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Redwork Autograph Bed or Table Cover

Origin: Pennsylvania, Lycoming County
OH: 94 ½ x OW: 101 ¼ in. (240 x 257 cm)
Gift of Harry Vernon and Louise Schneider Family
Acc. No. 2014.609.3
Rectangular counterpane or table cover of white cotton backed with white cotton and embroidered in red cotton. The central design is composed of 450 rectangular patches measuring 2 ¼ inches by 3 ¾ inches, featuring embroidered autographs and calling cards, dating from 1895-1899. Surrounding this central block of autographs are a variety of floral motifs, insects, animals, and a "good luck" horseshoe. The maker's name, Clara J. Ulmer, is embroidered at the top on a scroll surrounded by holly. The border motifs are interspersed with another 119 autographs which are outlined in embroidered rectangles. The counterpane has a border of embroidered leaves, the outer edges of which are cut to shape. Stitches include outline/stem, herringbone, buttonhole, chain, and straight stitches forming eyelets designed to hold front and back together.
Label:Toward the end of the nineteenth century, it was fashionable to embroider with colorfast red cotton floss on white grounds, a combination that was especially popular for items that had to be washed, such as children’s quilts and bibs, table covers, and summer bed coverings. At the same time, many women indulged in the fad for collecting autographs from friends and strangers alike. This textile combines both fashionable pastimes in one piece.The patches have inscriptions that include Lycoming, Williamsport, and Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, and the names indicate that most of the autographs come from family members, friends, and local businesses and officials. Also included are unidentified Asian or Middle Eastern script signatures. One of the autographs is that of Buffalo Bill Cody, who toured the United States with his Wild West show beginning in the late 1880s. It is possible Clara Jane collected his autograph at one of the venues.
Provenance:Descended through the family of the maker, Clara Jane Ulmer. Louise Thompson Schneider, a donor of the textile, is Clara J. Ulmer's great-niece.
Inscription(s):Clara J. Ulmer