Flag conservation

Flag conservation
Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Oriental Print Works" Patriotic Santa, a textile used as a banner and a doll.

We often speak about how artifacts that come into the Spicer Art Conservation studio are completely unique or rare. Additionally we've also commented about how one artifact that has come in for treatment has a relationship to another artifact that we have treated. This happened just a few weeks ago when we treated a pillow case from the Mexican Boarder Service from 1916. We later found out that General George Patton's early military career took place at the Mexican Border. Having recently treated some of General Patton's artifacts, it was interesting connection. (It also seems that "all roads lead to Patton" as this was not the first time we have had a connection to him. Weird.).

We certainly never thought that an 1868 print made by Oriental Print Works of Warwick, Rhode Island would have any relation to George S. Patton. We had treated a printed textile "Patriotic Santa Claus" earlier in 2016. The printed textile was brought to us by a private owner who had this piece in her family for over 100 years. Her textile was heavily stained with liquid tidelines, was heavily creased from being folded while stored and had small holes requiring stabilization. Additionally, the red dye was found to be water soluble, which explained the bleeding of the red edges that was present at the top and bottom. The owner reported that this piece was used as a Christmas decoration and was hung. The textile is listed on other websites as a banner, handkerchief (oversized), scarf, or table cover. The Oriental Print Works produced handkerchiefs and perhaps that is why this textile was classified as such. For our purposes we will refer to it as a textile hanging as that is what our client used it as.

Preservation of textiles, Patriotic Santa Claus from Oriental Print Works, 1868 textile, antique, conservation, textile expert, repair, cleaning, framing, mounting, preservation, stabilization, of historic fabric
Before treatment photo of "Patriotic Santa". The textile had been
exposed to liquid staining and was creased from being folded.

Spicer Art Conservation. The fabric is an antique textile created for the holiday season of 1868. textile conservation, historic antique fabric. Professional textile restoration, preservation, framing and mounting.
After Treatment photo of "Patriotic Santa" textile. The
hanging was brought to Spicer Art Conservation for cleaning,
repair, mounting and framing with archival supplies. 

The textile was designed by Edward Peck, who later used the print for a cut-out "make your own doll" which was printed on a full fabric sheet as craft piece. Patton had this doll among his playthings, and it is included in an exhibit of "Georgie's Dolls" at the Patton Museum of Leadership in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. This type of textile seems to have been a niche manufacturing item for Oriental Print Works; among their other unique textiles are whole cloth quilts, and textiles that featured playing cards.

professional conservation of museum textiles
From the exhibit at the George S. Patton Museum of Leadership in Ft. Knox Kentucky,
"Patriotic Santa" is among the General's favorite childhood toys.

Oriental Print Works only made these items for a short time as the company fell on hard times during the Panic of 1873; the company was sold and changed names several times over the years (as well as its focus on textiles - at some points it specialized in fine fabrics, other times bleaching and dying, and later finishing of fabrics). It finally closed in 1958.

From the Library Company of Philadelphia's digital
collection, a label from the Oriental Print Works.

The "Patriotic Santa" by Oriental Print Works is unique in that Santa is portrayed with an American flag under his arm, a red, white, and blue fan in his hat, and in his hands are toys including a red, white, and blue pinwheel. A "Patriotic Santa" banner is in the collection of the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt Museum and a full uncut santa doll is in the collection of the New York Historical Society and Museum.  Additional items are found in other museum collections.

From the Collection of the Cooper Hewitt, this photo from their
webpage shows the "banner" version of  the Patriotic Santa textile.

From the Collection of the New York Historical Society and Museum,
this photo from their webpage shows the uncut doll textile complete with the
instructions. This is the doll that was made for little George Patton.

We had wondered why a Santa would be portrayed as patriotic at this time. A look at that year in history shows that following the Civil War, 1868 was a year when many of the southern states were being re-admitted to the Union, the 14th amendment was ratified, the first Memorial Day is celebrated (called Decoration Day), Wyoming becomes a US territory, the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson occurs, and Ulysses S. Grant is elected as president.

An illustrated souvenir from Decoration Day, which was first celebrated in 1868.  This day of
remembering and honoring those lost in battle was latter re-named Memorial Day. In post
Civil War America, this was very important as 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died
during the War that was very fresh in the memories of every American.
This image from the United States Library of Congress.

This Patriotic Santa is a lovely representation of 19th century Christmas decorations and how Santa was being portrayed. His image clearly draws on the Clement C. Moore poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas", and several of the illustrations on the banner feature wording that mirrors Moore's words. These textiles are often featured on antique collector websites, in fact, if you would like to read more about this textile, visit the recent editorial written about it on Busy Bee Traders.

We at Spicer Art Conservation wish everyone a peaceful Holiday season and a prosperous 2017!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Printed Pillow Sham and the Mexican Border Service of 1916

by Gwen Spicer, Barbara Owens, and David Fitzjarrald

A client recently brought in a unique heirloom; a printed satin pillow sham with a portrait of a beautiful young woman wearing a sombrero and smoking a cigarette. Colored highlights of red, blue and yellow were painted into the design. Attached to the perimeter was an intricate and wide cotton fringe. Located on the lower proper right corner is "Mexican Border Service, 1916" painted in red. The construction of the pillow sham was quite simple, with one row of machine-stitching that secured all of the layers and the fringe together.

The silk satin had been folded while it was stored and this long-term folding had resulted in several vertical tears that were present across the woman's face.

Before conservation treatment, textile conservation, art conservator, family heirloom repair, cleaning, restoration, preservation, storage and exhibit, Spicer Art Conservation
The 100 year old pillow sham as it arrived at Spicer Art Conservation for stabilization and archival mounting and framing. 

As work began, we began to wonder about the message. What was going on at the Mexican border in 1916? With a bit of investigation, it became apparent that a hundred years ago, there was conflict at the border that included a dictator, southern migration for cheap labor, a revolution, an invasion of the United States by Pancho Villa, and the first taste of combat for a young U.S. Army lieutenant named George S. Patton.

After conservation treatment, textile conservation, art conservator, museum collections and family heirloom repair, cleaning, restoration, preservation, storage and exhibit, Spicer Art Conservation
The pillow sham after treatment. The tears are stabilized, the creases are removed, fringe cleaned and straightened,
and the pillow case is mounted with archival materials and placed in a sealed frame with UV filtering Plexiglas.

This pillow sham was a souvenir for soldiers involved in the Mexican Expedition. In fact, pillow shams have been a popular item for soldier to send home during war or service. This is a more personal type of souvenir, one that was different from embroidered commemorative "trapunto" textiles brought back from the voyage of the "Great White Fleet" in World War I.  

Pancho Villa (1878-1923) was a famed Mexican revolutionary and guerilla leader. 

So why was there a conflict at the Mexican Border in 1916?  Several things were happening; and it starts with the Mexican Revolution.

Pancho Villa may be a familiar name if you know about the Mexican Revolution. Villa joined Francisco Madero's uprising against Mexican President Porfirio Diaz in 1909, and he later became leader of the Division del Norte cavalry, then governor of Chihuahua. According to Wikipedia, trouble between the United States and Pancho Villa had been growing since October of 1915, when the US government officially recognized Villa's rival and former ally Venustiano Carranza as head of Mexico's government. Moreover, the U.S. provided rail transportation through the U.S. from Texas to Arizona for the movement of over 5,000 of Carranza'a forces to fight Villa at the Battle of Aqua Prieta; where Villa's Division del Norte was smashed. Villa felt betrayed and began to attack U.S. nationals and their property.

Villa killed more than 30 Americans in a raid on the U.S.-Mexican border town of Columbus, New Mexico in March of 1916. In response, the U.S. government sent General John J. Pershing and his troops to enter Mexican sovereign territory and capture Villa (Pancho Villa Expedition, later named the Mexican Expedition). Pershing was unsuccessful and Villa proved elusive during an 11-month manhunt.

from 1916, yet seems like it could fit in 2016..."Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it"
1916 cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, via National Archive Berryman colletion This media is available in the holdings of the
 National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 306154.

But it wasn't just the Revolution that was going on; in fact something larger was on the horizon. The U.S.-Mexico border was a potential location for a German-backed invasion by Mexico. The threat of such an invasion was discovered in January of 1917 when the British intercepted and deciphered the Zimmerman Telegram, discussing Germany's proposal to Mexico to form an alliance with Germany should the U.S. enter World War I. In March of 1917 the contents of the telegram were made public and affirmed by Zimmerman himself. The Mexican Expedition ended when the United States entered World War I (the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917) and Pershing was recalled.

As an interesting side note, who happened to be serving under General Pershing? None other than a young lieutenant George S. Patton. There is a strange coincidence for us here at Spicer Art Conservation as we had recently conserved several items from the collection of the George S. Patton Museum of Leadership. We of course wondered, is there a pillow case among Patton's personal items from his service at the border?

We also discovered that a pillow sham is a common souvenir that was not only sent home to loved ones by service men, but it was also received by them as well. And, it is just as common today as it was one hundred years ago.

Souvenir military pillow cases are textiles that need require preservation to ensure their longevity. Professional textile conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation treats textiles.
Examples of military souvenir pillow cases

At Spicer Art Conservation we conserve historic textiles and artifacts. Whether it is a military uniform, a historic flag or banner, a tablecloth or quilt from your Aunt Sally, or General George Patton's famous Green Hornet Uniform, it is conserved with care and professional exacting standards. Visit our website and check out our textiles page for more about previous projects and artifacts we treat at Spicer Art.
Gwen Spicer is a textile conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper. Gwen's innovative treatment and mounting of flags and textiles is unrivaled. To contact her, please visit her website.