Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Philadelphia Merchant and Quaker Quilts

Center of a wholecloth silk quilt made by Philadelphia Quakers
Hannah Callender, Sarah Smith and Catherine Smith,
Dated 1761
Collection of Independence Hall
Silk wholecloth quilts were a Quaker tradition.

Quaker Thomas P. Cope kept a dry goods store in Philadelphia in Pewter Platter Alley after the Revolution. In his diary he recorded the ups and downs of retail business through wars, embargoes, aggravating partnerships and ship wrecks.

Thomas P. Cope (1768-1854) in later life
 from the collection of the
Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Like many Philadelphians he was a Quaker.

Cope made far more money from the shipping business than from selling fabric and china in his store. He became an importer, a speculator in dry goods, and built a ship to sail between Philadelphia and ports in China, India and Europe.

Detail of a pieced silk quilt by
Quaker Rachel Goodwin Woodnutt,
Salem, New Jersey, late 1820s.
Collection of the Winterthur Museum.
Quaker dress relied upon plain colored silks, a commodity that Cope and other Quaker merchants imported for their customers.

Note the complex interlocked cable in the quilting, a pattern that became quite popular with later Pennsylvania quilters. See the whole quilt here:

A month after the War of 1812 began Cope was lucky enough to have a ship's cargo released by the customs inspector. The Lancaster was carrying tea, silk and India goods from the port of Canton. "We sold the Cargo this day at public auction at a very large profit....Calicoes that cost from 5 to 7 1/2 went for 45 to 56 cts. per yard."

When I visited the Winterthur Museum for their exhibit Quilts in a Material World a few years ago I photographed another early silk Quaker quilt with similar quilting pattern.

 In October, 1813 Cope assessed the effects of the war on trade.

"The pressure of the war has been as yet but little felt by people in general. Those who had foreign goods on hand have mostly sold them at great profit, while the domestic manufacturers obtain large profits on what they make."

An advertisement from 1811 in a Philadelphia newspaper listing locally made fabrics. The Alms House was one of the public institutions where inmates manufactured fabrics. Note the "Fleece Cotton, for quilts, &c.," probably cotton batting.

The "Thomas P. Cope" by Edward Moran.

The artist and his artist brother Thomas Moran came to Philadelphia on this ship in the Cope Packet Line. This detail shows the ship on its way to Cope's wharf.

After the War of 1812 Cope's Line of Packets regularly sailed to Liverpool with passengers and freight. Once trade opened up again profits flowed and Cope began quite wealthy.

A few months after the war was over the Albany Argus advertised "Fresh Goods at Peace Prices". W.H. & J. Hoyt announced a post-war shipment of "seasonable goods, which they offer at a small advance from judicious purchases." Do note that New Yorkers were still selling slaves in 1815. In the lower right hand corner "For Sale, a negro boy, about 15."

Thomas Cope's diary was discovered in the 1930s and published in 1978.
Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas P. Cope, 1800- 1851, edited by Eliza Cope Harrison (South Bend, IN: Gateway Editions, 1978)

See a wool wholecloth Quaker quilt dated 1813, possibly made in Burlington, New Jersey in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (# 2002.012.0001)

Read Linda and Mary's blog on Quaker Quilt History here:

Another wholecloth quilt from the Winterthur collection.
See the catalog of the exhibit here:


WoolenSails said...

Those are beautiful examples and amazing that they did it all by hand.


Meredith said...

You say -Silk wholecloth quilts were a Quaker tradition. I am interested on how you came to that conclusion, not disagreeing just trying to learn. The strippy quilt from the Win. exhibit was glorious.

Sandra Henderson said...

WOW!~ What a great post! I've ordered the Material World book, can't wait! Always learn so much from you.

Anonymous said...

Great information about the Cope - Quaker Quilt connection!

Barbara Brackman said...

Meredith-Your question makes me realize I have very few quilts to base that statement on. There's the Callender Smith collaboration and one or two others atrributed to Quakers. I should eliminate the words whole cloth and just say silk quilts were a Quaker tradition.

suzanne said...

New York enacted a law for the gradual abolition of slavery in 1799. Unintended consequences and abuses occurred and the law was amended several times until all slavery in the state was finally ended in 1827. Up until then slaves who had not been freed by law could be sold. New York's history, particularly New York City's,on slavery is checkered and not unblemished. In 1860, the Democratic Party opposed abolishing slavery in the South, and although the City had many abolitionists and organizations benefitting free blacks, Lincoln did not carry the City.

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