|pieced quilt, unknown maker, cottons, c. 1880, Texas|
|"Ossian receiving the Ghosts of the French Heroes" 1800-1802|
by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson - not exactly reality
(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
"The New York Beauty quilt design did not originate in New York. That was the first thing I ever learned about the complicated patchwork pattern."
In quilt history, romanticism is not always as easy to pinpoint. The New York Beauty quilt design is a prime example of how romanticism got its foot in the door, even after much of it was scrutinized and disproved by historians. The origins of this design have remained murky, and much of the misinformation in recent years is directly attributable to romantic regionalism.
|Quiltmania #100 - "Collecting New York Beauty Quilts" article|
|New York Beauty, Mountain Mist, c. 1930, Kentucky|
|My 2011 "Beauty Secrets" catalogue - out of print for a reason|
Where did that statement come from, and why was 1930 a key point in the history? In short, the statement came from a very superficial reading of the available information, such as documentation records on the Quilt Index, and I accept full responsibility for going along with that and not asking enough questions. It happened in a much earlier stage of my research, but I still wish I could take it back. The year 1930 was important because that was when Mountain Mist released the New York Beauty pattern.
|Mountain Mist New York Beauty Pattern, Stearns & Foster, Ohio 1930|
So, how was I able to get to the bottom of it? By looking a lot more closely at documentation records, understanding how names were designated during the documentation process, and learning more about the primary resource for identifying pieced quilt designs, Barbara Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns" - one of the most brilliant quilt history research projects ever done, but also one of the most misused and misunderstood books.
Why would I say such a thing? Isn't that like...blasphemy? Back in December 2013, I exchanged e-mails with Barbara Brackman regarding the recent discovery of a reference to the term "New York Beauty" in a diary from 1854. During the e-mail exchanges, I said her book "...continues to reinforce the idea that universal pattern names were more of a 20th century thing..." in the context of historians assigning 20th century names to 19th century quilts. She agreed, and encouraged me to keep telling people.
|pieced quilt, unknown maker, cottons, c. 1880, Kentucky|
formerly part of the collection of Phyllis George
So, how does all of this discussion tie in with my research, and how does it affect the way I describe the quilts? Very simply, if I have a quilt made by an unknown maker and no published pattern source, I do not profess to know what the maker called it, as some folks have suggested I should do. Instead, I will call it a "pieced quilt" and "later called New York Beauty" to reference the name most readers would recognize.
|Civil War montage (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)|
Thanks for reading!