Gov. Seward in the Convention, will animate and urge us on in our work for you, and wherever my voice is heard and my influence extends you may count upon hosts of true and devoted friends.

Carl Schurz to Abraham Lincoln, May 22, 1860

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

Schurz's efforts on behalf of Lincoln and his commitment to the nascent Republican Party resulted in his appointment as envoy to Spain. Just a year later, Schurz returned to America to serve as a general in the Union Army.

After the war's conclusion and Lincoln's assassination, Schurz toured the South on behalf of President Andrew Johnson. In his report to Johnson, the former abolitionist urged extension of the franchise to freedmen as a condition for the South's readmittance to the Union. Johnson ignored his recommendations.

Schurz served as a Missouri senator from 1869 to 1875. Over the course of his term, dissatisfaction with the corruption of the Grant administration and disappointment with its Reconstruction policies led Schurz to take an active role in the reformist Liberal Republican Party. By 1876, however, he was back in the regular Republican fold advocating the election of Rutherford B. Hayes.

October 29th in History

First Official Investigation of Indian Grievances, - Visit of Secretary Schurz to the Spotted Tail Indian Agency,

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper,


History of the American West, 1860-1920

A secretary of the interior under Hayes, Schurz had lasting impact on the American environment. For the first time, the Department of the Interior addressed conservation issues. During Schurz's tenure, the U.S. Geological Survey was officially established as a bureau. Schurz himself urged the creation of forest reserves and a Federal forest service. Although his program was not enacted until the turn of the century, Schurz's administration is considered pivotal in the history of American Conservation.

After leaving government in 1881, Schurz turned to journalism. As editor of nationally distributed publications including the The Nation and Harper's Weekly, he continued to influence U.S. opinion and policy. Never one to place party loyalty before principle, he urged reformist Republicans to vote for Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1884.

Continuing his early advocacy of clean government, Schurz headed the National Civil Service Reform League from 1892 to 1901. He lived to see President Theodore Roosevelt create the Forest Service in 1905. Carl Schurz died the following year at age seventy-seven.

Search The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress on Carl Schurz to locate correspondence between Schurz and Lincoln. Read Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz, 1841-1869, available through the collection Pioneering the Upper Midwest, ca. 1820-1910. In the 1903 article "Can the South Solve the Negro Problem?," Carl Schurz reflected on his 1865 tour of the South for McClure's magazine. Printed in pamphlet form, the article is available through the collection From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1824-1909. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 documents the historical formation and cultural foundations of the movement to conserve and protect America's natural heritage. The collection consists of sixty books and pamphlets, myriad government documents, one hundred seventy prints and photographs, two historic manuscripts, and a two-part motion picture. The Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement highlights the growing momentum of the conservation movement from 1847 to 1920. Visit The Germans in America, a special online presentation of the European Reading Room. This presentation provides information about immigration from the German-speaking world to the United States and about the activities of German immigrants in the United States from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries.







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