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Kentucky by Design

Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 328
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    Kentucky by Design
    Book Description:

    TheIndex of American Designwas one of the most significant undertakings of the Federal Art Project -- the visual arts arm of the Works Progress Administration. Part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, this ambitious initiative set out to discover and document an authentic American style in everyday objects. The curators of theIndexcombed the country for art of the machine age -- from carved carousel horses to engraved powder horns to woven coverlets -- created by artisans for practical use. In their search for a true American artistic identity, they also sought furniture designed by regional craftsmen laboring in isolation from European traditions.Kentucky by Designoffers the first comprehensive examination of the objects from the Bluegrass State featured in this historic venture. It showcases a wide array of offerings, including architecture, furniture, ceramics, musical instruments, textiles, clothing, and glass- and metalworks. The Federal Art Project played an important role in documenting and preserving the work of Shaker artists from the Pleasant Hill and South Union communities, and their creations are exhibited in this illuminating catalog. Beautifully illustrated with both the original watercolor depictions and contemporary, art-quality photographs of the works, this book is a lavish exploration of the Commonwealth's distinctive contribution to American culture and modern design.

    Features contributions from Jean M. Burks, Erika Doss, Jerrold Hirsch, Lauren Churilla, Larrie Currie, Michelle Ganz, Tommy Hines, Lee Kogan, Ron Pen, Janet Rae, Shelly Zegart, Mel Hankla, Philippe Chavance, Kate Hesseldenz, Madeleine Burnside, and Allan Weiss.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5569-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xv)

    I DID NOT KNOW THAT, WHEN MY FRIEND BARRY SCHNEIDER AND I WENT TO THE American Folk Song Festival in Ashland, Kentucky, in 1960, it would mark a turning point in my life. The festival was organized by Jean Thomas, an icon of Kentucky folk music best known as the “Traipsin’ Woman.” Born in 1881, she had started collecting ballads and music from the hills of eastern Kentucky while traveling on horseback as a court reporter. Barry and I arrived several hours early and were immediately enlisted by Thomas to help set up the stage. Like many people, we had...

  4. Introduction “No Ideas but in Things”
    (pp. 1-9)

    TWO WOMEN—BOTH ARTISTS, BOTH NEW YORKERS—DEVELOPED THE IDEA THAT EVOLVED into the Index of American Design. Ruth Reeves was a textile designer. As an American modernist, she rejected European traditions, seeking visual inspiration in the arts of Central and South America. Romana Javitz was the head of the New York Public Library’s famous Picture Collection. The Picture Collection was a physical, if somewhat random, file, alphabetized by subject, and available to any member of the library.¹ During the 1930s, the artists and writers who haunted it for visual references were increasingly looking for Americana—something of which it...

  5. Regional Reputations, Modern Tastes, and Cultural Nationalism: Kentucky and the Index of American Design, 1936–1942
    (pp. 11-27)

    IN APRIL 1941, THE CITIZENS OF WHITESBURG, KENTUCKY, WERE “CORDIALLY INVITED” to attend an exhibit of watercolors at the new Letcher County “WPA Public Library.” A notice in the local newspaper, theMountain Eagle, explained that the exhibit was from the Index of American Design, “a comprehensive permanent portfolio in indigenous Early American folk and decorative arts.” The exhibit highlighted “Kentucky Index” drawings, including “shaker [sic] and other early Kentucky design in furniture, weaving, quilting, hardware, household utensils, dolls and many other interesting native articles.” As the newspaper observed: “There is an increasing interest in Early American designs and crafts...

  6. Kentucky Folk Art: New Deal Approaches
    (pp. 29-43)

    THE OPENING SENTENCES OF THE FEDERAL WRITERS’ PROJECT (FWP )–PRODUCEDKentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State(1939) declare a central tenet of New Deal cultural nationalism: “As each State studies and describes its history, natural endowments, and special interests,the paradox of diversity and homogeneity will become apparent.”¹ Washington New Dealers, however, would have almost certainly changed the wordhomogeneitytounity. And the national office of the FWP, even more than the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), the Federal Music Project (FMP), and the Federal Art Project (FAP), emphasized that diversity meant ethnic, racial, and class differences as...

  7. The Shaker Renderings from Kentucky: Models for American Modernism
    (pp. 45-58)

    THE INDEX OF AMERICAN DESIGN CONTAINED UTILITARIAN WORKS ORIGINATING FROM utopian and religious communities that were outside the American mainstream and little known at the time. The contributions of the Shaker, Amana, Economy, Bishop Hill, Mormon, Quaker, Pennsylvania German, Zoar separatist, and Spanish southwestern colonies became an important part of the portrait of America that was intentionally targeted by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

    The sheer number of Shaker objects selected for inclusion in the Kentucky Index of American Design is remarkable. Ninety-two of the over 220 renderings made in the state of Kentucky were of furniture, metal work, and...


    • 1 A Walnut Corner Cupboard Attributed to Thomas Lincoln Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 61-64)

      Thomas Lincoln (1778–1851) is a figure both defined and obscured by filial destiny, a man who exists in history largely as a reflection in his son’s eyes. The facts of his life as known are quite basic: an untutored, respectable man of solid practical skills—a farmer, a day laborer, a millworker, a carpenter, and a self-taught cabinetmaker—and, above all, a patriarch dedicated to the subsistence of his family. Dr. Gerald R. McMurtry, dean of Lincolniana at Lincoln Memorial University, compiled considerable evidence regarding Thomas Lincoln’s cabinetmaking and in particular his now-renowned cupboards. In a 1958 letter from...

    • 2 An Empire Mahogany Sewing Table Rendered by Charles Goodwin
      (pp. 65-69)

      Liberty Hall, located in Frankfort, Kentucky, was the home of one of Kentucky’s first US senators, John Brown (1757–1837). Built in 1796, the Federal-era mansion was occupied by Brown family members for nearly 140 years before becoming a museum in 1937. This late Empire-style worktable has been recorded in Liberty Hall inventories dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. A departure from the graceful, slender furniture of the Federal period, this ca. 1840 mahogany worktable exemplifies the large-volume forms that had become fashionable.

      A prevalent and desirable furniture form, the worktable provided young women with layout and storage space for...

    • 3 A Federal Walnut Chest of Drawers Rendered by Lon Cronk
      (pp. 70-73)

      The evolution of furniture forms, styles, and tastes in the American colonies always closely followed those of the royal houses of Stuart and Hanover. By the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the chest of drawers had wholly evolved into its recognizable modern form. Prototypes are found at the beginning of the reign of Charles II , but the earliest known dated American chest of drawers is from 1678, made for John and Margaret Saniford of Ipswich, Massachusetts.¹ By the end of the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the utilitarian aspects of chests of drawers had made them popular...

    • 4 A Kentucky Cherry Wood Sugar Chest Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 74-76)

      In the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth, refined white and brown sugars were a prized domestic commodity in the Southeast. Before 1825, sugar was difficult and expensive to transport and its availability sporadic and costly. During this period, furniture forms designed for the storage and safekeeping of sugars and coffee became universally popular in the southern backcountry—particularly in central Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. Though the sugar chest was a predominant form—a plain rectangular case fitted with tripartite interior, locking hingelidded top, and lower short drawer, raised on four square-tapering or turned legs—cabinetmakers produced a variety...

    • 5 A Shaker Walnut Trestle Dining Table with Aftermarket Chairs Rendered by Lon Cronk
      (pp. 77-78)

      Communal dining required plain, good tables. The Shakers adapted the monastic refectory tables for seating many brothers and sisters at once. Set end to end, the tables accommodated sisters on one side of the room and brothers on the other. Backless benches served the regulated lifestyle of Pleasant Hill in the early nineteenth century. Meals were taken in silence, and food was prepared in what were among the largest, best-equipped, most modern, and safest kitchens in nineteenth-century America. Shaker innovations and efficiency in agriculture, selective breeding, and food storage and preparation ensured a bountiful and varied year-round diet of high...

    • 6 A Shaker Walnut Trestle Dining Table Rendering by Lon Cronk
      (pp. 79-80)

      Most Shaker villages adopted the trestle table form for use in their communal dining rooms. These long, narrow tables allowed for an efficient use of space where seating a large number of people was essential. The construction and design of Shaker trestle tables varied from village to village, depending on regional biases, all the while conforming to the sect’s tenets of simplicity and utility.

      One unusual feature of the South Union example is a top constructed of short boards, placed side-by-side, with a quarter-inch space between each board. While there is no documented explanation for this unusual technique, it can...

    • 7 A Shaker Three-Door Cherry Wood Room Cupboard Rendered by E. D. Williams
      (pp. 81-83)

      With straightforward simplicity, the Pleasant Hill three-door cupboard has great presence and is exceedingly well proportioned, somewhat in contrast to the original Index rendering.

      The paneled cupboard placed atop a conforming case of drawers is a distinctly western Shaker furniture form. The Shakers referred to this asa press on a bureau. The pieces were not always made together, at times being “married” to one another. An East Family journal entry of October 29, 1849, notes: “S. L. Boisseau finished making a cherry press for the Nurses’ room, to set on a bureau made by him about two years before.”¹...

    • 8 A Shaker Poplar Step-Back Food Safe Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 84-85)

      During the first half of the nineteenth century, Shaker cabinetmakers at South Union made small presses or cupboards to be used atop bureaus, tables, or other case pieces. Through manuscript documentation, it is clear that these presses were used where they were needed and not necessarily made to rest permanently on a specific piece. The “step-back” form combined a base and top in one large unit, with the top cupboard made slightly shallower in depth or “stepped back” from the bottom cupboard. This unusual Shaker food safe falls into that category.

      Constructed entirely of heavy poplar stock, and stained a...

    • 9 A Shaker Walnut Food Safe Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 86-88)

      The Shakers at South Union produced at least two large food safes for their use, both of which are in the collection of the South Union Shaker Village today. A rarity in the standard list of Shaker furniture forms, the food safe was not uncommon in the Upper South, where many of South Union’s converts originated. This example dwarfs worldly food safes made during the same period, however. Created for communal use, the size of this piece may have been why it did not sell at South Union’s dissolution sale in 1922.

      This food safe typifies antebellum cabinetmaking documented in...

    • 10 A Shaker Built-In Cherry Wood Short Corner Cupboard Rendered by Lon Cronk
      (pp. 89-90)

      The Shakers did not condemn color. To the contrary, paint and stain were regularly applied in a very straightforward manner to the surfaces of readily available, nonfigured wood like pine to create a neat and clean appearance. To the twenty-first-century eye, the original colors on Shaker furniture appear surprisingly bold, as seen here on interior Shaker woodwork. Throughout the Pleasant Hill Center Family dwelling house, built in 1824, the wood trim retains its original blue paint and the baseboards a contrasting brick red.

      The color choice is somewhat surprising because Shakers in the eastern communities reserved expensive Prussian blue paint...

    • 11 The Trustees’ Office Staircase at Pleasant Hill Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 91-94)

      The Trustees’ Office staircase at Pleasant Hill is the final outcome of an evolution unique to the setting of Pleasant Hill’s architecture: the quest, step by step, of verticality. The Meeting House, built in 1820, is exclusively horizontal, underlined by three rows of surrounding peg lines. In the earlier dwellings constructed from 1817 onward, there is little opening between the straight flights of the symmetrical stairs, leaving barely enough space for the hand to move unobstructed on the handrail, and one has to walk all the way upstairs to discover a skylight. This will change with the Center Family dwelling...

    • 12 A Shaker Oak and Ash Spinning Wheel Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 95-96)

      Ever present on the American frontier and throughout much of the nineteenth century, the spinning wheel was equally indispensable in Shaker villages. The largest of the common wheels was called agreat wheeland most often used to spin wool. This example, made by the South Union Shakers, includes turnings that are nearly identical to those found in the architectural details of the community’s 1824 Center House. The finial at the termination of the wheel support is the same shape as those found atop the newel posts of the dwelling’s back staircase. The tapered base of the wheel support is...

    • 13 A Shaker Poplar Sewing Stand Rendered by Eugene W. McGill
      (pp. 97-99)

      Products manufactured and offered for sale to the world’s people provided a substantial source of income for the Shakers in their declining years. The turned wooden base of this spool stand fitted with metal pins to hold commercial spools of thread was created by the brothers. However, the sisters fabricated the velvet-covered tomato-shaped pincushion on top, the strawberry emery (needle sharpener), the beeswax cake, and the needle case, which appears to be made of woven poplar wood—a material unique to the Shakers.

      The last major Shaker textile industry, poplarware, was undertaken by the sisters to support the New England...

    • 14 Six Shaker Rail Pegs, Depicted with a Candleholder Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 100-101)

      Although the Shakers did not invent the peg rail, its recurring use in every interior work and dwelling-house space has no direct vernacular precedent and represents one of the Believers’ most important contributions to the history of design. This repetitive, space-saving system utilizes the walls for storage and is a symbol of the innovative, nonintrusive standardization of interiors and mass production of individual units that anticipates and defines industrial design.

      Hung at a uniform six feet above the floor, the horizontal board is punctuated at regular intervals by distinctive hand-turned wooden knobs extending around the room. It is clear from...

    • 15 A Shaker Basswood Yoke Rendered by T. Joyce
      (pp. 102-103)

      Portrayed in paintings, metalwork, and porcelain for hundreds of years, human yokes most often consisted simply of a long stick with ropes suspended at either end so that the user could work at maximum capacity and carry a load more easily and efficiently.

      The Shaker-designed version takes into consideration the human anatomy as well as native materials. Crafted of local hardwoods to comfortably fit an individual’s neck and shoulders, it provided the user the ability to carry a balanced load much heavier than could be sustained by using one’s arms and hands alone. Fitted with leather cords and what appear...

    • 16 A Shaker Oak-Splint Utility Basket Rendered by Orville A. Carroll
      (pp. 104-105)

      Utility baskets for shop and domestic use were produced by each Shaker community to serve specific purposes in the fields, barns, and workrooms. Based on its size, this laundry basket measuring 7 × 11½ × 14½ inches, depicted in the Kentucky Index, may have been used to gather or carry produce instead of clothing.

      Whether fabricated of oak or ash splints, Shaker baskets were formed over wooden molds to guarantee uniformity of size, volume, and shape. The Believers assigned to this task saved time with a machine for splint making—the invention of Elders Daniel Boler (1804–1892) and Daniel...

    • 17 A Shaker Cast-Iron Woodstove with Vent Pipe Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 106-107)

      The Shakers were among the first to appreciate the advantages of wood-burning stoves. They were much cheaper to install and to operate than traditional fireplaces and could be used to heat a multitude of domestic and industrial spaces throughout Shaker communities from Maine to Kentucky.

      Some, like this one, were even fitted with “super heaters,” a cast rectangular fixture that was fitted atop the stove to help retain and radiate more heat in the room rather than sending it up the chimney. Without on-site metalworking operations, it was cost prohibitive for the Shakers to cast their own designs; instead, the...

    • 18 A Shaker Maple Grass-Seed Comb Rendered by Elbert S. Mowery
      (pp. 108-110)

      The majority of Shaker communities in the United States, including Pleasant Hill and South Union in Kentucky, were in the business of producing, packaging, and distributing farming and gardening seeds. Early records indicate that, in the 1790s, New Lebanon, New York; Enfield, Connecticut; and Union Village, Ohio, were the first communities to undertake the systematic propagation of seeds. By the 1820s, the industry had also been established in unions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Kentucky.¹ Seeds were an important source of revenue for the Shakers for most of the nineteenth century.

      The Shakers were responsible for important innovations in the...

    • 19 A Shaker Dress Rendered by Charles Goodwin
      (pp. 111-113)

      As long as Shaker cloth was produced, dyeing was an important textile activity that was based on natural plant sources, including deep butternut (reddish) brown and low-key reds extracted from the roots of the madder plant.

      The sisters’ dress style at mid-nineteenth century was a one-piece garment with a long, full skirt. The bodice was completely covered by a white collar and a large neckerchief or scarf pinned so that a triangular point fell just below the waist. In the later years of the nineteenth century, a separate shoulder cape or bertha replaced the kerchief, as shown here. The Shakers...

    • 20 A Shaker Sister’s Bonnet Rendered by Orville A. Carroll
      (pp. 114-116)

      An important part of a Shaker woman’s costume when going out in public was her bonnet. In the early nineteenth century, Shaker sisters made their bonnets of silk-covered pasteboard, but by the 1830s woven straw and palm-leaf bonnets were in use.

      After the material was processed into fine, regular strips, it was woven by hand or on a special loom to create a cloth that was then cut, shaped, and sewn together. A supporting wire was concealed by a braided straw trim. The bonnets were finished with a cloth lining, a cape at the neck, and chin ties, most commonly...

    • 21 Four Wool Shaker Chair Braids Rendered by Edward D. Williams
      (pp. 117-121)

      A uniquely Shaker product, wovenbraids, more accurately named tapes orlists, were a comfortable complement to Shaker chairs. They were originally created in a variety of colors and styles by the sisters to seat chairs both for themselves and, at the Mount Lebanon, New York, community, for sale to the outside world. The earliest examples like these were hand woven of homespun, homedyed wool on two-harness looms and characterized by symmetrical striped designs. The production of these textile tapes was recorded at Pleasant Hill by the deaconesses in the year-end summaries at the East House as follows:


    • 22 A Shaker Motto Rug Rendered by Elbert S. Mowery
      (pp. 122-124)

      This colorful, spirited rug is a hand-sewn example of intriguing ambiguity.

      The wordgood—central to the ethical code of many religions—resonates with Shaker belief and conduct: good thoughts, words, and deeds make for a more perfect society and bring the doer closer to heaven on earth. The word also appears in the titles and opening lines of many Shaker songs: as good children, good believers, good resolution, good angels.¹ The first verse of the well-known hymn “Give Good Gifts” is suffused with the feeling of goodness:

      Give good gifts one to another,

      Peace, joy and comfort gladly bestow,...

    • 23 A Shaker Pictorial Rug Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 125-127)

      The most unusual aspect of this remarkable rug is its subject matter, inasmuch as the Shakers never depicted humans andalmostnever depicted animals. This and another pictorial rug with a horse—both rare departures from the Shakers’ time-honored prohibition—speak at once to the considerable cultural and economic importance of horses to the state of Kentucky and to the evolution of the Shakers as an institution over time.

      In design, technique, and materials, this rug shares formal characteristics with sixteen other hand-sewn rugs in Pleasant Hill’s collection, including its rectangular shape, central design, framing corner blocks, multiple borders, and...

    • 24 Two Shaker Floral Medallion Rugs Rendered by Charles Goodwin and George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 128-130)

      Charles Goodwin’s rendering of a floral medallion hooked rug was most likely, at the time of the Index project, based on a beautiful hand-sewn example from Pleasant Hill as it shares with other hand-sewn rugs in the Pleasant Hill collection signature stylistic elements of design, technique, and materials. Though the rug Goodwin depicted has not been located, it strongly resembles another rug at Pleasant Hill, shown here. These and others in the collection—including the concentric circle and another tripartite floral—may very well be the work of the same sister.

      The motifs in the Goodwin and the collection rugs...

    • 25 A Shaker Geometric Rug Rendered by Charles Goodwin
      (pp. 131-132)

      As with most hand-sewn rugs in the Pleasant Hill collection, this symmetrical geometric example features a central design, framing corner blocks, multiple contrasting borders, and a braided edge. It is roughly the same size as the others and was created by the same techniques: shirring, scaling, and braiding. It is sewn to a woven carpet foundation and backed with corduroy.

      Pulsating rhythms and contrasting color harmonies are the distinguishing features of the rug. Composed of basic reciprocal geometric forms—rectangles, triangles, arcs, and lines—it is deceptively simple. The idiosyncratic design begins with diagonals in a small central rectangle that...

    • 26 A Shaker Fan Medallion Runner Rendered by Orville A. Carroll
      (pp. 133-135)

      The fan medallion runner with hearts, represented in this Index-rendered drawing, has not been located at Pleasant Hill or elsewhere in the Southeast, but, in form, design, and color, it is quite similar to dynamic hand-sewn rugs in the Pleasant Hill collection that prominently feature circular discs.

      This geometric runner is longer, as a matter of its function, than most other rugs in the collection. Shown in an early twentieth-century photograph, it is seen positioned near the window of a sun-drenched room furnished with two Shaker rocking chairs, a candleholder, and a book on a three-legged wooden stand between the...

    • 27 A Bear’s Paw Quilt with an Appliqué Border Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 136-138)

      It is unlikely that this Index rendering was drawn from an extant quilt; rather, it appears to be a marriage of elements of two distinct styles. The center of the quilt is a pattern known asbear’s paw, an everyday pieced-block style of squares of repeating geometric elements joined together directly or dissected by inner bands. The conforming outer swag or scalloped border with a piped edge, on the other hand, is traditionally found only on quilts made and kept for company or special presentation and was never combined with the bear’s paw motif.

      The earliest date-inscribed version of a...

    • 28 A Hexagon Quilt Block Rendered by Ralph N. Morgan
      (pp. 139-141)

      The hexagon quilt has its beginnings in England and is considered to be among the oldest pieced patterns, templates having been found from as early as the third quarter of the eighteenth century. In the following decades, the hexagon became a widely popular design throughout the British Isles, and by the early nineteenth century, examples of the pattern began to emerge in North America. In 1835, the January issue ofGodey’s Lady’s Book, an influential and widely circulated monthly magazine published in Philadelphia, issued an instructional quilting pattern namedhexagonand, similarly in subsequent issues, the patternshoneycombandsix-sided,...

    • 29 A Patch Quilt Block Rendered by Elbert S. Mowery
      (pp. 142-144)

      Patch-block quilts have been an extraordinarily popular and diverse form of quilt design since the mid-Victorian era and remain to this day comforting as things—cozy, memory filled, evocative, generational, great smelling. Their common shared characteristic is tessellation, the fitting of small patches of various geometric sizes and shapes in a regular repeating pattern, with no overlaps, gaps, or rifts. Earliest examples, dating from the 1870s,¹ derived from the Victorian enthusiasm for the collection and enumeration of diminutive personal ephemera—buttons, etui, stamps, boxes, animalier, memento mori, silhouettes—the gathering of which conferred an existential meaning larger than the component...

    • 30 A Log Cabin Quilt Block Rendered by Elbert S. Mowery
      (pp. 145-148)

      At first glance, this modern-looking collection of strips and squares appears to be one more pattern in a large repertoire of an enduring American craft. Yet, as a member of the popular log cabin family of quilt patterns, the Elbert S. Mowery rendering represents a design legacy that stretches back before the beginning of the Common Era.

      It is not certain when the log cabin block became commonplace in the lexicon of quilt making, whether in the United States or abroad. The English quilt historian Averil Colby once wrote an unsubstantiated yet tantalizing passage in one of her books in...

    • 31 A Log Cabin Quilt Block Rendered by Ada Barnes
      (pp. 149-152)

      Creative management of color and measurement to create new patterns highlights the versatility of the log cabin block. The width of strips is easily changed, as is the substitution of the central square with another geometric form. Modern quilt makers who favor this traditional pattern add variety by replacing the square with a hexagon, diamond, or triangle surrounded by strips. The basic design can be simple or complex, depending on individual choice. Sparing use of color can also change the look of the pattern dramatically. This is particular true of the Ada Barnes rendering, where only three colors have been...

    • 32 A Log Cabin Quilt, Depicted as Folded Rendered by Elbert S. Mowery
      (pp. 153-155)

      One of the interesting conundrums of the log cabin pattern is its long association with farming. Certain arrangements of the block have names likebarn raising, straight furrows, light and dark, snake fence(Canada), andstreak of lightning.For the related blocks themselves, in addition to the one calledlog cabin,there are alsopineappleandrail fence(see fig. 125). The rendering of the folded quilt, with its traditional red center and light and dark strips, becomes even more significant in the context of eighteenth-century emigration and the skills and visual memories brought to America.

      The color red has...

    • 33 A Tied Biederwand Jacquard Coverlet by F. A. Kean Rendered by Alois E. Ulrich
      (pp. 156-160)

      This red, blue, and green coverlet is a lovely example of the work of the weaver Frederick Augustus Kuehn. Kuehn was born on August 11, 1811, in Saxony, Prussia, and Anglicized the spelling of his name to Kean when he arrived in America. He was granted citizenship in 1844 in Louisville, Kentucky, and by 1850 was noted as living in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he remained until his death in 1893. While his coverlets do not include location information, it is widely believed that he wove in Kentucky until 1843 and began weaving in Indiana immediately thereafter. This Kean coverlet...

    • 34 A Courthouse Jacquard Coverlet by James Craig Rendered by Alois E. Ulrich
      (pp. 161-164)

      James Craig, also known as Canada Jim, was one of the preeminent weavers in the state of Indiana, known for his distinctive use of the courthouse corner block trademark. The courthouse was also used by the Craig family of weavers of Decatur County, but the Craigs differed in the fact that they dated their coverlets containing the courthouse trademark, whereas James left his undated and utilized the stand-alone image as his maker’s mark. Trademark symbols were sometimes used by weavers to identify themselves as the creator of a coverlet rather than including their name or initials in the design. James...

    • 35 A Detail of a Biederwand Jacquard Coverlet Depicting a Distelfink Rendered by Alois E. Ulrich
      (pp. 165-169)

      Nineteenth-century “figured and fancy” coverlets are woven with intricate designs depicting flora, fauna, patriotic imagery, people, architecture, and even transportation modes. These wool and cotton coverlets became popular as they were easier to procure than quilts. A figured and fancy coverlet could be woven on a loom in one or two days, whereas a quilt had to be cut, pieced, and sewn together, at times taking months to create. Coverlets were viewed as a luxury and gained popularity at a time when people wanted items for their homes that were both beautiful and functional. Figured and fancy coverlets were woven...

    • 36 A Whig Rose or Lover’s Knot Variation Jacquard Coverlet Rendered by Charles Goodwin
      (pp. 170-174)

      Prior to the development of the Jacquard loom, hand weavers wove geometric coverlets on four or more harness looms. Coverlets became popular in the late eighteenth century in the United States as consumers desired items for their homes that were both decorative and functional. Owing to increased demand, several different types of weavers emerged. The first to produce geometric coverlets was the home weaver—often a woman who created pieces for personal use or for barter with neighbors who did not possess a loom. Home weavers typically worked on modest four-harness looms that were capable of producing simple weave structures....

    • 37 A Snowball and Pine Tree Border Coverlet Pattern Block Rendered by Martha L. Lanscher
      (pp. 175-179)

      The patterns in geometric coverlets are built on design variations of circular and square shapes. Weavers of coverlets had over six hundred documented pattern variations from which to choose. Hand weavers had an endless supply of possibilities when it came to pattern, but they also faced many drawbacks that could hinder them as well. The complexity of the loom, “the experience of the weaver, the patterns known to an individual weaver, the preferences of the customer,” and current trends all became limitations. Professional weavers were able to construct patterns consisting of “crosses, tables, wheels, and stars” using looms with six...

    • 38 A Bronze Powder Flask Rendered by George V. Vezolles
      (pp. 180-182)

      Gunpowder was one of the most valuable commodities on the Kentucky frontier. Without it, the iconic Kentucky rifle was rendered useless. Gunpowder consisted of a mixture of sulphur, saltpeter rendered from bat guano, and hardwood charcoal. It could be homemade on the frontier; this was, however, an arduous and very dangerous undertaking.

      The saying “keep your powder dry” originated from the constant problem of carrying, storing, and maintaining the dehydrated state of this highly moisture-affected propellant, vital for firing round lead balls from the rifles that fed and protected pioneer families. The invention of the gunpowder flask, in one form...

    • 39 A Hand-Forged Wrought-Iron Griddle Rendered by Lon Cronk
      (pp. 183-184)

      In early America, forging wrought iron, often calleddevil’s bone,was an almost magical process, and Longfellow used the intrigue of this profession in his 1840 “The Village Blacksmith.” Every settlement in frontier Kentucky would have had a blacksmith who produced and repaired the utilitarian items used in everyday life. He would have made plows to turn new ground, hoes to tend the corn, bits, buckles, and stirrups for harnesses and saddlery used to drive and ride horses, hammers, chisels, axes, and knives for the men, and spoons, ladles, cooking forks, and griddles, such as the one rendered in the...

    • 40 A Cast-Iron Cooking Pot Rendered by Charles Goodwin
      (pp. 185-186)

      Cooks have used cast-iron pots such as this for centuries. They were the most basic and important implements in an early Kentucky kitchen and treasured for their solidity, endurance, and ability to retain heat. Frontier cooks used pots and cauldrons to stew meat or simmer vegetables, creating one-pot meals that were plentiful and easy to prepare, leaving more time for the many other chores of the ever-busy colonial housewife. Before the introduction of the wood cook stove in the mid-nineteenth century, meals were made on the hearth or in the fireplace. Cooking pots were designed with a handle or bail...

    • 41 A Pumpkin Salt Gourd Rendered by Elbert S. Mowery
      (pp. 187-188)

      Salt was second only to gunpowder as a valuable commodity in frontier Kentucky, and, like gunpowder, it was hard to contain, protect, and keep dry. Displayed in this Index rendering is a common pumpkin gourd that has been opened at its top, the seeds removed, the inside walls scraped smooth, and then dried. Its conforming top has been hinged and reattached, creating a reusable utilitarian container. Salt had many uses in early Kentucky, one of which was to “salt down” the hides of deer, elk, bear, beaver, and other animals that the pioneers harvested for their pelts, meat, and fur....

    • 42 A Pierced-Tin Foot Warmer Rendered by William Paul Childers
      (pp. 189-190)

      In early Kentucky, there were no matches or other modern lighting devices—fires were started by abraiding flint on a hardened piece of steel called afire striker.Sparks created by this action were showered on a nest of tender, usually unspun flax calledtow,which would catch a spark and hold it as a tiny glowing ember. Holding the tow in the hand, an individual would gently breathe on this nest of tender, quickly igniting it into a flame. It would then be used in the manner a common kitchen match would be today.

      Heat is a modern convienience...

    • 43 A Pierced-Tinplate Hanging Candle Lantern Rendered by Francis Bruner
      (pp. 191-192)

      A candle lantern would have been a luxury in frontier Kentucky. The metal used to fashion this example is commonly referred to astin; however, it is properly calledtinplate, a malleable sheet iron that has been plated with tin. This ancient process was common in England by the early eighteenth century, by which time tons of tinplate were being produced and exported. The trade of tinsmithing is documented in America as early as 1720, with colonial tinsmiths producing a wide range of utilitarian items. The origin of candle lanterns cannot be traced, but they arrived in Kentucky along with...

    • 44/45 A William Tell Cast-Iron Mechanical Bank and a Kicking Mule Cast-Iron Mechanical Bank Rendered by an Unknown Artist and Edward D. Williams
      (pp. 193-195)

      Cast-iron still and spring-action mechanical banks were manufactured in abundance in the United States between 1850 and 1910, with mechanicals in particular vastly increasing in popularity after the Civil War. These banks were produced in over six hundred different designs, reflecting subjects as varied as the circus, folklore, popular sports, patriotism, the military, Punch and Judy, lumbermen, shooting galleries, organ grinders, national and international landmarks, Christmas, and many forms of animal life, including bears, donkeys, horses, dogs, pigs, monkeys, whales, frogs, roosters, elephants, and eagles. Recent and current events—anniversaries, fairs, expositions, wars, inaugurations, national holidays—further played a role...

    • 46 A Fluted Blue-Glass Eagle Flask Rendered by Orville A. Carroll
      (pp. 196-198)

      There were at least seven known glass factories operating in Louisville in the last half of the nineteenth century. The original Kentucky Glass Works, and its successor, the Louisville Glass Works, operated between 1850 and 1873 under a succession of proprietors and different parent-company names. The Glass Works made blown and mold-processed containers, including vials, bottles, jars, and flasks, and pressed-glass telegraph insulators.

      Dozens of shapes and patterns for flasks and bottles were known to exist, though the most prevalent were baluster, plain-cylindrical, and tapering-ovoid forms, impressed with trade names, trademarks, scrollwork, fluting, and stylized patriotic American eagle trophies. They...

    • 47 J. H. Miller Salt-Glaze Stoneware Storage Vessel Rendered by Edward D. Williams
      (pp. 199-202)

      Salt glaze is a surface made by throwing salt into a kiln at the point of the pottery’s highest-temperature single firing. Americans first began producing salt-glazed stoneware in the early eighteenth century, and by the 1820s it had become a widely produced and common place material for food and beverage storage containers and other household servers and standard-commercial applications. The signature blue decoration, lettering, stenciling, and incising seen on a considerable range of this stoneware were made by the use of cobalt oxide and cobalt carbonate. These decorative conventions typified the work of many Kentucky and Indiana potters along the...

    • 48/49/50 Musical Instruments from the Collection of John Jacob Niles
      (pp. 203-212)
      RON PEN

      The silent photographic image belies the gentle sonic delights of string and wood conjoined in mellifluous sound as a hand gently brushes the strings, animating the dulcimer in song. Although the dulcimer fully merits a place at the table of American design, it is not simply the design, the image, the gracefully shaped figure, the endearing heart-shaped sound holes, the fluid bouts of the hourglass sound box, or the sculptural spiral of the head stock scroll that demands our attention—it is the very sound of the instrument itself that distinguishes this American design. It is only when the design...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 213-214)
  10. APPENDIX 1: Adele Brandeis (1885–1975)
    (pp. 215-225)
  11. APPENDIX 2: Holger Cahill (1887–1960)
    (pp. 226-250)
  12. APPENDIX 3: Edith Gregor Halpert (1900–1970)
    (pp. 251-265)
  13. APPENDIX 4: Constance Rourke (1885–1941)
    (pp. 266-267)
  14. APPENDIX 5: Index of American Design Manual, 1938
    (pp. 268-280)
  15. APPENDIX 6: Cupboards from the Gerald R. McMurtry Collection
    (pp. 281-284)
  16. A Checklist of the Kentucky Index of American Design
    (pp. 285-296)
  17. Selected Bibliography, Exhibitions, and Sources
    (pp. 297-303)
  18. Index
    (pp. 304-311)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 312-312)
  20. [Maps]
    (pp. None)