BY HAND

Museum staff sleuth for history of silk quilt deemed a treasure

This square in a silk quilt stitched in 1844 and being readied for display by staff at the Bangor Museum and Center for History is signed by Catherine Hardy, the wife of Bangor artist Jeremiah Hardy.
Bangor Museum
This square in a silk quilt stitched in 1844 and being readied for display by staff at the Bangor Museum and Center for History is signed by Catherine Hardy, the wife of Bangor artist Jeremiah Hardy.
Posted Oct. 29, 2012, at 12:15 p.m.
Staff at the Bangor Museum are delving into research to discover more about the ladies of First Church and Parish who stitched this quilt in 1844 in Bangor.
Bangor Museum
Staff at the Bangor Museum are delving into research to discover more about the ladies of First Church and Parish who stitched this quilt in 1844 in Bangor.

BANGOR, Maine — A lot goes on behind the scenes leading up to an exhibit at the Bangor Museum and Center for History. Currently, museum staff armed with a magnifying glass are poring over the surface of an exquisite silk quilt stitched by the ladies of Bangor’s First Church and Parish. The quilt is dated May 30, 1844. It is one of the museum’s treasures, said museum Director Jennifer Pictou.

The quilt is made up of 40 squares, 33 of which are signed by the women who made them — Harriot Bartlett, Abby H. Bartlett, S.D. Clark, Mrs. Asa Davis, N.P. Davis, M.P. Egery, H.M. Farnham, H.E. Francis, Catherine Sears Wheeler Hardy, Mary Ann Hardy, C.P. Haskins, Ellen P. Ingraham, Caroline Jones, E.D. Plummer, L.A. Plummer, Nancy Porter, E.A. Rich, Mrs. B.D. Shepherd (she made the memorial square in the name of Mrs. Mary H.P. Walker, the only black and white square in the quilt), Mary G. Stackpole, Sophia Stackpole, E.T. Thaxter, E.D. Warren, Caroline Valentine Webster, L.B. White, A.H. ??, ?? Francis, H.L. Weston, E.W. Wingate, M.A. Bright, M.C. Pearson, Charlotte A. Gallison and Mrs. Mary A. Folsom.

One question arising about the quilt is the manner in which the names and other script was applied to the blocks. There are at least three different applications, including printed (possibly by a printing press), handwritten and stitched, Pictou said.

“We know that it’s a silk quilt, that it is what is termed a ‘potholder’ quilt. We know that several techniques, including hand painting, basic quilt block building, embroidery and petit point were used; and it has both geometric and floral designs. We know that one of the squares was made as a memorial square for someone who had died. The quilt has been professionally repaired in places where the silk had deteriorated, causing the loss of one name,” Pictou said.

The piece is considered a “potholder” quilt because all of the squares were created individually and bound with their own borders — like a potholder. The borders were then sewn together with blind stitches to create the final product, Pictou said. Holding a ruler to the quilt, Pictou estimated that some of the stitching on the quilt measures 10-15 stitches per inch.

Pictou said information about the quilt makers and their lives is being compiled. One aspect of that process is to look at who the ladies’ husbands were, and their occupations. Researchers also will look at where the women lived, where they were buried, the roles they held in Bangor society and their family history, she said.

Particularly outstanding are two blocks in the quilt bearing hand painted scenes. The blocks are signed by Catherine Hardy and Mary Ann Hardy, wife and sister, respectively, of painter Jeremiah Hardy, whose paintings hang in the Bangor Public Library and the Boston Museum of Fine Art.

Curator Dana Lippitt suspects the square attributed to Catherine Hardy may have been painted by Jeremiah or Mary Ann, since historical record does not reflect that Catherine was a painter.

“If Catherine did the painting, she was very good,” Lippitt said, though the chances of determining for sure whether Catherine painted the block are small, she added.

Many of the blocks are embroidered with elaborate floral wreaths done in cross stitch or half-cross stitch so fine it defies the human eye to determine precisely where one stitch ends and the other begins. Other blocks are appliqued in arrangements of five-point white stars.

The quilt was stitched as a gift for Mrs. Ann Quincy Pomroy, wife of the Rev. Swann Lyman Pomroy, who had attended Bowdoin College, and was minister at First Church. The couple was leaving Bangor on a mission to China.

Lippitt said the quilt was donated to the museum in August 1964 by Mrs. Isabel Wales of Lincoln Center, Mass.

The museum’s website is in the process of being redone, Pictou said. The new version will feature photographs of the quilt, a blog about the quilt, and include information about it and about the women who made it.

“I’m hoping to get the public involved, to help bring more information to light,” Pictou said. “The quilt is one of the museum’s rare treasures. To have such a treasure come home to Bangor is special.”

No date has been set for the display of the quilt, although it may be a part of the 2014 exhibit to celebrate 15 decades of Bangor history and the museum’s sesquicentennial.

The quilt was exhibited in “Patchwork of Our Past” at least 10 years ago and in “Quilts: The Great American Art” in 1978, Lippitt said.

To make a donation to support the work of readying the quilt for exhibit, call Pictou or Lippitt at 945-5766.

For information about the Bangor Museum and Center for History, visit bangormuseum.org.

Snippets

The Church of Universal Fellowship, 82 Main St. in Orono, will hold its annual Fall Fair 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at the church. In addition to the usual baked goods, hand-crafted items, plants, jewelry and luncheon, it will offer items from SERRV, a fair-trade, nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty by supporting artisans and farmers worldwide. For information, call 866-3655 or email maeason@gmail.com.

Jill Webber has a box of rug yarn and vintage copies of Family Circle and Woman’s Day magazines she’d like to donate to whoever would like the items. Call her at 942-2626.

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153 or email ahamlin@bangordailynews.com. Don’t forget to visit her blog at byhand.bangordailynews.com.

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