1885 - 1890 Lyle Baird's Crazy-patched Parlor Throw

Description
The initials “G.W.B.” decorated with devils are embroidered on this parlor throw which also has naval and patriotic motifs. It was the gift of Mrs. George Washington Baird to the Collection in 1926, through George Washington Baird, Rear Admiral, U.S.N., as the executor of his wife’s will.
The silk and velvet parlor throw is heavily embroidered with many painted and embroidered patches. Flowers, birds, butterflies, and fans are typical of motifs found on similar crazy-patchwork of the period. It is the choice and use of the motifs that makes each quilt unique. A printed picture of a sailor, American flags, and commemorative ribbons make this particular one special.
The silk, satin, and ribbon crazy-patchwork is framed by an 8-inch blue velvet border. Detached chain, French knot, satin, chain, buttonhole, feather, couched herringbone, stem, straight, and cross stitches embellish the parlor throw. It is lined with a maroon silk.
The ribbons incorporated into the crazy-patchwork possibly came from events that had significance for the Bairds. One silk ribbon, produced in 1876 at the time of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, has the image of George Washington and the inscription: “THESE UNITED COLONIES ARE AND OF RIGHT OUGHT TO BE FREE & INDEPENDENT STATES / IN COMMEMORATION of the Centennial of AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE.” These souvenir ribbons or bookmarks were produced by B. B. Tilt & Son of New Jersey, who had an exhibit of their work in the Machinery Hall at the Centennial. Benjamin B. Tilt, an English immigrant, established the Phoenix Manufacturing Company, specializing in silk products.
Another silk ribbon, “Souvenir of THE WORLD”S INDUSTRIAL AND COTTON Centennial EXPOSITION / NEW ORLEANS / 1884 1885” may have come from a visit to that event. In 1884 the World’s Fair that was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, focused on the role New Orleans played in the handling and export of cotton. The centennial marked the anniversary of the earliest known record (1784) of a shipment of cotton from Louisiana to England. The ribbon has images of a cotton plant, the American eagle, flags, and a pelican feeding her young. It was also a product of the Phoenix Manufacturing Company of Paterson, N. J.
A black silk ribbon with “U.S.S. ALBATROSS” on it may have had particular significance as George W. Baird supervised the construction of the steamship USS Albatross in the 1880s. It was commissioned in 1882. The steamship was designed for marine research and was assigned to the U.S. Fish Commission. George Baird contributed to various designs for interior appliances, ventilation, and other engineering innovations that contributed to the USS Albatross’s use as a floating scientific research station until the 1920s. A patch near the "U.S.S. ALBATROSS" ribbon is a printed-on-silk picture of a sailor climbing a mast, further honoring naval connections.
George W. Baird, according to a letter he wrote to Burke McCarty in 1921, was an acquaintance of John Wilkes Booth. His letter is cited in The Suppressed Truth about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He wrote: “My acquaintance with John Wilkes Booth was not at all intimate. I met him in New Orleans in the winter of ’63 and ’64, when he was playing in the theatre there in ‘Marble Hearts” and he was splendid in his part. My acquaintance was what may be called a bar-room acquaintance. Was introduced to him by a young officer of my ship the ‘Pensacola’ . . . . Booth seemed to be a congenial fellow with a sense of humor and I thought was very temperate in his habits. . . . I admired him, his voice, power of declaiming. I took drinks with him at the Franklin House, Custom House Street, a place frequented by army and navy officers. He seemed to me to have no interest in the [Civil] war. It was hard to understand. I had not seen him but once in Washington and that about three weeks before the murder of the President.”
George goes on to write of his experiences of the night Lincoln was shot, April 14, 1865. When told of the incident while calling on a young lady he “. . . left at once; saw policeman at the corner whom I interrogated and he confirmed the story. I inquired as to the appearance of the assassin and he not only gave a description that fitted but said he resembled me, and I thought that I had better hurry to my boarding house. . . . nothing could induce me to appear on the streets again that night.” Later George’s involvement with Booth continued: “I was detailed to make a series of experiments in the Navy Yard, and after Booth’s body was brought to the Navy Yard and lay on board the ‘Montauk’ this happened. I was called on board the Montauk by Lieut. W. Crowninshield, to identify the body of John Wilkes Booth, which I did.”
Lyle J. Baird, the donor, was born in 1852 to Joseph and Martha Prather of Washington, D.C. She married George Washington Baird in 1873. On both the 1900 and 1910 censuses, they were living in Washington, D.C. No children were indicated on either census. Lyle was a member of the D.A.R. She died on Jan. 6, 1926.
George (1843-1930), who was born and educated in Washington, D.C., entered the navy in 1862 as an assistant engineer, serving in Louisiana during the Civil War. He is known both as an inventor and author of several articles related to ship design. He is also credited with supervising the installation of electric lighting in the White House in 1891. George retired in 1905 with the rank of rear admiral. Lyle died January 6, 1926, and George on October 4, 1930, in Washington, D.C. Lyle noted in her will that her parlor throw with the G.W.B. initials should go to the Museum, and George honored that request.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
quilt
date made
1885-1890
maker
unknown
Physical Description
fabric, silk, velvet, satin (overall material)
thread, silk, chenille, metal (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 89 in x 79 in; 225 cm x 200 cm
place made
United States: District of Columbia
ID Number
TE*E377368
accession number
90658
catalog number
E377368
subject
Family & Social Life
Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Quilting
Quilts
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Quilts
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. George Washington Baird
Additional Media

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