Needlework

Gallery Talks: "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles"

2010_006DP1 Statue Liberty quilt_WebCompressWhat contribution did women’s textiles make to Freemasonry’s vibrant shaping of American families and communities in the 1800s and the 1900s?

To find out, join Director of Collections Aimee E. Newell on Saturday, July 28, 2:00 p.m. in the "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles" exhibition. This free gallery talk will offer visitors insights into how women demonstrated knowledge of Masonic values with their needles and created lasting reminders of their skills. This new exhibition features more than 25 quilts, coverlets, needlework pictures, and hooked rugs drawn from the Museum's collection. It tells a compelling story of connected lives and shared values.

We will offer two "Threads of Brotherhood" gallery talks in the fall:

Saturday, September 15, 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 20, 1:00 p.m.

2002_008T1 cover quilt_WebCompressThe October gallery talk is scheduled prior to Pamela Week's 2 p.m. lecture on Civil War quilts for soldiers.  Combined, the two programs provide an ideal opportunity to explore how women used their needlework to help shape public life in 19th century America.

Save the dates! We'll see you at the Museum!

Photo Credits:

Lady Liberty Lights the Way, 1985, Nancy M. Crasco, Massachusetts. Gift of Nancy Crasco, 2010.006.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Quilt, 1880-1920, unidentified maker, probably Ohio.  Musuem purchase, 2002.008. Photograph by David Bohl.


Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles

2002_008T1Make plans now to come see our newest exhibition, "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles," which opens June 16, 2012, and runs through late 2012.  The exhibition includes over 25 objects from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.

Textiles incorporating Masonic symbols, both home-made and commercially manufactured, have served many functions since the 1700s.  They have transmitted family memories and history, becoming cherished heirlooms.  They signified family identification with Freemasonry.  Creating these objects offered an opportunity for the maker to display their skills.  These textiles also functioned as educational tools - teaching family members about Masonic symbols and reminding Masons of the lessons they learned in the lodge.  Like the quilts used to fundraise for political or social causes, Masonic quilts and textiles were - and still are - used to raise money for Masonic projects and charities.

The quilt above employs several Masonic symbols, appliqued in red, green and gold, a popular color combination during the late 1800s.  The central motif in each block is a square and compasses symbol (representing reason and faith) with a stylized G in the middle (symbolizing God, geometry, or both).  Trowels, mauls, plumbs and levels decorate the borders.  The quilt offered its maker a way to learn about the values represented by the symbols.  It may have been a gift to a Freemason and could have reminded the recipient of Masonic lessons.

The exhibition also includes other forms of needlew76_33_1T1ork, such as embroidery and rug hooking.  The needlework picture at right was stitched in Massachusetts in 1808.  Using skills learned at a local academy, the female maker copied the design of a Past Master's certificate to commemorate Benjamin Russell's (1761-1845) term as Master of Boston's Rising States Lodge.

Textiles teach us about the individuals who made and enjoyed them, but also about the place of Freemasonry in American society.  Please enjoy these "threads of brotherhood" as they tell a story of connected lives and shared values.  Visit our website for more information.  And, after you visit, come back and leave us a comment below about your favorite object!

Masonic Quilt, 1880-1920, unidentified maker, probably Ohio, Museum Purchase, 2002.008.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Needlework Picture, 1808, unidentified maker, Massachusetts, Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.33.1.  Photograph by John M. Miller.

 


Solomon's Temple Samplers

SANQ CoverOne of the National Heritage Museum’s Solomon’s Temple samplers is the cover star for the new issue (Winter 2011) of Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly magazine! Pictured below, the sampler was stitched by Margaret Jane Leadbitter in 1846 in Sandoe, England.

My interest in Solomon’s Temple samplers began when I started working at the museum in 2006 and quickly came across three samplers in the collection that depict the temple. Leadbitter’s depiction of the temple is prominently placed at the center of her sampler and is clearly identified by her stitched inscription “South View of Solomons Temple.”80_49_1T1

Established in 1975, as a gift to the American people from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., the museum collects objects and documents to support the interpretation of the historical, social and cultural role of Freemasonry, fraternal organizations and voluntary associations in America. The sampler was donated to the Museum in 1980 by Mr. and Mrs. James S. Demond in honor of Gertrude and John D. Lombard (1906-1985). They made the gift around the time that the Museum purchased a second Solomon’s Temple sampler made by Mary Sandiford in 1840 (see below at left). A history of the Museum’s early years explains that building the collection was a priority at that time, “as often as possible we purchased Masonic items that came on the market, and solicited gifts from known owners of fine Masonic material.” An anonymous donor gave a third Solomon’s Temple sampler to the Museum.80_27_1S1

These three samplers were added to the collection undoubtedly because they were considered to be “Masonic” through their inclusion of the Temple, so central to Masonic ritual and teachings. Indeed, in the case of the Leadbitter sampler, the donor and his honoree were both Freemasons who received the Scottish Rite’s 33rd degree. However, as I started to study the samplers, I began to question whether they were “Masonic” and whether they were even American. Today, I would not classify them as “Masonic samplers.” Instead, I think that the makers included the Temple on the samplers as a symbol of virtue. To date, I have located descriptions of over 60 of these samplers, with none that can be conclusively documented as having been made in the United States.

The results of my research on these samplers are detailed in the magazine, based on a scholarly paper I presented in 2008 at the “Expressions of Freemasonry” conference in The Hague, The Netherlands. In addition, by working with magazine staff, a chart of the Leadbitter sampler is included in the magazine, so that stitchers can make their own reproduction, approximating the size and colors of the original. To order a copy of the magazine, visit its website.

Freemasonry was not formed in a vacuum - instead, it drew from values and ideas espoused by the surrounding society and culture - as it formed in England during the 1710s and 1720s and throughout the next 150 years.  By analyzing the samplers as a representation of shared ideals between Freemasonry and the larger culture of 19th-century Britain and America, we can see that the expression of Masonic ideology was spreading out into the communities where it was practiced.

Sampler, 1846, Margaret Jane Leadbitter, Sandoe, England. Collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James DeMond in honor of Gertrude and John D. Lombard, 80.49.1. Photograph by John M. Miller.

Sampler, 1840, Mary Sandiford, England. Collection of the National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 80.27.1.


Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend, Nov. 5 at the Museum

BetsyRoss_LoC_croppedCould Betsy Ross have changed history with a snip of a pair of scissors in the year 1776? Did that snip convince George Washington, the nation’s future first president, that five-pointed stars suited better than six? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Join us for the lecture, “Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend,” on Saturday, November 5 at 2 pm to delve into the full life story this enduring American legend. Historian Marla R. Miller shares Ross as she truly was, piecing together the fascinating life of this beloved figure. Ross is thought to be important to our history above all for her role as a skilled needlewoman. She was one of Philadelphia's most important flag makers from the Revolution through the War of 1812. Little known, however, is that she was fiercely on the side of the colonial resistance, reveled in its triumphs, and suffered consequences as a result.

Miller’s recent publication, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, will be available for purchase and signing following the talk.

The lecture is free. It is made possible by Ruby W. Linn, and is the concluding lecture in a series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag. Made between 1794 and 1818, the flag will be available for viewing on the day of the lecture in the Museum’s Farr Conference Room.

Headshot in snowMarla R. Miller is an historian of early American women and work, and has made a career uncovering the lives of women who left little in the way of a documentary record. She is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and directs the Public History program there. She has won the Organization of American Historians’ Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation in Women’s History and the 1998 Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Colonial History.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861‑6559 or visit our web site.

Photo credits:

Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag, c. 1908. Library of Congress.

Marla Miller. Courtesy of Marla Miller.