There's a feelin' comes a stealin' and it sets my brain a-reelin' when I'm listenin' to the music of a military band . . .

Parades and fireworks sometimes make me cry.

Not the big boo-hoo kind of tears, but the gee-I'm-glad-I'm-wearing-sunglasses kind. I'm not sure why -- it's been that way my whole life. We went to a lot of parades when I was young, and somehow when the marching bands would go by and my whole body would reverberate with the boom-boom it just made me tear up.

I have very fond memories of the 4th of July -- a yearly bonfire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, badminton, horseshoes, ring-a-tac-toe, and a marvelous grandpa who loved sparklers even more than the kids did. There was always a bountiful supply of things to be lit with matches and flung around the yard.

A gold star and an extra sparkler for you if can identify the source of our title today -- it's from the verse that comes before the chorus, "You're a Grand Old Flag." I know the words to all the patriotic songs and grew up singing them around the piano and in the car, and when I lead the music in church and the whole congregation stands to sing "America the Beautiful," I always wish I had my sunglasses.

So in honor of our beloved red, white and blue, I decided to delve into my bookshelf for some patriotic offerings:

This book is a collection of historic patriotic quilts that was compiled in honor of the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty (1986). It also contains one contemporary quilt from each of the 50 states made in honor of the occasion.

In the introduction, Carter Houck says: "Whether or not Betsy Ross made the first flag, there were many other women who combined their skill at needlework with their patriotic feelings. Quilters especially have worked their joy, anger, sympathy, and political prefernces into exciting and artistically original pieces. Some of these were made to cover beds, but it is possible that many were made simply to be admired or as gifts to heroes both great and unsung. . . . Perhaps some day in the distant future there will be no generals to have their names emblazoned on quilts, no wars to commemorate, and our eagle can drop the arrows from his talon."


Let's start with some history:

(click on the quilts to enlarge so you can truly enjoy them)

Pieced, c. 1844, probably Pennsylvania, made from campaign prints, 106" x 96" . . . I can't help but sing "Mr. James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump." Tee hee! If you don't know that song, you should. They Might Be Giants -- take it as some patriotic homework.

Applique, c. 1850, probably Baltimore, 105" x 104"

Applique, Nunda Lodge Quilt, 1865, Illinois, 82" x 82". Obvious Union sympathies on the part of the maker (made at the end of the war). "Pure water" refers to the Temperance Movement.

Pieced and embroidered silk and velvet Crazy Quilt with a portrait of Robert E. Lee, post-Civil War period, Virginia, 77.5" x 67". Two signatures, "Gracie" and "Minnie" suggest this may have been a group effort.

The center portrait of General Lee was a popular image of the South's greatest hero. Tiny Confederate flags can be seen at the bottom center and upper right.

Pieced, applique, and embroidered, c. 1941, Texas, 93" x 64". These little Democratic donkeys leave no doubt about the political feelings of this quilter. She was also bold in her support of Roosevelt for a third term -- embroidered straight across the center.

Pieced, applique and embroidered, by Mrs. Goldie Richmond, 1966, Papago Reservation, Arizona, 91.5" x 81.5". This amazing work of folk art is one of seven by the maker, wife of a trader who lived on the reservation. She was known as the "Angel of the Papagos," and it is obvious that she took great interest in the people and their daily lives. She worked without preliminary drawings to create intricate scenes of reservation life.

The contemporary quilts are also beautiful. Here are a few of my favorites:

"Centennial", by Judy Hopkins, Anchorage, Alaska, 1985, 72" x 71.5". Execution of the quilt took more than 400 hoours that extended over three months. Judy says that her quilting is very much a family activity -- "my husband frequently reads to me while I quilt -- a real bonus."

"Mother of Exiles", Rebekka Seigel, Owenton, Kentucky, 1985-86, 72" x 72". The artist focused on "women who had something to do with freedom for other people here in America." She represented pilgrim Anne Hutchinson (believed that women had the right to hold positions of authority in the church), Betsy Ross (first flag), Harriet Tubman (led slaves to freedom), Susan B. Anthony (voting rights for women), Emma Lazarus (worked to bring Statue of Liberty to U.S.), and Eleanor Roosevelt (worked hard in the area of human rights).

"Peace Piece: Can Liberty Exist Without a Planet?", Ione Bissonnette, Richford, Vermont, 1985-86, 72" x 72". The theme of this quilt has a very special meaning to the artist, a visual expression of her concern for universal peace. The figure of the woman gestures in a manner similar to the Statue of Liberty -- she holds the world in her hand and bows in supplication. Ione Bissonnette is a self-taught quiltmaker and this is her first applique attempt. She recalls her efforts to create this piece as "a very intense emotional event in my life."

And this is perhaps my favorite piece in the book. I love everything about it, but particularly admire the sophisticated use of fabric values to create the subtlety of the shadow over the crowd:

"Freedom's Children," Sidney Allee Miller, Galena, Illinois, 1986, 72" x 72". A crowd gathers at the base of the Statue of Liberty to celebrate, and her shadow falls across them. The featureless faces and myriad colors represent "the melting pot" that is America. Fifty stars have been quilted into the fabric to represent the states. Sidney Miller spent 600 hours creating this piece.

Off with your hat,
as the flag goes by!
And let the heart have its say;
You're man enough
for a tear in your eye
That you will not wipe away.

--Henry Cuyler Bunner, American writer, 1855-1896

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday weekend,
and eat a hot dog for me!


Allie said...

Ah, they make me tear up too. I love this country of mine, with all her faults.
Great history lesson. Thank you! I love that quilt with the shadow of Lady Liberty best.

Crazy for Art said...

Yeah, count me in with the tearing up crowd. Great pics of quilts, some I'd never seen before! Thanks for that!

VO said...

Great quilts. I'm loving them.

I have to admit, I'm not a cryer when it comes to pagentry. But give me a good marching band and I sit up straighter and something wells up...just not tears.

Happy Independence Day!

susan m hinckley said...

Well, if I have to be perfectly honest . . . TV commercials have been known to make me cry as well. You know, the cheesy holiday ones? Like Ronald McDonald ice skating with the little girl? And nature films. And Disney movies. And about a hundred other things.

But my patriotism is genuine,and has nothing to do with my questionable hormonal balance (even though I don't wear a lapel pin.)

Pam said...

Great post - thank you for sharing these wonderful quilts and tribute to the skills of so many creative women.(I tear up at the Welsh anthem and I'm not even Welsh!)

Joetta said...

so lovely. I cannot pick a favorite as they all tell such a story!

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