With our newest exhibition, Common Threads: Stories from our Quilt Collection, opening soon, we thought it would be timely to follow up with one last quilting blog post. One challenge with digitizing and cataloging the quilts was identifying the patterns. The repeating patterns on our quilts are beautiful, and every square is unique; however, each one has an underlying pattern, some common with quilts, while some were more unique.
While digitizing the quilt collection, we kept our own reference to the different patterns which appeared in our quilts, and we thought we would share them here.
To see more quilts, and to learn the stories behind them, be sure to visit the Oshawa Museum and take in our newest exhibit, Common Threads: Stories from our Quilt Collection, opening in June.
In 2009, as part of a larger donation, we received a Shirley Temple Doll. She dates from the 1930s, when Shirley Temple’s popularity was high.
While Shirley Temple is part of pop-culture vernacular, here is a little background information for those who want it: born in 1928, she was an American film and television actress, singer, dancer, and former U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. Her film career began at the age of three and, found international fame after the release of Bright Eyes in 1934. Her box office popularity waned as she reached adolescence; she retired from films in 1950 and from acting altogether by 1961. Shirley has to her credit 14 short films, 43 feature films and over 25 storybook movies. She is still alive today. (Information from Wikipedia and http://www.shirleytemple.com/bio)
During her height of popularity, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company negotiated a license for dolls, and several ‘composition’ dolls (made from wood and sawdust) were manufactured. It is likely that our doll was made c.1935, based on the ‘COP’ marking found on the back of her head; this mark appeared after the Christmas of 1934 and indicated ‘Copyright Pending.’
The clothing on our doll does not appear to be original, but was likely hand made for her. She is on display in the Henry House Parlour.
The final stories I want to tell through quilts are the stories of the Henry’s quilts. The Henry’s are one of the families that are closely associated with the Oshawa Community Museum. Their family home (built c. 1840) is still standing in Oshawa’s Lakeview Park, and it is one of the three historic houses that make up our museum.
The Henry Family lived in this home from the time it was built through to the turn of the century. The family’s patriarch was Thomas Henry, a farmer, minister in the Christian Church, and a harbourmaster for a number of years. With his first wife Elizabeth, he had a daughter (Nancy, who died in infancy), and five sons: John, William, George, Thomas Simon, and Ebenezer. After Elizabeth died, Thomas married Lurenda Abbey, and they had a total of 10 children: Eliza, James, Phineas, Albert, Elizabeth, Joseph, Jesse, Clarissa, William, and Lurenda Jane (Jennie).
The Oshawa Community Museum has many cherished artifacts which once belonged to members of the Henry Family; some are on display in Henry House while others are in storage for safe keeping. Some of these artifacts are textiles and quilts.
This Victorian crazy quilt was once owned by Mary Myrtle Ellis (nee Henry). Mary’s father was Albert Henry, and her mother was Harriett Guy. Harriett died while Myrtle was young, and for a time in the 1870s, Myrtle and her sister Alberta lived in the family’s stone house with their grandparents Thomas and Lurenda. Many of the patches on this beautiful quilt feature floral patterns. On the left side of the quilt, second patchwork square from the top, there is a blue patch which has been embroidered with the words “Flora 1889.” The middle right, top square has a patch which features the wording: “Tammany Hall, Toronto, Granite Island Camp, Thousand Islands – 1887”. This quilt was on display for some time in the Henry House bedroom, however, the bottom of the quilt is now rather frayed and delicate, and it is now safely in storage.
This quilt has the same provenance, belonging to Myrtle Henry. In one corner, embroidered in red, are the initials MH.
While not a ‘quilt,’ there is an interesting story behind this blanket. As the story goes, the wool for this blanket was prepared by Lurenda Henry herself. The wool was then sent away and was professionally woven into this blanket. There is a blue piece of fabric which has been attached to the top to allow the blanket to hang.
For more stories from the Oshawa Community Museum’s quilt collection, be sure to check out our newest exhibit for the summer: Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt Collection! Opening in June 2013!
I wish I could say I had more of a history of this particular quilt, but unfortunately, its provenance is unknown to us. I can, however, share the story of Cornelius Robinson and his family.
Cornelius Robinson was the 9th child born to John and Ruth Robinson. John and Ruth were from Staindrop, County Durham, England and came to Canada in 1833 with their 8 children. Cornelius and his sister Eunice were born here in Upper Canada. Sometime between 1854 and 1861, a three-storey brick house was built along Oshawa’s lakeshore for members of the Robinson Family. This house still stands and is one of three historic buildings that comprise the Oshawa Community Museum.
In 1857, Cornelius married a woman named Mary Jane Nelson, and together they had 12 children. Only six survived past the age of 5; Ruth Lillian and Rachel Elizabeth died before they were 30, Oceanna and Phoebe died in their 50s, and Alfred and Eunice lived into their 80s.
It was quite the surprise to unravel this quilt and find the names of Cornelius and Mary’s family laid out on this quilt! Look closely and you can read Mrs Capt. Coate (Oceanna) and her children Mildred, Herbert and Howard, Eunice A Robinson, Alfred Robinson, and Lillian Robinson!
Below are some family photographs of Cornelius and family.
This quilt story has a special meaning to me because I found my own family history on this quilt!
First, about the quilt. This autograph quilt features over 200 names embroidered on it. It was made c. 1914 as a fundraiser for the South Oshawa Methodist Church. The church later went by the name Albert Street Methodist (United) Church. For a dime, a name could be embroidered on the quilt.
In the centre of the quilt is an embroidered picture of the South Oshawa Methodist Church, and the quilt is red and cream in colour. The quilt has been completed with the hourglass or broken dish pattern.
The church was established in 1910, operating as the South Oshawa Mission of the Methodist Church. A small, white building was erected for this new mission in 1914, and it served the congregation until 1928 when a new building was erected at the southwest corner of Albert Street and Olive Avenue. This building is still standing, however the Albert Street United Church closed in 1996, amalgamating with the Centennial United Church to become the Centennial-Albert United Church. This church was described by Rev. Pogue as “a typical working class church, very family oriented, that’s what made it really strong.”
As I mentioned, names were embroidered on the quilt for 10 cents. One of the names embroidered near the top is ‘Mr. G. Trainer.’ My grandfather was married twice; his second wife, my beloved Grandma, was born and raised in Oshawa, around St. Lawrence Street. Her father, George Trainer, was a local barber. He also supported the South Oshawa Methodist Church in 1914 as his name was found on this autograph quilt! I never expected to find a little touch of my family on any of the quilts in the Oshawa Community Museum Collection, and I was quite surprised when I found this name among hundreds others.
‘Lest we forget – the quilters! God bless them! They sew and sew and sew some more to fill orders for beautiful quilts. They also raise a lot of money thereby!” – Memories of Albert Street United Church, 1990, Oshawa Community Archives.