Ribbons

Printed Souvenirs of Lafayette's Tour of the United States

Two hundred years ago a hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), also known in America as General Lafayette, accepted Congress and President James

75_15_2DP1MC glove

Souvenir Glove, ca. 1824. Gift of George A. Newbury, 75.15.2.


Monroe's invitation to come from his home in France for an extended visit to the United States. When he landed at Castle Garden in New York City on August 16, 1824, throngs of well-wishers greeted Lafayette. As he made his way to City Hall accompanied by a military escort and local dignitaries, cheering admirers—estimated to number 50,000—lined the streets. The party-like atmosphere continued for the next thirteen months as Lafayette visited cities and towns in each of the twenty-four United States. During his tour Lafayette traveled to battlefields, addressed Congress, paid his respects at George Washington’s grave, participated in Masonic ceremonies, and met with friends, among them former comrades in arms and all the living U. S. Presidents. Crowds, church bells, and militias welcomed him at every turn; he was honored by a dazzling number of processions, receptions, and balls.

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Commemorative Ribbon, ca. 1824. United States. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.1403.


Many of the Americans who flocked to see Lafayette and celebrate him as a living connection to the nation's origins sought to display their affection for the hero. Some citizens wore ribbons and badges bearing Lafayette's portrait as they participated in parades and civic events.  An enterprising Boston stationer advertised ribbons adorned with Lafayette’s portrait in 1824. He described his stock as “intended to be worn as a compliment to the General.” The same year the New York City engraving firm of Durand & Wright created “an elegant likeness of the General printed on white satin ribbon, as a badge” that they retailed for 25 cents. The New-York Gazette suggested citizens wear this ribbon “as a token of respect and gratitude to the friend of Washington and our country.”

Countless ribbons (similar to the one below) were printed and worn. On September 1, 1824, Lafayette traveled to Salem, where "two hundred sailors in a neat uniform with Lafayette ribbons upon their hats, greeted the...illustrious benefactor of our country with hearty cheers...." Soon after, in Brooklyn, Lafayette witnessed a demonstration of firefighting at which "Each fireman wore the likeness of Lafayette, with the figures of an engine, on [a] satin ribbon, and the words "Welcome La Fayette, the Nation's Guest." In Boston a group of 2,500 public school students turned out to greet the hero, each with a printed ribbon "bearing a Portrait of Fayette" pinned to their dress or coat.

In addition to ribbons, consumers could purchase other festive items bearing Lafayette's image. Merchants in New Orleans, Nashville, Newport, and Raleigh advertised “Lafayette Gloves,” long for women and short for men, that came from New York—the epicenter of Lafayette-inspired souvenirs and fashions. Dry goods sellers offered sashes, handkerchiefs, cravats, and printed yard goods, all bearing Lafayette’s likeness, to the public. This man's glove (above), an example of one of several styles available to Lafayette fans, bears the legend “Lafayette the Companion of Washington” and "Republican."

Lafayette’s journey through the United States prompted an outpouring of affection for the hero and sparked patriotism throughout the nation. Come learn more about the hero's tour and see these and other souvenirs at an exhibition in the reading room of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. "Lafayette: The Nation's Guest" is on view now through September 13, 2024. 

 

References:

"From the New-York Gazette," Hancock Gazette (Belfast, ME), August 25, 1824, 3.

"Reception in Salem," Knoxville Register (Knoxville, TN), September 24, 1824, 2.

"Friend of Washington," American Statesman and City Register (Boston, MA), September 14, 1824, 2.

 

Auguste Levasseur, Alan R. Hoffman, translator, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825 (Manchester, NH: Lafayette Press Inc., 2006)

 

 

 

 


The Impressive Odd Fellow

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Unidentified I.O.O.F. Member, 1883-1908, Osborn Company, Binghamton, NY, Museum Purchase, 2016.010.

Can you ever have too many badges, ribbons, or medals? Not according to this particularly proud and active Odd Fellow. We recently acquired this fantastic cabinet card featuring a sepia-toned portrait of an unidentified I.O.O.F. member wearing more than twenty badges, medals, and ribbons. The card was printed between 1883 and 1908 by the Osborn Company in Binghamton, New York.

Cabinet cards, introduced in the 1860s, were similar to carte-de-visites (for more on CDVs read this post). They served as   a popular alternative to cased photographs like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Cabinet card photos measured approximately four inches by six inches and were mounted onto card stock. The cards usually featured a photographer’s decorative stamp, name, and location. The Osborn Company was a family-run photography business owned by Emerson Osbourne from about 1883 to 1908 in Binghamton.

This particular photo caught our eye because many fraternal portrait cabinet cards feature a member wearing regalia with only one or two medals or ribbons. The ribbons commemorate various Odd Fellows events and field days in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  There is a ribbon that reads “Calumet 62” and another that reads “Canton Scranton No. 4.” There are records of an active Calumet Lodge No. 62 in Binghamton, New York, from the mid-1860s to the late 1940s. There are also local Pennsylvania newspapers from the late 1880s that reference an I.O.O.F. Canton Scranton No. 4 group.

These findings lead us to believe that this proud unidentified Odd Fellow was most likely a member of these two lodges and perhaps others. Can you help us identify this photograph? Do you have information about  I.O.O.F. lodges in New York or Pennsylvania? Let us know with a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

References:

The Scranton Republican, Scranton, Pennsylvania, March 13, 1896.

William Summer Lawyer, Binghamton: it's settlement, growth and development, and the factors in its history, 1800-1900, Binghamton, N.Y. : Century Memorial Publishing Co., 1900.


A Crazy Quilt

89_25S1As an amateur scholar of historic textiles and museum intern, I was excited when asked to assist the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum’s Collections Manager with transferring rolled textiles to a new, customized storage rack. During the process I was introduced to crazy quilts. Their heavily stylized designs struck me as modern and innovative for their time period. Crazy quilts became popular in the United States during the last quarter of the nineteenth century (1875-1900). Bright colors and embroidered motifs sprawling across a dark ground are characteristics of their Japanese influence. This brief glimpse at the treasures stored away inspired me to take a closer look at the textiles in the Museum’s current exhibition, “Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles,” which includes a crazy quilt.

I asked my friend and colleague, Kate Herron Gendreau, to join me in attending a gallery talk led by Dr. Aimee Newell, the Museum’s Director of Collections (see our previous post). By trade, Kate is a handcrafted artisan specializing in embroidery and hand sewing. We share an interest in the details of female domestic roles throughout American history. When I mentioned my fascination with the crazy quilts in the Museum’s collection, I learned that Kate recently inherited the unjoined blocks of her family’s crazy quilt. I was eager to hear her opinion on the quilt in the exhibition in hopes that she might be able to enlighten me with some uncelebrated details. We never could have imagined that on the day of the gallery talk, family members of J. Bruce Spilman, who donated the crazy quilt to the Museum (in memory of his relation, Charles Hadley Spilman of Illinois, for whom the quilt was made in 1886) would be present!

The size of this quilt tells us that it was a decorative piece - at 76 inches wide and 68 3/4 inches long it is not quite large enough to be used on a bed - likely used as a sofa throw blanket or piano cover. Crazy quilts often functioned as status symbols, demonstrating that their female makers had leisure time and wealth at their disposal. Textiles made in the homes of women belonging to the working class were often simple or purely functional since daily chores and household budgets limited women's time and resources.  Unfortunately, the Spilman family members present at the gallery talk could not add to the quilt’s history, but by sifting through the notes I scribbled down while Kate swooned over “heavy hand stitching” on velvet and silk, I could see the lost story of this quilt come to life.

As Kate began rhythmically rhapsodizing about “isolated daisy chain, turkey trot and fern stitch … or maybe this is a zigzag blanket stitch,” I began to feel as if I was sitting next to the woman who created this masterpiece. While Kate explained that variegated stitching with this many color changes is something that is rarely created or appreciated today, I could envision the quilt in progress spread across the embroiderer’s lap. I was delighted to learn that many of the blocks are composed of clothing scraps. Kate identified several men’s ties and shirts as well as women’s dress and blouse material in the quilt. From these scraps we can perhaps form an impression of the personal style maintained by the household in which the quilt was made. Often quilters of this era repurposed fabric from clothing that had been stained or torn and could no longer be worn. This decorative status symbol may exhibit more frugality than we initially assume. 89_46_138S1

One feature that distinguishes this particular crazy quilt is the abundant fusion of conventional fabric and Masonic ribbons. Most of the ribbons in this quilt commemorate Knights Templar meetings in Chicago and San Francisco, dating from 1880 and 1883 (similar to the one at right from a Knights Templar meeting in 1892). Twenty-nine of the quilt’s thirty blocks include ribbons, some arranged in geometric shapes to mimic symbols used in Freemasonry. Most of the ribbons are outlined with an embroidered motif in yellowish-gold stitching that resembles the glory rays surrounding the Masonic symbol of the all-seeing eye, signifying watchfulness. As do many of the textiles in this exhibition, this crazy quilt presents a noteworthy example of the way Freemasonry has intersected popular culture throughout American history.

Masonic Quilt, ca. 1886, unidentified maker, United States, gift of J. Bruce Spilman in memory of Charles Hadley Spilman, 89.25.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Knights Templar Ribbon, 1892, unidentified maker, probably Connecticut, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 89.46.138.