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Hail, America! For Our Arts And Crafts
NATIONAL pride and civic consciousness were born in America during the War of the Revolution. Throughout the years which followed, ship-building flourished, manufacturing began, and commercial life was strengthened. In all localities, citizens of the young nation began to take pride in their public buildings, not only in the spired white meeting-houses on the hills, but in school-houses, town halls and colleges.
It was not in literature alone that the trend of the period was felt. It appeared in architecture, in household furnishings, and in arts and crafts.
Samplers, fashioned by the girls of the time, expressed the theme of civic events. Have you seen American samplers upon which weeping-willows mournfully trail? They were embroidered during the war as a tribute to the lost soldiers. With the full awakening of young America to her glory as a new-born nation came the representation of public buildings, crossstitched upon bolting-cloth and linen. Tell me, if you can, what ambitious girl could resist trying to embroider the beloved meeting-house of New England! You have seen its outlines, worked by childish fingers, upon American samplers of the early nineteenth century. As for the family history oftentimes the record of names stitched in faded silks is more authentic than the lists of births, deaths, and marriages in the big Bible!
With the death of Washington numerous samplers appeared, decorated with verses commemorating the passing of the national hero. One of them is this,
"Mourn, Helpless Brethren, Deeply Mourn, The Source of Every joy is Fled, Our Father Dear, the Friend of Man, The Godlike Washington is dead."
Frequently we find a design on a woven coverlet, a hooked rug or a quilt which shows the desire of expressing patriotism. At a women's club exhibit, held in a little New Hampshire town, five miles from a railway, I saw a printed bed-cover adorned with a spreading eagle. Alice Van Leer Carrick tells of an interesting woven coverlet.
"The weaving is a marvel; the color that beautiful subtle blue which has the depths of the ocean in it," she says. "The central design is like English tapestry, while the border resembles the coverlet known as `The Declaration of Independence.' There is more printing than one usually sees on such pieces; Washington in each corner with the patriotic motto, and the repeated invincible slogan, `Under this we prosper."
Isn't it a lovely description?
I can't tell why, but it makes me think of Martha Washington. Possibly because she took a personal interest in the weaving for her huge household. But though "the amiable lady of our beloved president" was so domestic in her tastes, she surely must have enjoyed the truly regal receptions she received when she traveled abroad. On one trip to New York "she was met at Hammond's ferry by several of our citizens," a Baltimore record tells us, "and received such other demonstrations of affection and respect as her short stay admitted. Fireworks were discharged before and after supper, and she was serenaded by an excellent band of music, conducted by gentlemen of the town. We shall only add, that, like her illustrious husband, she was clothed in the manufacture of our country, in which her native goodness and patriotism appeared to the greatest advantage."
Stars, shields, and eagles are sometimes found upon hooked rugs made during these years, but the designs on certain quilts more readily express the pride in political and national feeling than almost any other form of handicraft.
Someone has said, "Quilts are like the voices of the past," and so they are speaking of the days of the stirring forties, of the Civil War, and of territorial expansion. Just a glance at the names of some of the quilts will show the trend of historical events. Roll them over on your tongue-Log Cabin, Statehouse Steps, Whig Rose, Radical Rose (dating from the Civil War) and the later Cleveland Lily. The Whig Rose and the Democrat Rose commemorate the Harrison-Tyler campaign, when the Democrats won for the first time in forty years. The Confederate Rose and the Rose of Dixie tell of the days when the faces of the North and the South were turned away from each other, and brother fought against brother.
And now I suggest that you find Eliza Calvert Hall's fascinating book, "Handwoven Coverlets," and glance at the extensive list of historical patterns found in this form of bed-coverings. You will discover names of historical interest. Here is Lady Washington's Delight, Braddock's Defeat, Washington's Victory, The Fortyniners, and The Soldier's Return. If you are one of the fortunate workers who is expert with the loom, why not unearth an old draft and copy one of these ancient bedcovers?
In another chapter I shall speak of the historical designs used on. some of the pressed glass pieces made by the Sandwich and New England Glass Companies. A complete collection of historical cup-plates is a record of the days when "The land lies open and warm in the sun, Anvils clamor and mill-wheels run, Flocks on the hillsides, herds on the plain, The wilderness gladdened with fruit and grain."
The tiny plates bear witness to the struggle of raising money for the building of Bunker Hill Monument, to Lafayette's triumphal tour through America, and to the memorable Whig campaign of "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too." Pictures of the Chancellor Livingstone, The Benj amin Franklin, The Cadmus, The Frigate Constitution, and the Fulton Steamboat appear on them, while the portraits of Henry Clay, General Washington, and General Harrison adorn others. There are a number of Log Cabin cup-plates. One of the rarest is the Log Cabin with Cider Barrel and Outer Chimney, reminding the collector of the days described by Katharine Lee Bates, when "Log Cabins on wheels were drawn in the shouting processions, coonskins were waved for banners, the drinking of hard cider became a political virtue."
The eagle was a common figure in cup-plate designs. Sometimes the bird appeared alone. It was combined with the thirteen stars and wore a shield upon its breast, but the proud Fort Pitt Eagle boasted of twenty-four stars. There are four variants of the Bunker Hill design, one of them bearing a printed border, "Bunker Hill Fought June 17th, 1775," while another refers to the laying of the cornerstone by Lafayette and adds, "Finished by the Ladies."
As for pressed glass salt-cellars you are indeed fortunate if you have inherited a matched pair adorned with Freedom's "Eagle bearer"! It may seem an abrupt change from pressed glass to wall-papers, but they are alike in one respect specimens of both carry designs of historical and political interest. The wall-papers first used by the American colonists were imported from Europe, and it was not until about the middle of the eighteenth century that their manufacture began in this country. Even then imported papers were far superior to the native products. Designs were drawn by artists and beautifully tinted by hand. Instead of being made in long rolls, wall papers were manufactured in blocks and when panoramic scenic paper became fashionable, a large number of blocks was required to cover one room.
The manufacturers of France, England, and Holland awakened to the commercial opportunities of America's pride in her scenery and civic consciousness, and began to bring out some purely American patterns. One of the best known was a pictorial paper called "Scenic America." It consisted of a set made in thirty-two strips and represented views of the wonders of America, including Boston Bay and the Natural Bridge of Virginia.
The glassmakers of Bristol, England, were interested also in the exuberance of civic feeling of the country across the sea. Unfortunately, only a few products made by them for this trade are now in existence. In describing a glass mug, owned by the New York Historical Society, Mr. Homer Keyes, the editor of Antiques, tells of the design of a strutting eagle surrounded by wreath and stars.
"In this the word `Liberty' appears above the head of the eagle. The presence of fourteen stars outside the wreath has led to the assumption that the piece was produced not far from the time of Vermont's admission to the Union, namely, in 1791," he says. Old glass bottles and flasks, made in America, are rich in historical designs. It was late in the eighteenth century that pocket flasks of pressed glass came into style. They bore quotations, slogans, portraits, and scenery. They are found in many colors-brown, olive, dark red, light green, dark green, blue, and white. As ever, the American eagle decorates a great number of them; nineteen different designs, bearing the head of Washington, are listed in one period; a number of others show the head of General Taylor. In the "good old days" the flask you carried showed where you stood politically. One particularly desired specimen is the Jackson Bottle. A type of this design, owned by a member of my family, shows the head of the hero of New Orleans on one side and that of General Washington on the other. The Jenny Lind Bottle pictures the days when the sweet voice of the "Swedish Nightingale" thrilled the souls of song loving America.
Between 1840 and 186o pictorial bottles were made in vast quantities by every glass factory in the land. The horn of plenty, suggestive of the richness of the new country, Masonic emblems, stars, ships, flags, and farm scenes were among the designs. The completion of the fourteen-mile Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was celebrated by the appearance of a bottle bearing the picture of a horse pulling a cart on rails, and the slogan, "Success to the Railroad." When I see a bottle manufactured during this opulent period, it reminds me of these verses,
"Tis fit the forest fall, The steep be graded, The mountain tunneled, The sand shaded, The orchard planted, The globe tilled, The prairie granted, The steamer built."
Fabrics, too, were affected by the awakening of this civic pride. During the reign of Louis XVI of France, Oberkampf, a Bavarian, established a factory for manufacturing pictorial fabrics in Jouy, a suburb of Paris.
The printed cottons and linens which were usually stamped in one color on white or cream-colored backgrounds were given the name of Toile de Jouy. When trade with the Orient began to gain the attention of European merchants of the seventeenth century, gay chintzes or chints were imported and were received with enthusiasm by the fashionable world of France and England. Toile de Jouy, however, was a domestic product, and Oberkampf followed the demands of the times and developed patterns showing pastoral scenes and mythological designs. The sympathies of France were with the American colonies when they struggled against Britain. The manufacturer of Toile de Jouy absorbed the general feeling, and began to produce allegorical subjects connected with America's victory. The fabrics were used both in France and in America.
As for bandboxes designed to hold the calashes and poke-bonnets of fashionable belles-they were gloriously decorated with stirring national scenes. Constructed from cardboard, and covered with exquisite hand-blocked papers, they were dainty enough for the use of fairy princesses. Public buildings were shown on some, and one especially intriguing bonnet-box was covered with paper picturing a canal boat, drawn by a mule. Military scenes were common, and from one bandbox Zachary Taylor on horseback surveyed the world!
No craftsmen of the period profited more from the patriotic ideas of America than did the potters of Staffordshire, England. Between the years 1812 and 1828 they turned out vast quantities of wares for a distinctly American trade. The dishes were thick and strong and of a common quality of earthenware, but the coloring was rich and lovely, especially that of the popular blue ware. They were sold at a low price, and, as they caught the popular fancy, everybody bought them. The master potters sent their artists across the sea to make drawings of the important buildings in American cities, of the triumphs of material progress, and of the scenic beauties of the land. The designs were engraved on copper plates, printed on tissue paper with a preparation of color mixed with oil, and transferred to the clay by means of wet impressions.
In studying a collection of the blue and white plates and platters, you will be surprised by the variety of pictures of the civic life of the times. A few of the subjects are "Mt. Vernon, the seat of the late General George Washington," "City Hall, New York," "Harvard College," "The Landing of Lafayette at Castle Garden," "The Erie Canal," "Boston State House," "Battle of Bunker Hill," "Lafayette at the Tomb of Washington," and "Niagara Falls." There was, too, the portrait series of national heroes, including Washington, Franklin, and Lafayette, and the historical designs of which "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers" is an example.
If you are interested in Staffordshire pottery, you might like to know the names of some of the potters. Among them were Enoch Wood, Joseph Stubbs, Andrew Stevenson, R. Stevenson and Williams, the Ridgeways, Joseph Clews, and Joseph Heath. The borders were characteristic of the potters who made the wares. For instance, the Ridgeways were fond of the rose-leaf medallions, while Enoch Wood was given to using seashells and mosses. The border designs of Joseph Stubbs were a combination of scrolls and flowers, broken by eagles with half-spread wings, while the Clews made great use of floral borders.
Enoch Wood was sometimes called the "Father of Pottery." His patterns included over forty American views. The Clews were noted for their "States" plates and platters, boasting borders of festoons bearing the names of fifteen states. John Ridgway developed twenty views known as "The Beauties of America." Thomas Mayer issued a series of plates showing the coats-of-arms of various states.
At Liverpool, England, the Herculaneum Pottery turned out earthenware with American pictures. Many of them refer to the life and death of Washington, and Washington Pitchers in quantities were placed upon the market. One design was made from Gilbert Stuart's portrait of the first president.
Yes, young America was proud of her liberty and her growing wealth and prosperity, and she was proud of the heroes who had helped to establish her individuality.
"Our republicanism was fresh and wide-awake," says Lucy Larcom. "The edge of George Washington's little hatchet had not yet been worn down to its latterday dullness; it flashed keenly on our young eyes and ears in the reading books, and through Fourth of July speeches. The Father of His Country had been dead only a little more than a quarter of a century, and General Lafayette was still alive; he had, indeed, passed through our town but a few years before, and had been publicly welcomed under our own elms and lindens. Even babies echoed the names of our two heroes in their prattle."