Quilting, and many other domestic crafts, has long been considered the realm of women (and sometimes was dismissed because of that). But quilting is a serious art, and it’s not just for women. Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, now on view at the New-York Historical Society, features this quilt made by a Civil War soldier–and made from both Union and Confederate uniforms.
This quilt, which comes to our exhibit from the Oklahoma Museum of History, was made by Sergeant Stephen A. Lewis (1838–1923) of the 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Lewis was captured by Confederate soldiers after being wounded at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, but managed to flee as they were marching the prisoners in Georgia. He found shelter with a slave woman who risked her life to hide him, and was able to recover in a Union army hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. While there, he made this quilt from scraps of blankets and uniforms. According to our researchers, “In the 1920s, during a terrible period of racial conflict in Oklahoma, Lewis sheltered an African-American, remembering the slave who had saved him.”
The fact that the quilter is male may not be such a shock. According to Joe Cunningham, author of Men and the Art of Quiltmaking, ” The first professional quilters were men, participants in every aspect involving the production of textiles. Once quilting became a 19th century hobby and artistic pursuit, women became the predominant enthusiasts. Now there is a steadily growing collection of male quilt artists.”