08 October, 2013

The 'Lydia E. Boyer 1876.' Quilt

A few months ago I promised to share more about this quilt . . .

I purchased this quilt from an antique shop in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Very little is known about it other than the dealer acquired it locally. The condition indicates it has been used and loved.  The madder print in the blocks has pin-dot holes in the centers of the white areas where a harsh dye used to print the design has deteriorated the fabric throughout the quilt.

There are 3 of this block variation.

The designs are a bit quirky yet the workmanship overall indicates this quilt was made by a quilt maker(s) with at least some experience. The stitching throughout is relatively consistent, however, the applique in some blocks is done with a small running stitch on the top edge of the folded design piece; in others it is a more traditional hand applique stitch.  The binding was created by folding the white fabric used for the back over to the front; it appears to be original to the quilt.  The batting is a very thin cotton.  The quilting stitches are 9-10 stitches per inch.

There are 2 of this block variation.

This quilt first caught my attention because of the folksy appearance.  The way it was folded only four of the Oak Leaf and Reel variation blocks were visible yet each one was obviously a little different.  Imagine my surprise when I unfolded it to discover such a variety of blocks.  -----  Why?  Don't know. 
Is this block supposed to be like...
the 4 of this block variation?

Taking into account the condition I almost did not purchase the quilt, until I spotted something interesting as I started to put it away.  What, you ask?
A signature and a date!!!  The price was reasonable enough for that simple detail to change my mind.

There are 2 of this block variation.

The quilt came home with me and ended up tucked away for a while.  A few months ago I pulled it out of storage to consider using as inspiration for a Oak Leaf and Reel quilt I had in mind to make.  I had completely forgotten about the signature and date, soooooo..., I had the great pleasure of discovering them again.  Unfortunately, the date meant the quilt would not work as inspiration for my project.  Oh well . . . I decided to do a little research to see if I could find out anything more about the quilt and/or Lydia E. Boyer in 1876?
There is only 1 of this block variation.

To date I have searched Ancestry.com for the name as it appears on the quilt.  As anticipated, Lydia's name is not unique - yet is not a common one either.  So for now, because I know the quilt came from an estate auction in Pennsylvania, I have limited my search to the U.S. Census Records looking for Lydia E. Boyers who would have been living anywhere in Pennsylvania during 1876. Today I found two.

There is only 1 of this block variation.

The first Lydia E. Boyer I found was in the 1880 census.  At age 4 she was living in West Brandywine Township, Pennsylvania with her parents Isiah (age 31) and Mary (age 27).  Lydia E. is listed as the fourth of six children, all age 8 or younger.  It is interesting that Lydia E. is the only child listed with a middle initial.  The census page indicates that her parents were born in Maryland and all of their children were born in Pennsylvania.  I also noted that the Boyer family is one of very few families recorded on 24 census pages for the township whose "color" is listed as black.  Isiah's occupation is listed as 'laborer' as are many of the other male head-of-household residents.  Most of the township residents are farmers; there are also a few seamstresses, and even fewer blacksmiths, masons and millers. Mary's occupation is noted, as are many of the other mothers with children at home, as 'keeping house' rather than housekeeper.  Regional phrasing, like accents, are interesting . . . aren't they?

There is only 1 of this block variation.

The only other Lydia E. Boyer I discovered in Pennsylvania today appears in the 1900 census for North Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  She is listed as having been born in January 1825 which means she would have been 51 in 1876.  She is living in the household of Harry Cox (age 31) who is employed as an insurance agent, his wife Kate (age 27) and their two small children.  Lydia is listed as a white, widowed 'grandmother who cannot read or write.  There is also a notation that she had 1 child and that 0 are living. 

There is only 1 of this block variation.

Today, I have done what I can with only a limited amount of time to search.  The fact that the quilt was discovered in Pennsylvania does not mean the Lydia referenced on the quilt ever stepped foot in Pennsylvania.  This was simply a starting point and there are still plenty of Lydia E. Boyers left to be explored another day.  I will let you know if I am ever able to find the correct Lydia.

One more very important photo . . .

"Lydia E. Boyer 1876."
I can't help wondering if this is Lydia's signature, or simply her name beautifully scribed on the back of the quilt with a date that meant something to Lydia or to the person who wrote it.  It is located near the center of one side of the quilt.  There are no other signatures or names that appear anywhere in ink or thread that I have been able to find. 

I wonder too if Lydia E. Boyer may have been the person who did the quilting.  That could explain why her name is so nicely placed between two parallel lines of quilting.  It could also explain why her name is the only one on the quilt.  If that is the case then I think we can rule out the possibility of Isiah and Mary's daughter being the Lydia this person this name refers to. 

Don't forget to sign your quilts 
and other wonderful handmade items!

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