The Houseman Quilt


From the July 1938 issue of The American Home

1859 Staten Island Quilt

2016 Corrections to the story below provided to us by Niki Armacost - The names Houseman and Demarest (not Demorest) as well as Van Tassell, Van Winkle, Browers, Blauvet, Post and Stevens are all names associated with the Ackerman and De Clark families. These people, all of Dutch descent and their families histories were interwoven!

Here's our proof the 1857 Album Quilt and the Houseman Quilt are linked together!

The following text is an excerpt from the article Old Quilts Tell a Story by Florence Peto -

Although little verifiable biography enlightens the genesis of the merry Housman Quilt, the spirit of a locality animates it and it is vibrant with sentiment, symbolism, and the interests of a family. It was made in 1859, which is not old as quilts go. The present owner inherited it from an aunt whom she had seldom seen and she knows only that it was made in the Housman family which had Dutch ancestry; historical records show them to have lived on Staten Island as early as 1675. It is believed that some young son of the Housmans emigrated to Pennsylvania where he married a girl born and bred to German traditions. Being, therefore, well versed in local forklore, her patchwork took on the exuberant quality of a regional document which, at her passing, went to the Staten Island branch of the family.
Occupying central position is the red calico homestead with building- stones, window - sashes, doorways, and chimneys embroidered in chain-stitches; ornamental stitchery is so often seen super-imposed on the applique work of Pennsylvania-made quilts, it is tempting to call it characteristic. On both sides of the date have been placed pineapples, domestic symbol of hospitality. One of them, pieced of tiny rectangular patches hardly as large as your own small fingernail, as acquired a remarkably realisetic effect. Left of center are two formalized trees of life, a little stark and primitive, but often seen in this form on other pieces of local handiwork. On each side of the house are more naturalistic fruit-bearing trees under whose branches cocks and hens strut and feed. Baby's hands, scissors, and the baby's cradle over which hovers the dove, in the instance symbol of innocence, suggest woman's occupations. The capacious coffee mug, fancifully inscribed "John Demorest," and the Masonic and Odd Fellows' emblems, indicate masculine tastes and interests. There is speculation in the meaning of the Punch-and-Judy-looking figures; they may be Grandpa and Grandma Housman; one or both may have had the disconcerting habit of mislaying his or her spectacles. Under the debonair horseman in orange breeches and green coat, "Euphemia" is stitched in outline; there is sad implications in the little riderless pony who, by the way, carries an English saddle.
Of not so personal but more general interest are the flower forms Left of the house is seen a conventionalized passion flower. the lute as a motif was often employed by music-loving people, while oak leaves (top row, right of center) bring to mind German songs and stories; it is written that in ancient oak groves Germanic forebears worshiped their gods and held their communal assemblies. In Pennsylvania the double rose, fuchsia, pomegranate and tulip are constantly recurrent motifs in the adornment of dower chests, household utensils, and needlework.
Your old quilt may be decorated lavishly with hearts or there may be just one rucked away unobtrusively in the corner; the presence of a heart or a dove indicated a bride's quilt, for hearts are tokens of love in every land. In the Houseman Quilt a circle hearts has been arranged in a round patch. The star and Crescent (upper right-hand corner of the quilt) painted on a barn was a potent talisman to ward off unfriendly spirits from cattle and still other symbols had the property to insure prolific increase. Left of the Star and Crescent is the St. Andrew's Cross; thought more often placed in a circle, in this quilt it has been set in a square. The St. Andrew's Cross, sure protection against sorcery, was a favorite hex mar. For instance, a witch, placing her hand on a door-knocker into which the occupant of the house had previously had the foresight to cut a St. Andrew's cross, would be rendered helpless and impotent. tools and guns, so marked, never disappeared or behaved badly.
In the Housman quilt a green leaf appliqued close to the corner of each unit block becomes a group of four leaves when the locks are set together; leaves cut in three lobes supply a pleasing border finish.

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