Comfort and Glory: Two Centuries of American Quilts from the Briscoe Center by Katherine Jean Adams
Covering two centuries of history, Comfort and Glory is an impressive volume giving an in-depth look at 115 important and stunning quilts from the Winedale Quilt Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. With meticulous handwork, intricate designs, and graphic histories, the collection demonstrates the impact of quilts on American culture and exemplifies the importance of this beloved art form to the scholarship of women's culture and quilt history. These are among the finest quilts in America.
Reflecting the material culture of Texas, the collection encompasses a broad range of styles, including masterpieces as well as utilitarian quilts made for everyday use. Extraordinary quilts made by many well-known twentieth-century luminaries, such as Pine Hawkes Eisfeller, Bertha Stenge, Emma Andres, Florence Peto, and Dr. Jeannette Throckmorton, [End Page 252] anchor the collection. In fact, two quilts, "The Garden" and "Tree of Life," made by Eisfeller, are listed among the twentieth century's one hundred best American quilts. With few exceptions, each quilt has been extensively researched, yielding valuable historic details of the women who made them, their lives, families, and the religion and politics of the era.
The book is beautifully illustrated with full-page color photographs and smaller color photographs of quilt details. The writing is exemplary; Katherine Adams is clearly a researcher familiar with quilts and accustomed to communicating complex details supported by solid footnotes.
One of the most intriguing histories is that of the Lone Star quilt made in 1858 by Amanda Pairalee Hammonds (Linn) of Rusk County, Texas, when she was eighteen years old. After the Civil War, Amanda married George Linn, and the young couple traveled from East Texas to South America with all their possessions, including her quilt. Adams has done a superb job of researching and documenting the quilt's eighty-nine year journey between two continents and its eventual return to Texas, including a difficult voyage from New Orleans to Brazil. In a fierce tropical storm near the coast of Cuba, the ship wrecked, submerging the quilt in the ocean for days, but the Hammonds family dried it on the beach. Amanda's daughter donated the Lone Star quilt to the University of Texas, making it the university's first.
Another Texas-made quilt, "Freedom to Dream" by Marie Anita Murphy of Kountze, Texas, was exhibited at the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City in 1986, where I saw it. The quilt represented Texas in the Great American Quilt Contest and Festival, which celebrated the Statue of Liberty's centennial. In addition to a full-page color photograph of Murphy's quilt, Adams also includes is a full-page photograph of the original design schematic and fabric samples used to make the contest-winning quilt from California.
Comfort and Glory is an exceptional book: wonderful images, solid research, exceptional writing, and handsome production make it most impressive. I highly recommend it to those interested in women's history as well as quilt studies and collecting. [End Page 253]