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Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery Presents "Civil War Era Quilts from the Illinois State Museum"

  Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery Presents "Civil War Era Quilts from the Illinois State Museum"   

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Chicago, IL-- In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery presents an exhibition of eighteen quilts made during the era of the Civil War. Curated by Angela Goebel-Bain, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts with the Illinois State Museum, the exhibition opens to the public June 18, 2012 and runs through September 14, 2012.

By the start of the American Civil War in 1861, quilts had long embodied the comfort and security of home and served as emblems of familial love. Caring wives and mothers sent thousands of quilts to war with soldiers so that their men could be wrapped in warmth and reminded of home.

Although many believed the war would be a short campaign, news spread within weeks that the government was unprepared to provide for the volunteer regiments. Women throughout the North organized themselves into Soldier's Aid Societies to send supplies of food, clothing and bedding, to their home regiments.

The exhibition includes:

  • An album quilt made by a close neighbor of Abraham Lincoln and includes the names of Springfield women surrounding the Lincolns.
  • A quilt that a wounded Civil War veteran helped his wife create after the war.
  • A quilt made by a soldier's wife from Effingham whose son also volunteered when he came of age.
  • Quilts made by mothers and sisters of soldiers
  • A quilt made by a Jerseyville, Illinois, woman for her granddaughter in Tennessee, whose father was a Confederate officer
  • Quilts representing the array of popular quilt styles of the Civil War period, including five outstanding appliqué quilts from a young Pennsylvania woman's dowry.

The Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery, 100 West Randolph, suite 2-100, is located in the James R. Thompson Center and is one of five art sites around the state featuring Illinois artists and works from the Museum’s permanent collection. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM, closed state holidays. The Gallery is free and wheelchair-accessible. Tour and school groups are welcome. Please call for appointments for guided tours at 312-814-5322. Visit our website at: www.museum.state.il.us/ismsites/chicago/exhibitions.

Note to editors: Selected high-resolution images are available for publicity. Contact Doug Stapleton, dstapleton@museum.state.il.us or (312) 814-5320.

Civil War Era Quilts from the Illinois State Museum
Historical Information Sheet

By the American Civil War, quilts had long embodied the comfort and security of home and served as emblems of familial love. Caring wives and mothers sent thousands of quilts to war with soldiers so that their men could be wrapped in warmth and reminded of home.

Although many believed the war would be a short campaign, news spread within weeks that the government was unprepared to provide for the volunteer regiments. Women throughout the North organized themselves into Soldier's Aid Societies to send a wide range of supplies to the troops. In the early months of the war, the women's effort focused on providing for their home regiments.

Following the Union defeat at the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, Northerners realized that this would be a sustained effort. In October, President Lincoln announced the formation of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a national organization with branches throughout the North. Among the most active was the Northwestern Branch, centered in Chicago. In St. Louis the Western Sanitation Commission formed, and in Springfield, the Illinois Sanitary Commission. Each organization staffed hospitals and encouraged their cleanliness to thwart the spread of disease. Additional Illinois communities formed relief societies and began shipping supplies to their chosen Sanitary Commissions.

Among the most vital supplies listed in President Lincoln's appeal were "Blankets, Quilts” and other bedding, clothing and foodstuffs. The Illinois home front burst into a flurry of activity. Women made bedding and clothing, prepared food to ship, and fed troops moving through their towns. Local societies held numerous fundraisers, the largest of which were "Sanitary Fairs" staged to raise money to support the Sanitary Commissions. While Illinois women made utilitarian quilts for the soldiers, they created highly decorated quilts for fund-raising auctions at numerous Sanitary Fairs.

The war touched Illinois women in different ways. Quilters represented in this exhibition range from wives who bravely sent husbands and sons off to war, to mothers with young children on isolated rural farms. Some quilters were patriotic Unionists, and others are women who recently emigrated from the South whose sentiments towards the war are unknown. Many quilters come from communities that actively organized to support the Union soldiers, while others were young women seemingly untouched by the war.

Few quilts with a specific Civil War history survive. The dead were frequently buried in their family quilts. Soldier's quilts wore out with hard use. Quilts surviving from the era, however, help tell the stories of these most trying of times.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Doug Stapleton at dstapleston@museum.state.il.us (312) 814-5320
Jane Stevens at jstevens@museum.state.il.us (312) 814-5318



Thursday, May 24, 2012

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Illinois State Museum
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The Illinois State Museum promotes discovery, learning, and an appreciation of Illinois' natural, cultural, and artistic heritage.
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Interim Museum Director: Michael Wiant
Press Contact: michael.wiant@illinois.gov

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