This now faded cream and green colored quilt was once bright and showy, with crisp white cotton, and bright lime-green flowers on a dark hunter-green background. The soft ivory with brown and tan accents may once have been striking purples or even reds. Now faded with time, this quilt’s history is a tangle of family relationships, a fortune built on whiskey, the legacy of slavery, and a family’s move from North to South to North again on the eve of the Civil War.
The Hardy quilt first came to the Arlington Historical Society in 1918, as a loan from Arlington resident Mary Hardy. While the reason for the loan is unknown, the skill and talent that went into this beautifully constructed quilt would have made it desirable to display or study for a number of reasons. The Hardy quilt is a striking example of brightly printed calico, or patterned cotton cloth, skillfully pieced together from small, perfectly shaped diamonds, squares, and rectangles. It was used to decorate a bed in the John Russell House as late as the 1970s, and likely served several purposes over the years.
The Hardy quilt was officially gifted to the Arlington Historical Society by another Hardy, living close by to Mary and Wellington, by the name of Charles A Hardy in 1923. The relationship of Charles Hardy to either couples is unknown, but the Hardy family appears closely linked. Mary and Wellington Hardy married in 1874, but before that, Mary’s older sister Susan E Cutter married Wellington’s older brother Milton in 1859. The Hardy family lived predominantly in New Hampshire, with just a few members moving south to Arlington. Mary however was born even further south, in Louisville Kentucky in 1847 to successful whiskey merchant John Hastings Cutter and Susan Fletcher Poole Cutter.
The Cutter family was originally from New Hampshire, but moved south for John to seek and find his fortune as a merchant. Susan gave birth to several children in Kentucky, and John grew his business on Second Street in Louisville, near the Ohio River and the Louisville & Portland Railroad, in an area now known as Whiskey Row. At the time, Louisville was a bustling city not just for whiskey, but for the transport and sale of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Plantations worked by enslaved men and women grew corn and rye for whiskey production, and the finished whiskey was shipped in and out of Kentucky by the same Ohio River and L&R Railroad.
The Hardy Quilt was said to have been made around 1824, but was possibly made slightly later than that, perhaps closer to the 1850s. The crisp, perfect pieced star patterns, bright green dyes, and hand-sewn, fine stitching all point to a quilt that was made in this era. Quilts with this style of 8-pointed stars made of diamond-shaped pieces are known as Lemoyne Stars in the South, and Lemon Stars in New England. The very light weight of the quilt, indicates that it may have been made for a warmer climate, as in the South, or a ‘summer quilt’ in the North.
The Industrial Revolution in America brought speed and growth for shipping, factories, and railroads, making commercial goods such as beautifully printed calico cotton widely available to many Americans. Louisville, in this era before the Civil War was selling and shipping enslaved people, just as it was selling and shipping the cotton grown by these enslaved people on the Southern plantations to the Northern textile factories. The movement of slaves, whiskey, cotton, and the Cutter/Hardy family quilt all followed these same routes. This quilt may have been made by one of Mary’s older relatives, such as her mother Susan Fletcher Poole Cutter, or one of her Poole or Cutter grandmothers or aunts. The Hardy quilt may have been made in the North for the Cutter’s to take south, or made in the South for the Cutter’s to take North. It was a beautiful quilt that was clearly well cared for, and well-used by the family for several generations.
Montgomery, Florence M. Textiles in America, 1650-1870: A Dictionary Based on Original Documents: Prints and Paintings, Commercial Records, American Merchants’ Papers, Shopkeepers’ Advertisements, and Pattern Books with Original Swatches of Cloth. New York: Norton, 1984. Print.
Brackman, Barbara. Clues in the Calico: A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts. McLean, VA: EPM Publications, 1989. Print.
Trestain, Eileen Jahnke. Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide, 1800-1960. Paducah, KY: America Quilter’s Society, 1998. Print.