|I would like to make a quilt using the patterns used by the underground railroad.|
Do you know where to locate patterns for these quilts - Underground
Railroad, Log Fence, Southern Rose, Northern Lily? I would like to locate patterns of some of the quilts used by the underground railroad to alert runaway slaves to safe houses. I found the names of the above quilts under Civil War Quilts. Was the Ohio Star one of the patters used? Thank you. Appreciate your help.
Before answering your question, I must first point something out...as
wonderful as the 'quilts used as directions to the Underground Railroad' story is (it is based, of course, on a famous book, HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW, I believe one of the authors is Tobin, that appeared some years ago), there is NO DIRECT EVIDENCE that this was ever
true. Even the book that propagated this theory based the vast majority of its 'evidence' on the stories of one elderly Black-American lady. (I wonder why there were not more oral traditions like this in other households descended from former slaves.) The book also used some patterns for 'proof' that were not even in common use during the Civil War era, like the Dresden Plate. (They conveniently gave it a different name.) The authors of the this book have given many speeches and made statements that they cannot entirely back up.
Although I know of at least authority, whose opinion I respect, argue
that since it may have happened in one family, then it should be
considered as truth, I really have great difficulty believing that one
elderly woman's story (that woman is now deceased, so cannot be asked more) should be taken as absolute and entire truth for the entire nation. Because it is indeed such a wonderful tale, and the authors appeared on several national forums, including talk shows like "Oprah," this theory quickly became 'fact.' But serious quilt scholars (with the exception of the one person I mentioned before) largely pooh-pooh the book. We need to have more evidence proving it happened more than once.
I am very sorry to say this -- really, I am. I have given several
lectures on quilts of the Civil War, and have been asked this question
every single time. And every time I see the disappointed looks on their faces when I answer them the way I have you. But to my knowledge, and backed up by study, it's the truth.
NOW, having burst your bubble, I can point out several patterns that
were used in the Civil War...the best source is Barbara Brackman's QUILTS OF THE CIVIL WAR (the patterns in there are modern make-ups and interpretations, but the photos will show you the straight scoop) and SOUTHERN QUILTS by Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel. The Ramsey/Waldvogel book will show you actual Civil War quilts, so you can study the patterns. Brackman's book has LOTS of history and talks about whether quilt patterns were used to communicate one's political and pro/anti-slavery views. Both
are worth finding.
In the meantime, you can find the patterns you've mentioned in Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS (American Quilter's Society) and ENCYCLOPEDIA OF APPLIQUE PATTERNS (EPM). Underground Railroad and Log Fence (which I believe is a variation of the Log Cabin pattern) should be fairly easy to find...the two applique patterns may have names that are variations on the ones you're mentioning.