“Plain as this canvass was
Check out more details on Bridget and her sampler at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Museum Textile Services has been conserving a selection of samplers from the New Hampshire Historical Society over the last few years. Each one of these beauties will be featured on the blog. First up is Bridget Walker’s 1795 sampler, so let’s dive in!
Bridget, as she proudly states in her work, was 12 when this sampler was finished in 1795. Young Miss Walker was growing up as one of the first generation of Americans born after the revolution in her town of Concord New Hampshire. In 1795 Concord was a bustling town, about to be named New Hampshire’s state capital. With industry, wealth and success in a city, education for children usually follows, and this sampler is a testament to educational values of the time.
We can see Bridget’s eye for color and form along with her alphabet, numbers, and a well-known sampler rhyme. The rhyme is slightly different in the groundbreaking 1921 compilation American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe. As you can see from this excerpt, Bridget chose to alter the full rhyme to suit her taste and ideas of correct spelling in 1795 Concord.
Bridget’s fine sampler was stitched carefully on natural linen in silk thread, and then carefully saved through the generations. As you can see from the wrinkles and fading before conservation, it was in need of some skilled care. Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan surface cleaned, humidified, and blocked the sampler before stitching it by hand to a fabric-covered archival board for storage and display. These conservation measures will improve the visual qualities for viewers and aid in the preservation of this beautiful sampler for generations to come.
Check out more details on Bridget and her sampler at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Cataloging and documenting the objects, clothing, and personal effects in the military collection of Max W. Krell feels a bit like getting to know the man himself, which is a pleasure for everyone at MTS. Born on September 13th, 1922, Krell rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant before the end of World War II. He and his wife Phyllis J. Krell raised a family in Kingsport, TN. Following Phyllis' death, he spent his final years in Charlevoix, MI.
1st Lieutenant Krell's collection consists of thirteen uniform pieces and a metal box containing dozens of items belonging to Max and his wife. These include numerous military pins and rank badges, an emergency signaling mirror and time-distance computer, Dutch biscuit tins, and more personal items including a pocket watch, a lady’s watch and a man’s gold ring. The items Krell chose to save give us a personalized history of one man's military service and participation in the amazing events of 'Operation Manna,' also known as the 'Chowhound Mission' during the war.
While Max Krell's collection of clothing and personal effects shows the diligence and orderliness that military men and women are often famous for, MTS is eager to improve the condition and storage of these items up to conservation levels. By doing so we will help preserve them so the coming generations can enjoy getting to know Max Krell and his military and humanitarian efforts in World War II.
Museum Textile Services welcomes Morgan Carbone as the newest member of staff. Morgan recently graduated with her Masters degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology studying conservation of fashion and textiles. Prior to attending FIT, she obtained her BA in Art History from Grinnell College in Iowa. While at FIT, Morgan interned in the conservation lab at the Museum at FIT and at the Hispanic Society of America. She also worked part time as a sales associate for Juli Raja Hand Built, a modern textile and fashion business specializing in wood block printing.
This blog concludes our four-part series on the Solon A Perkins flag, cared for by the Greater Lowell Veteran's Council, here in Massachusetts. It took nearly 18 months for the Vets to administer this complicated project, including hiring Museum Textile Services to conserve the flag and MasterWorks Conservation to conserve the frame. The flag will be rededicated on May 31, 2015, in a public ceremony at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
A solid-support panel was manufactured by Small Corp. Inc. to fit perfectly into the flag's inner frame. We covered the panel with padding and fabric before laying out the red and white polyester organza
underlays. Camille then placed the striped section of the flag on top of this ghost image and hand stitched them both to the fabric-covered panel. Next, she transferred the canton, already stitched to its blue organza underlay, onto the panel and stitched it into place. The final step prior to framing was to tediously straighten all of the shattered silk and slowly cover the entire flag with silk Crepeline. Camille hand stitched around the perimeter of flag and beneath each white stripe to hold the tattered flag in place and to prevent any fragments from slipping down. This sheer overlay is invisible from even a short distance and provides a extra barrier between the flag and the acrylic above.
The pressure mount was created by placing a sheet of UV-filtering acrylic over the mounted flag and screwing it down into the top of the panel. Because the rabbet of the green inner frame does not fully cover these mounting screws, we used an archival linen-covered mat between the underside of the frame and the top of the acrylic to mask the holes. Although the reinstalled flag looks as if it is a single framing system, this is an illusion; the flag panel, followed by the frames, were installed separately into the marble wall of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and won't be going anywhere for a long time.
Museum Textile Services would like to thank the members of the Greater Lowell Veteran's Council, especially John Mitchell, Bob Casper, and Thayer Eastman; Grant Welker, staff reporter from the Lowell Sun; and Larry Glickman of Traveling Framers. To contribute to the ongoing fundraising efforts for this project, please visit the Lt. Perkins Flag Restoration GoFundMe page.
The Solon Perkins Flag, recently conserved at Museum Textile Services, underwent a long and arduous journey to arrive at our studios. By tracing this path we learn about the history of the flag, the man, the city of Lowell, Massachusetts.
This flag is one of two Cavalry Guidons referred to in a letter written by Major General Benjamin F. Butler of the 8th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The soldier's mother, Mrs. Wealthy Perkins, was given the flag by the estate of General Butler. (Butler, who outlived Perkins by 30 years, went on be a congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, and presidential candidate in 1884. He is also the namesake of the B. F. Butler Post 42 of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was established in Lowell in 1868.) A letter from Butler to Wealthy Perkins was published in the Lowell Daily Sun on December 15, 1894, in an article stating that the flag and Butler’s letter were, “to be put in Memorial Hall.”
From a 1919 Lowell Sun article we learn that the Perkins flag was at that time displayed on the wall above Middlesex Bank President F. P. Gilly. After several more years at the bank, it returned to the Knapp home. According to Charles Knapp’s wife Mary Sawyer Knapp, it was they who, “carefully preserved [the flag] by mounting under glass in a beautifully hand-carved frame.” In 1929, Mrs. Knapp invited Trustees of the Lowell Memorial to view the flag with the aim of donating it to the new Lowell Memorial Auditorium, constructed 7 years prior. The flag was installed at the Auditorium on November 12, 1929.
It is not known how long the Solon Perkins Flag was displayed in the Hall of Flags at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium but its condition at the time it was rediscovered holds some clues. It hung across from a set of large doors which let in light and dirt from the busy street. There is also a return vent nearly the width of the frame located directly below where the flag was hanging before its removal. Although the tattered condition of the flag may not have changed much since its early 20th-century framing, the combination of dirt and its ragged appearance likely moved trustees to retire it from display.
Discovery of the Perkins flag must be credited to Steve Purtell and Gus Kanakis, who saw it in the basement propped against a wall behind a piano. They brought it to the attention of the Greater Lowell Veterans Council, who began the search for conservators for both the frame and the flag.
Rarely does a textile arrive at Museum Textile Services with as much history and legend as the Solon Perkins flag. Discovered in the basement of the Lowell Memorial Arena, the key to unlocking its story was found right on its elaborate wood frame. Painted on the green inner frame is an inscription reading, "Under this flag at Clinton, La., on June 3, 1863, Solon A. Perkins was killed." Perkins is one of nearly 500 men from Lowell who died in the Civil War.
of the 19th Corps. Mark Hudziak of Iron Brigader, tells us that on the day of his death, Perkins was part of an expedition under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson that was sent to engage Confederate cavalry near Clinton, LA, during the Port Hudson Campaign.
There are no fewer than three detailed accounts of Solon Perkins' heroic, but ultimately fatal, final charge. Testimony delivered by Rev. Owen Street of the Lowell High School Chapel, in late June, 1963, was based on details from letters written to Perkins' mother. They read, in part:
By far the most passionate and detailed account of the life and death of Solon Perkins can be read on his grave marker in Lowell Cemetery:
He was killed in battle near Port Hudson. Performed his duty in life, and died bravely in the defense of his country and of liberty. He helped recruit a company of cavalry in the fall of 1861 and receiving the commission of a Lieut. went out with Gen. Butlers expedition to the Gulf. His Captain being lost overboard near Fort Jackson April 62, he commanded the company from that time till he fell. He was a true type of the cavalry officer, dashing, brilliant, brave and highly strategic and for these qualities was often complimented by his superior officers. In a letter urging his promotion to the rank of Major. Gen. Weitzel spoke of him as, “The man who to-day has the finest and most serviceable cavalry company to whom is due the honor of making it what it is. Who is the bravest and ablest of officers, and has accomplished more than any officer in this department. He has deserved promotion (he said) by his ability, his industry, his efficiency, his bravery and his success.” This recommendation was approved by Gen. Banks, and the Majors commission made out but never reached him. During the last year of his service he was constantly skirmishing with the enemy. He led Gen. Banks advance to Red River and Port Hudson was four times wounded and had seven horses killed under him. Very few could bear hardship to the same extent or with less injury. Yet in a letter closed the day before he fell, he said, "I would rather lose an arm than endure what I have aside from my wounds, the last eight months." The changes of war he counted from the start and in that last letter he said, "I often think it more blessed to die on the battlefield for ones country, than to live long years in civil life."
Solon Perkins never married. He was survived by his father, Apollos Perkins (1799–1877,) his mother Wealthy Porter Perkins (1813–1896), and a brother Henry Porter Perkins (1844–1908.)
On a steamy August day last summer, MTS Director Camille Myers Breeze met with representatives of the Greater Lowell Veterans Council inside the cavernous Lowell Memorial Arena. On a table lay a venerable Civil War flag, discovered the previous January in a forgotten corner of the basement. Camille was interviewed by Grant Welker in his January Lowell Sun article, From Ragged Glory, a Piece of Lowell Civil War History Unfurled, and the day had finally arrived to transfer the flag to the hands of a conservator.
Together the team carefully removed the heavy oak frame, followed by a green- and gold-painted inner frame, both hand carved in the early 20th century. Beneath the glass lay a sheet of century-old cardboard to which the flag was glued and sewn. It is tempting to point out how the combination of sunlight and acidity have bleached the silk to shreds, but had the flag never been framed and exhibited for generations of Lowell visitors to see, it could very well have turned to dust by now.
Over the next few weeks, we will outline our conservation strategy, walk you through the creative problem-solving solutions we came up with, discuss the client's preference for a "restoration," and share the amazing history of this historic artifact.
The reinstallation of the Mary Baker Eddy Peace Flag went off without a hitch on Monday, March 30th, despite President Obama being in town and the flurries that reminded us of all the snow that fell while the flag was under our care.
Each of the four mitered corners had to be aligned perfectly to meet the corners of the flag, as well as the corners of the fringe. We pinned the seams open, blind stitched with a fine curved needle, and then top stitched in two rows. Sewing through multiple layers of silk was a bit like sewing through Jell-O®! This was only slightly preferable to stitching through the thick trim around the flag and the fringe, which broke several of our larger curved needles.
After we attached all of the original elements, we gently flipped the flag over and trimmed the new ivory silk borders. A dust cover made of cotton plain weave was constructed, to which we machine sewed a strip of Velcro-compatible fabric. We pinned the dust cover to the top edge of the flag and hand stitched through the machine stitching holes using straight needles. Because the ivory silk borders are semi-transparent, we made a deep turnback in the dust cover, which ended just below the top of the central flag. By mitering the turnback to follow the corner border seams, we avoided any distracting shadows.
We carefully rolled the flag up for transport to the Mary Baker Eddy Library, taking special care to keep the fringe tidy and not to crease the central flag. Upon arrival, we unrolled the top edge of the flag in order to press the Velcro slat to the Velcro on the back of the flag. Library staff lifted the roll up to Camille and another staff person, who hung the slat off of the four original hooks inside the case. The flag was unfurled and small adjustments were made. The visible ends of the slat were camouflaged with beige cotton caps. Finally, the original brass rod from which the flag had hung was threaded through the silk bows and placed on the hooks.
In Part II of the Mary Baker Eddy Blog, we discussed several tough decisions we had to make to ensure that this fragile silk flag would be able to hang safely in its original display case along the second floor mezzanine at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. This blog is all about the difficult task of stabilizing, stitching through, and supporting the 100-year-old artifact.
Stay tuned for the final installation of the Mary Baker Eddy Blog series, in which we share the reinstallation of her newly conserved Peace Flag.
Conservation of the Peace Flag from the Mary Baker Eddy Library got off to a quick start, here at Museum Textile Services. As our previous blog mentioned, we were able to transport the flag to our studios just before the string of winter storms. The first treatment, as always, was surface cleaning the flag to remove airborne pollutants. Although the flag was sealed in its case for 80 years, the gasket had deteriorated, allowing soot, dust, and other air pollutants to permeate the flag.
The next difficult decision we faced was whether to exhibit the flag with the same side outward, or to show the original colors preserved on the reverse. We considered two factors went into the decision to continue to show the same side: First is the congressional report entitled, "The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions," updated in 2008. Section 7.i states that, "When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union [star field] should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left." Equally importantly, there was no guarantee that the back of the flag would not fade sometime in the future, and if that were to happen, no evidence would remain of its original vibrancy.
Stay tuned for the next installment to see how dyeing of the new ivory border went, and learn how we plan to make the central flag strong enough for another century of display.
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