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The Palladian quilt: exploring the possibilities.


The Palladian Quilt came to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in 1998, after its discovery that year at the Mendocino (California) Presbyterian Church's annual youth group rummage sale. [Figure 1] Pastor William L. Mangrum noticed that "University of Nebraska" was embroidered on a quilt block and speculated that it perhaps commemorated the 50th anniversary of the University. Through Pastor Mangrum's efforts the quilt was returned to the University of Nebraska, where it is now housed in the permanent collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

Embroidered on the squares of the quilt are a total of 100 names of students, faculty, family, and friends, including alumni who maintained close ties with their alma mater. The names provided the foundation for an exploration into the history of the quilt, generating numerous personal histories--some more detailed than others. As these individuals' histories emerged, so did excerpts of university history, along with an interesting view on society and politics of the 1910s and 1920s.

The path to discovering the history of a quilt is often circuitous. As Laurel Horton has expressed, "It's unlikely that I would find historical records that mention a particular surviving quilt. Instead, I find evidence that helps me recreate the context of the place and time in which the quilt was created." (1) This statement holds true for the Palladian Quilt, as does the observation of Virginia Gunn: "Finding answers to one question usually raises new questions." (2) The primary question driving the research on this quilt was "Why was the quilt made?" Several theories were postulated over a decade of exploration; this paper documents the process of finding the probable answer. The Quilt

The Palladian Quilt is a signature or autograph quilt of white square blocks with 100 names embroidered diagonally in red thread (a style commonly called "redwork"). The quilt is comprised of 99 blocks: 9 rows with 11 blocks in each row. A white border surrounds the entire

quilt. As each block is completed in the same style, it can be considered a "single-pattern friendship quilt." (3) Two blocks carry logos rather than signatures. On one lower block, the letters "U" and "N," worked as small capital letters, flank a larger capital "P," with a circle enclosing all three letters, suggesting a logo. The years 1871-1921 appear below the circle. These dates also appear in the "University of Nebraska" block, which, like the "UPN" block, is located in the lower section of the quilt.

The center block of the quilt is distinguished by the name "Harriet Wyman Wilder," embroidered in red above a palm tree with a brown trunk and green fronds. Embroidered beneath Harriet's name is the location "Madura, India," also in red. Beneath the tree is an indecipherable script embroidered in black. (4) It is not possible to determine if a pattern existed on the block before it was embroidered, as the fabric underneath the embroidery stitches is not visible.

The Palladian Literary Society

Serendipity played a role in documenting this quilt. While conducting an object analysis for the quilt, the "P" logo triggered the memory of a Collections and Care volunteer, who had just read about the Palladian Literary Society, a student organization founded just a few weeks after the University of Nebraska began classes in September of 1871. A phone call to the Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, confirmed a similarity between the "UPN" logo and that of the Palladian Literary Society (PLS). This inquiry also confirmed that in 1921 the PLS celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. A review of PLS records in the Archives & Special Collections led to the discovery that a majority of the names on the quilt were active or past members of the PLS, who were known as "Pals."

These discoveries confirmed that the quilt was associated with the PLS. Nevertheless, the purpose for the quilt's creation remained a mystery. Signature quilts of the early 20th century were popular to commemorate events such as weddings and anniversaries or to celebrate a friendship. Additionally, center blocks often commemorate or honor someone. Did the Palladian Quilt have one or both of these purposes?

Research on the quilt turned again to the resources of the university's Archives & Special Collections, where PLS records, including meeting minutes, financial registers, newsletters, correspondence, scrapbooks, and photographs can be found. These materials date from the society's founding in 1871 through its demise in the late 1960s, at which point the focus shifts to the activities of the PLS alumni association. In the process of documenting the history and purpose of the PLS, and gathering biographical information about Harriet Wyman Wilder (the subject of the center block), a completely new possibility for the creation of the quilt was revealed.

Just after the first classes were held in University Hall, a student petition to university administrators requested the creation of a literary society to "promote and cultivate our literary and social tastes and for the improvement of our several faculties both moral and intellectual." (5) Twenty men and five women signed the September 14, 1871 petition. (6) The name for the society came from Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess of learning and wisdom. (7)

The administration approved the petition with two caveats: that the university could "require a separation of sexes" among the society members and could dictate that the meetings would not run past 9:30 pm. (8) Administrators acknowledged the coeducational purpose of the society but sought to ensure proper and respectful behavior among its members. These requirements remained in place through the first 50 years of the PLS. As women could not leave their dormitories unescorted after 6 pm, the PLS made use of "the slate," which listed the names of women Pals. A male Pal would "scratch the slate," writing his name by the name of the PLS woman he had selected as his partner. (9) This served the dual purpose of safety and allowing some personal associations to develop.

Women were among the charter members and initial presiding officers of the PLS, but after the first two years they no longer held offices. The PLS women decided to form their own organizations, though this decision ran contrary to the equitable intention of the society. To avoid a split and to reaffirm the society's commitment to equity, in 1874 the PLS adopted a resolution that read "all young ladies can be admitted to the Palladian Literary Society," and in 1877, a woman president was elected. (10)

The PLS weekly meetings, held on Friday nights and open to the public, included debates, readings, and musical programs as entertainment. Annual activities included a "girls'" banquet, a "boys'" banquet, alumni and initiation banquets, and a picnic in nearby Crete, Nebraska, each spring. The PLS society and its active members served as academic and social models for all university students.
   The name Palladian stands for earnest scholarship and good
   character. It stands for an active participation in University
   affairs. It stands for a sane and wholesome social life. In these
   days, when criticism is heaped upon the extravagance, the
   dissipation, the ensnobling [sic] effect of modern college life, it
   is good to find that, in the old-fashioned literary society, young
   men and young women may avoid all these things and still enjoy the
   great benefits of friendly association with their fellow students.

In 1921, when the Palladian Literary Society celebrated its semicentennial, it was the oldest continuous student organization at the University of Nebraska. (12)

Documenting the Signers

The PLS records, as well as class catalogs and bulletins, university administration records, and annual yearbooks additionally provided biographical details about Harriet and others named on the quilt. Harriet Minerva Wyman Wilder, born on March 19, 1889, was the oldest of seven sisters to attend the University of Nebraska. (13) Harriet, along with her sisters Louise May and Francis Elizabeth, started classes in September 1910. By that time, Harriet had completed two years of study at Tabor Junior College, in Tabor, Iowa. Harriet majored in the Teachers College, while Louise and Francis selected the Agriculture College, taking classes in home economics. Hester Letitia enrolled in the Arts & Sciences College two years later. Marian Marie also enrolled in Arts & Sciences when she came to the university in 1915. Lila Fern and Marjorie Lucille started classes in September 1921, with Lila in Teachers College and Marjorie in Arts & Sciences. Harriet received her AB in 1914, Marian in 1920, and Marjorie in 1924. Francis earned a BS in Home Economics, Lila an AB in Education, and it appears that Hester and Louise did not complete their degrees. (14)

Harriet taught art in the local public schools after her graduation. In 1918, she accepted a position as an instructor in mechanical drawing in the College of Engineering. Harriet was the only woman among the five to six faculty members teaching in applied mechanics and machine design in 1918. (15) In 1920, with only one other woman in the department, the records show that Harriet was the sole instructor teaching Topographical and Cartographical Drawing, Perspective, Architectural Composition and Design, Engineering and Freehand Sketching. (16) While not a member of the PLS during her student years at the university, Harriet accepted an invitation to become an honorary member of the PLS on November 15, 1920. (17)

In 1921, Harriet left Nebraska for a missionary assignment in Madura, India, on behalf of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. An article titled "Pal Personals" in the student newspaper states: "Miss Harriet Wymon [sic], '14, instructor in the engineering college and honorary member of the Paladian [sic] society, will sail on October 18 from New York City for Madura, South India. Miss Wyman will be assistant principal and instructor in art in the Capron Normal School for girls at Madura." (18) She arrived in Madura on December 1, 1921. (19) Learning this, a theory emerged that the quilt may have been made as a friendship quilt for Harriet, to honor her dedication to the mission in India.

As active members of the PLS, Marian and Lila Wyman appear to have provided Harriet with the opportunity to become an honorary member of the society. Perhaps they also propelled the creation of this quilt for Harriet. Marian served on the PLS membership committee and assisted with the publication of PLS information in the student annual. (20) Following Marion's lead, Lila Wyman became a member of the PLS in October 1923 and took the position of chair of the new members program. In 1924 she served as social chairman. (21) The alumni news sections of the Palladian newsletters between 1924 and 1929 give additional information on the activities of the Wyman sisters: Marian and Lila were in San Francisco in 1924, suggesting one route the quilt possibly took on its way to the church rummage sale. Lila also traveled to India in 1924 with the intention of serving the same Madura school where Harriet taught, offering an alternative path, if the quilt was intended for Harriet. (22)

Continued research in the PLS records uncovered Harriet's signature in the "Constitution and Membership Book, 1887-1921." (23) This signature, concurrent to the time when her quilt block was probably signed, provided an important clue. An inscribed copy of Harriet's book, A Century in the Madura Mission, South India, 1834-1934 (1961), also included her signature. (24) A comparison of the 1961 signature with the 1921 signature showed a significant difference in writing style. However, the 1921 signature in the membership book proved an almost exact match with the quilt block, indicating that Harriet did indeed sign the quilt block herself. The unique palm tree may well have been drawn by Harriet, a skilled artist, as an acknowledgement of her plans to go to India, or her residence in Madura, if she signed the block once she was there. Additional details, such as whether she stitched her signature or whether it was done by the quilt's creator may never be confirmed. It does appear that the same person stitched all of the embroidery on the quilt blocks.

In addition to Wilder's signature, Marian Wyman's signature is also in the membership book, along with the signatures of another six PLS members. Gretchen Sprecher signed the book and she signed a block on the quilt; both the signatures are essentially duplicates. In the "Palladian Semi-Centennial Guest Book," dated October 14-15, 1921, a total of sixteen signatures are included and these can be compared to each person's signature on the quilt blocks with the same results. There are slight variations based on the embroidery work. Additionally, the final "e" in Claire Bowman's name as written in the guest book is omitted from the quilt signature.

Federal census records from 1900, 1910, and 1920, and family trees found on the genealogical database provided birth and death dates for many of the quilt's signers. The extensive "Historical Newspaper Collection" on provided access to the Evening State Journal & Lincoln Daily News, the Nebraska State Journal, and the Lincoln Star, all published in Nebraska. These local newspapers published articles on PLS social activities and events. Marriage notices for Palladian members revealed wedding dates and name changes and where PLS members moved and took jobs. These various articles supported efforts to assign a date range to the quilt and added to the stories associated with it.

Harriet Wyman met Edward Wilder in India and they married on January 15, 1923. (25) An engagement announcement appeared in October of 1922 in the Nebraska State Journal:
   Mr. and Mrs. B. A. Wyman have received a cablegram from their
   daughter Harriett who is in India, announcing her engagement to Dr.
   Edward M. Wilder of Dorchester, Mass. She did not say when the
   marriage will take place, but it is expected that it will be in the
   near future, as both she and Dr. Wilder are going to the Madura
   mission this month where they will be stationed. Miss Wyman and Dr.
   Wilder sailed from this country about a year ago for India. Dr.
   Wilder is a graduate of Harvard, and is a pipe organist and
   surgeon. Miss Wyman is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and
   had been an instructor in the university. She went to India to do
   mission work and teach." (26)

The following March a Lincoln newspaper published a photograph of Harriet and a notice of the Wilders' wedding in Madura, describing the flowers that decorated Capron Hall where the wedding took place, and noting that the school principal played Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" during the ceremony. (27) Harriet signed her block with her complete name, indicating that the quilt was in process or made after January of 1923.

Similar newspaper and biographical resources provided information on 35 marriages among those who signed the quilt, adding more evidence in establishing the date of the quilt's creation. The marriage license notice of Henrietta M. Stahl and Perry H. Smith appeared in the Lincoln Star; since Henrietta signed the quilt "Henrietta Stahl Smith," it can be assumed that her block was signed after her marriage in June of 1922. (28) Evelyn Caldwell announced her marriage to the Reverend William M. Hawley in July 1922. (29) Evelyn used her maiden name on her block, suggesting that she signed it prior to her marriage in August. The Lincoln Star contains a story on Clair F. Bowman's marriage to Doris McKenney, both Pals. Doris signed her block with her married name, which she took on August 20, 1923. (30) About 22 times, both marriage partners were PLS members, illustrating that "scratching the slate" often led to more significant relationships for Pals.

Additional opportunities to sign a quilt block may have occurred when Pals returned to Lincoln. One newspaper notice states that Olive "Pats" Harley visited Marian Wyman for a week in September of 1922, traveling from her home in Aurora, Illinois. (31) Others who signed blocks worked in Lincoln, including Francis "Tubby" Flood, an instructor in mathematics at the University of Nebraska. He likely signed the quilt before the 1923 fall semester, when he moved on to Iowa State College to teach English. (32)

Newspaper notices also suggest when Harriet's sister, Marian, signed a quilt block. Two notices in the paper discussed Marian's move from Lincoln in December 1922. The first notice on December 28, told of a dinner hosted by Clyde E. Wilcox at the Grand Hotel in honor of Marian. (33) The next notice, on December 31, announced her impending departure from Lincoln, to take a position as general secretary at the YWCA in Salem, Oregon. (34)

Initiation announcements for new PLS members also appeared in the papers. Ten individuals who signed a block for the quilt were inducted as new members on November 18, 1922, suggesting that they signed their quilt blocks around that date. (35) A similar initiation notice appears in the paper in April 1923, listing twelve new members; seven of them signed blocks for the quilt. (36)

This accumulation of dates makes it apparent that the blocks for the quilt were signed within the years 1922-1923, making it necessary to reevaluate the initial theory that the quilt was made in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the PLS in 1921.

Finding a New Purpose

A possible new purpose for creating the Palladian quilt arose while

searching through the PLS records and publications created between 1920 and 1924. During that time, PLS initiated the project to raise funds for the Harry Kirke Wolfe Research Fellowship in Philosophy at the University of Nebraska. The fundraising goal was $10,000: "this sum being necessary to yield a revenue that will provide for the keep of a student through the year." (37) The redwork quilt thus may have been used as a fundraising tool. (38)

Harry Kirke Wolfe, born in 1858, came to Nebraska with his family in the 1870s. (39) [Figure 2] He attended the University of Nebraska, participated in the PLS, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1880. Wolfe traveled to Germany and studied at the University of Berlin and at the University of Leipzig, receiving his PhD in 1886. Wolfe began teaching at the University of Nebraska in 1889, but was forced to leave the faculty at the request of university administration eight years later. (40)

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents minutes do not contain precise information on the disagreement between Wolfe and the administration, though specific actions are outlined. On April 28, 1897, regents requested "executive advice" concerning Wolfe, and Chancellor George E. MacLean recommended Wolfe be removed because of "discord within the University and indiscreet activity outside of it, chargeable to him, as well as insubordination." (41) The board formed a conference committee and charged it with the task to provide Wolfe the option of taking a leave of absence or to resign within three months; they requested that the committee report back to the regents the next day. (42) Support for Wolfe at the regents' meeting came from representatives of the Alumni Association. On the second day of the meeting, April 29, they asked the regents to defer their decision on Wolfe, but were informed that a decision had already been finalized. (43) At the second session a motion to request Wolfe to leave the university as of September 1, 1897 was approved by all the regents present. (44)

The student newspaper, The Hesperian, published articles and editorial pieces on student reaction to Wolfe's forced resignation. An article dated April 30, 1897 reported that almost 1,000 students signed a petition commending him; they gathered at the University Chapel, shouting: "Wolfe, Wolfe! What's the matter with Wolfe! He's all right!" (45) The article suggested that Wolfe chose not to follow the advice "to devote himself to his own department and not meddle with other departments." Furthermore, the article noted: "The work of Dr. Wolfe in his department was not attacked. Religious or political scruples did not enter into the question of demanding the resignation. It was held that Dr. Wolfe was disloyal in not co-operating with the rest of the faculty." A student editorial published the following week in The Hesperian stated: "It is difficult for the student body to understand just why it is necessary for the university to sustain this loss." (46) Given this strong reaction in support of Wolfe, it is consistent that many PLS members and university alumni agreed later to support the Wolfe scholarship fund.

After his resignation, Wolfe served as school superintendent in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1897-1901, and as a principal at Lincoln High School, from 1902-1905. In 1906 Wolfe returned to the University of Nebraska to teach educational philosophy. His reappointment is briefly noted in the Regents' minutes. "The special committee with power to act in the matter of an appointment in the department of education reported the engagement of Mr. H. K. Wolfe as professor of educational psychology ..." (47) In 1909, acting Chancellor Samuel Avery and the Board of Regents granted Wolfe the title "head professor" for the philosophy department. (48) Interestingly, after 1909, Harriet and Francis Wilder both took philosophy classes, possibly from Professor Wolfe. (49)

The 1897 firing proved to be only the first controversy Wolfe faced while teaching at the University of Nebraska. He came under scrutiny again just as US President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Previously, Wolfe had added his name to an anti-war petition, finally published in the Nebraska State Journal on April 10, 1917. The newspaper editors chose not to run the petition earlier: "Now that the decision has been made and war has been declared to exist it is felt the public should know the sentiment of the following members of the University of Nebraska." (50) The article noted that all those who signed the petition were ready to support the war, despite their initial hope that the US would "use all honorable means of preventing American aggressive participation in the present European conflict." After its publication, the petition came under the notice of the Nebraska State Council of Defense, whose members asked the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to investigate those lacking "aggressive support of the United States government in the present war crisis." (51) Chancellor Samuel Avery tried to avoid any conflict with the faculty and to address growing discontent to help preserve the reputation of the university. (52) Avery expressed the faculty's opinion in the student newspaper, with a specific focus supporting the war, now that the US was involved.
   The world has raged for the greatest part of three academic years.
   During this time members of the faculty have been perfectly free to
   express their opinions on the issues involved in any way they saw
   fit. There have been pro-German and anti-German, militaristic and
   anti-militaristic expressions in the papers ... We should now
   remember, however, that our country is at war, and we should,
   without regard to any previous attitude that we may have taken, now
   place ourselves in thought, word and deed solidly behind the
   government of the United States. (53)

Over the course of the following year, patriotic fervor and anti-German sentiment continued to grow and gain support. Within a month of the Chancellor's statement, over 1,000 students left the university to enlist or return to agricultural work in support of the war. (54)

By April 1918, the Board of Regents decided to hold public hearings on the loyalty of selected faculty members. These hearings took place before the Regents beginning on May 28, 1918. At the trial eleven faculty members were questioned and asked to provide testimony. On May 29, 1918, Wolfe's part of the trial started. According to the newspaper account, the regents first heard testimony from a witness who stated that Wolfe did not "lack patriotism" but "considered himself peculiar and different from other people." (55) For example, he did not place support signs in windows at his home but his financial contribution to the war effort "was quite satisfactory." Wolfe testified on his own behalf regarding the "contribution cards" that he thought were signed only on a voluntary basis, saying he did not "consider it his duty to sign a card such as was requested by the council of defense but that, if he were asked to do so by the regents, he would gladly comply." Wolfe added that his support of the war increased over time, that he understood the distinction between "duty" and "patriotism," that he had a "lifelong habit of avoiding personal advertising and publicity," and that he had raised the national flag at appropriate times since the war. The account of Wolfe's testimony published at the time ended with Wolfe's stating "he did not justify the sinking of the Lusitania and that he did not believe that the war had been brought on the United States by the capitalistic class." Wolfe was among eight faculty members who were allowed to keep their positions. On June 18, 1918, the Regents determined that Wolfe and seven of his colleagues may have been slow to support the war effort, but then responded appropriately. (56) Another three faculty members lost their jobs for lacking "aggressive" support of the war.

It was suggested that Wolfe's death in Wheatland, Wyoming, on July 30, 1918 was "hastened by accusations made against him and his colleagues." (57) An obituary for Wolfe listed him among those "exonerated from all suspicion of lacking whole-hearted Americanism" by the Board of Regents. (58) For the PLS and for a majority of the university community, the trials did not alter the esteem they had for Wolfe. Classes were dismissed and all university offices were closed at 2 pm on the Friday following his death. (59) Regardless of the allegations of the disloyalty trials, Wolfe's lasting reputation and final legacy for the University was assured by those who created and supported the research fellowship.

The first mention of PLS's support of the H. K. Wolfe Research Fund appeared in the minutes on December 9, 1918, when a motion "to find an appropriate memorial" carried. (60) The idea for the project stalled for about ten months, until October 6, 1919, when the meeting minutes note that a contribution of $200 on behalf of the Pals was proposed. However, the "General consensus of opinion ... [is] that above-named amount is too small." (61) Four days later at a PLS meeting on Oct. 10, 1919, the minutes report another effort to promote the memorial by PLS member Ray Cowan, who "made inspiring report on Wolf [sic] Memorial. Suggested that Pal subscribe $1000 to start on. Great enthusiasm. Pal is sure going after this matter in a very commendable way. Pal Connor elucidated on a payment plan. He moved that we raise $1000 as a start. Seconded and carried. Three yea boys!!!!!!" (62) The fundraising for the H. K. Wolfe Research Fund was an ambitious project for the PLS and it generated considerable excitement and support. The strong sense of comradeship among the Pals supported their conviction and provided the impetus for establishing the fund.

The majority of records associated with PLS efforts toward the Wolfe Fund include correspondence generated by T. F. A. Williams, a lawyer and former Pal, who served as the fund committee chairman. Williams wrote numerous letters requesting financial donations from PLS alumni and Wolfe's friends and colleagues. Williams acknowledged:
   Personally, I never had much work with Dr. Wolfe. I suppose I would
   have disagreed with him in many matters. The thing I like [sic]
   about him was his honesty and his fearlessness, qualities much to
   be treasured and commanding respect even from those who disagree
   with the person in question. The Fellowship appeals to me both on
   considerations personal to Dr. Wolfe, and for reasons not personal
   to him. I believe the Palladian Society has started something here
   which, if put across successfully--as it can be--will set a
   precedent that will result in other Fellowships in the University
   before many years. (63)

The enthusiasm for raising $3,000 for the fund gained full support at the 48th annual banquet of the Palladian Society in 1919, attended by both active members and alumni. A PLS resolution from that year mentioned the great loss felt at Wolfe's death, and requested PLS members and alumni to "hereby heartily endorse this movement and pledge ... support in raising $3000.00 toward this fund as the Palladian semi-centennial gift to the University." (64) The University of Nebraska Alumni organization handled fundraising for the remainder of the fellowship.

A general letter written to university alumni members asked them to support the fund through subscription. The letter focused on Wolfe's influence, originality, and service, and voiced the PLS's opinion of Wolfe. "Sometimes he jarred his students pretty vigorously, but only that they might learn to think for themselves. Beneath a rather austere exterior was a big heart and a kindly spirit ..." (65) His colleagues noted that his students were the most important aspect of his career. (66) Wolfe's service was seen also to reflect ideals closely associated with the PLS, such as contributing to the university community--this, too, garnered support for the fund. (67)

In 1920, while the active Pals discussed and reported on the progress of the Wolfe Fund, Williams continued to write support letters and managed the Palladians' pledges. He believed that the Wolfe fund was a valuable way to celebrate the PLS semicentennial, as well as the former professor, who had been a Palladian himself: "Forty years ago this year Dr. Wolfe graduated from the State University, as one of the Palladian members of the Class of '80. For 38 years thereafter he was known far and wide for his ruggedness of intellect, his courage, the inspiration of his teaching, and for his research in his chosen field." (68) Another support letter signed by Williams and several other alumni and faculty noted what a friend remembered about Wolfe:
   When one remembers his being ever ready to give in an unstinted
   measure the best he had, remembers his keen and broad sympathies,
   his naive, quaint originality, his quickening, kindly, challenging
   observations and remarks--delivered with a semi-humorous, quizzical
   look in his eyes--remembers too, his sturdy, independent,
   intellectual honesty, his singleness of heart and life and all that
   made up the personality of Dr. Wolfe, one is constrained to do
   homage to that beautiful spirit and recognize in him the great
   teacher, the true friend, the worthy man. (69)

These and other encomiums in the PLS and university archives from 1919 through 1930 advanced the Wolfe Fund as a "worthy memorial" and reiterated the value of the effort as a model of support for the university. (70)

The donations to the Wolfe Fund by Palladians were generally small, ranging from $3 to $10, but occasional pledges of $100 also added to the coffers. Many pledge letters from former students included heartfelt comments regarding the significance of the PLS, the university, and Dr. Wolfe. One letter from a former Wolfe student noted: "My contribution is small, but if the spirit of the giver counts, perhaps it will help a little. I had the privilege of being in some of Dr. Wolfe's classes and will not soon forget his kindly spirit." (71) A donation of $10 came from Carrie E. Hesseltine, working for the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society: "I am in a seventh standard school here in Burma among the Karens. I enjoy my work and I keep very well. This is my fourth year here. I often think of the very pleasant days in your classes in good old Nebraska Uni. I should like to do it over again." (72) Hesseltine's comment appears to support the theory that the quilt was made as a fundraiser, rather than as a gift to honor Harriet Wilder's commitment to missionary teaching. It does not seem likely that Harriet, alone of all the Pals who became missionaries, should have been singled out for such an honor.

Subscriptions were not the only way the PLS gathered money for the Wolfe Fund. The PLS newsletter, The Stylus, includes the following paragraph in a 1921 edition: "Various ways have been devised to obtain money for the paying of the Wolfe Memorial. We suggest that a fine of 25 cents be imposed on Janet Maitland and Marian Wyman for keeping other members of the Pals awake until 3:30 A.M. at Crete." (73) The Pals presented the play "Aunt Martha's Wards" on May 26, 1921 and proceeds from ticket sales, at $0.40 each, went to support the fund. (74) Initially the play was to be presented in Weeping Water, Nebraska, with Harriet serving as business manager for the production. (75) Instead, she played the part of "Aunt Martha." [Figure 3] Six of the ten members of the cast signed the Palladian Quilt. (76) Occasionally Pals were reminded to pay their subscriptions to the fund; even new members accepted this responsibility. In June of 1920, the PLS taxed each member $3.50 to add to the Wolfe Fund, as well as to purchase a new vacuum cleaner for the PLS hall. (77)

In October 1921, at the semicentennial banquet celebration, the PLS presented $2,500 to the Board of Regents for the Wolfe Fund, just $500 short of the first goal. Laurence Fossler, who made the presentation, spoke of the PLS members' and alumni's work as having been done with "exemplary earnestness, zeal, and I may say...self-sacrifice. It required a fine sense of spiritual kinship, a perception of real and genuine worth, of the value of sterling, intellectual honesty, in fine, an appreciation of the qualities of head and heart which our friend possessed, to do what they have so nobly done." Fossler declared, "those of us who mingled with Dr. Wolfe as we went about our daily tasks, should have been aware of his fine, large personality; but that these young people should have caught so much of his spirit--should have caught enough to make them ready and eager to make this gift towards the perpetuation of his memory--that indeed, is a great tribute to Dr. Wolfe and to them. In honoring him they honor themselves." (78) The contribution was a tribute to the Palladian spirit, as well as to Wolfe.

The fundraising campaign for the Wolfe Memorial reached its final goal of $10,000 in 1930. T. F. A. Williams wrote to Catherine Wolfe, H. K. Wolfe's widow, to express his "huge gratification ... that this fund has been completed, that it is the first fund in such amount to be completed in connection with the University of Nebraska, and that the name of Dr. Wolfe will be perpetuated ... through all the decades to come." (79) Another lasting tribute is the Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture presented each year at the American Psychological Association Convention, for which he is recognized as creator of the first undergraduate psychology laboratory in the United States. (80) In 1976, alumna Cora L. Friedline gave a bequest of $200,000 to the University of Nebraska Foundation in honor of Harry Kirke Wolfe. According to a press release about the donation, Friedline wrote in her will that Wolfe was "the most inspiring professor I ever had and by far the most important factor in guiding my career." (81) Friedline, herself a professor of psychology, demonstrated with her gift the value of Wolfe to his students at the university.

Final Explorations

Active student participation in the Palladian Literary Society waned in the late 1960s. The Palladian Alumni Association, which began in 1913, remained active and held reunions until 2002. At this final reunion, PALS celebrated the homecoming of the Palladian quilt. Active members Margaret McGregor, age 103, and Margarite Hac, age 99, both attended the reunion and viewed their names on the quilt.

This event reminds us that it is not always possible to rely on memory to determine the origins and purpose of a quilt or other artifact. Neither Margaret McGregor or Margarite Hac remembered any information about signing the block or the purpose behind their signatures. Harriet Wilder's surviving sons, Charles, David, and Donald, all born in India, do not remember the Palladian quilt despite their familiarity with family possessions in India or through their work in distributing their parents' estate. They did not know of the quilt's existence until a niece learned of it while searching on the internet for information about her grandmother, Harriet Wyman Wilder. (82)

The accumulation of dates from the university archives and local newspapers makes it apparent that the blocks for the quilt were signed within the years 1922-1923, at least a year after the 1921 semi-centennial celebration of the PLS. At that time, the PLS presented to the Board of Regents the $2,500 they had raised to date for the Wolfe Fund. Perhaps the quilt served as a fundraiser for the last $500 that the PLS had pledged.

Harriet married in January 1923; the news carried to Lincoln, Nebraska, by March. Could the quilt have been made to celebrate her wedding, the blocks gathered over time, and the quilt finished after the final blocks were signed in the summer of 1923? Did Harriet's sister Lila take the quilt to India when she travelled there in 1924? It seems that family members would have remembered the quilt if it ever was in their possession. But did Harriet or Lila Wilder use the quilt to raise funds for missionary development in India? Possibly. However, the weight of evidence seems to indicate that the quilt was intended as a fundraiser for the H. K. Wolfe Research Fund, an important early development effort by the University of Nebraska.

The quilt's ties to the Palladian Literary Society and to the University of Nebraska are well documented and provide a unique story: at this time, no other redwork quilt associated with a university student organization is known. (83) Research on the 100 names on the quilt has illuminated the close-knit ties of the Pals, who they were, what they accomplished, and how a university experience altered their lives. The Palladian Quilt is illustrative of the valued connections that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has to its varied and distinct alumni. Although we may never know with certainty the reason for the quilt's creation, examining its story has allowed a close-up view of academic and social experiences, and national political controversies.


The authors wish to thank Carolyn Ducey, who encouraged our efforts in writing this article.


(1) Virginia Gunn, Barbara Brackman, Laurel Horton, Joanna Smith, "How I Do Research," in Uncoverings 1987, ed. Sally Garoutte and Laurel Horton (San Francisco, CA: American Quilt Study Group, 1989), 166.

(2) Ibid., 160.

(3) Barbara Brackman, "Signature Quilts: Nineteenth Century Trends," in Uncoverings 1989, ed. Laurel Horton (San Francisco: American Quilt Study Group, 1990), 27.

(4) Individuals who read Tamil and Hindi were consulted for identification, but neither could clearly determine if the embroidered section is an Indian language.

(5) Margaret Reedy Seymour, The Palladian Literary Society One Hundred Years 1871-1971 (Lincoln, NE: Palladian Alumni Association, 1971), 3. Palladian Literary Society (hereafter PLS) Records, RG 38-03-06, Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska Lincoln (hereafter ASCUNL).

(6) Ibid.

(7) Mrs. A.W. Field, "History 1871-1880," Palladian Semi-Centennial October 14-15, 1921 (Lincoln, NE: Palladian Alumni Association, 1921), 7. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(8) Seymour, 4.

(9) Marj Marlete, "Palladian Debates of 1870s Anticipated 1971," Lincoln Star Focus Magazine, June 20, 1971.

(10) Seymour, 11.

(11) "The Name Palladian," Cornhusker Annual (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1909), 269.

(12) "A Semi-Centennial," Palladian Semi-Centennial October 14-15, 1921 (Lincoln, NE: 1921) 18. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(13) Harriet Minerva b. March 19, 1889; Louise May b. June 9, 1890; Francis Elizabeth b. September 4, 1892; Hester Letitia b. October 18, 1896; Marian Marie b. November 16, 1897; Lila Fern b. August 5, 1902; Marjorie Lucille b. July 10, 1904.

(14) Transcripts. Registration and Records, RG 27-04-01, ASCUNL. Used with permission.

(15) Bulletin of the University of Nebraska, Forty-Ninth Annual General Catalog 1918-1919 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1919), 120, 267-274. Bulletins & Catalogs, RG 00-07, ASCUNL.

(16) Bulletin of the University of Nebraska, Fifty-First Annual General Catalog 19201921 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1921), 154-155, 332-344. Bulletins & Catalogs, RG 00-07, ASCUNL.

(17) PLS Minutes, November 15, 1920. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(18) The Daily Nebraskan (Lincoln), October 14, 1921.

(19) Harriet Wilder, A Century in the Madura Mission South India 1834 to 1934 (New York: Vantage Press, 1961), 314.

(20) PLS Minutes, January 9 and 17, 1920. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(21) PLS Minutes, October 8, 1923; October 29, 1923; March 4, 1924. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(22) "Palladian Newsletter," (Lincoln, NE), September 1, 1924. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL. Lila did not complete her full term of service in Madura; the Palladian newsletter for March 27, 1925, noted that she had left India the previous month. The same newsletter reported that Marian was living in El Center, California, where she worked as general secretary of the Imperial County YMCA. In 1927, Marian was referenced in a newsletter as "studying [in] New York and is associated with the Child Guidance Clinic there," and living "at the national headquarters building for the YWCA." See: "Palladian Newsletter," December 1927. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(23) PLS Constitution and Membership Book, 1887-1921. PLS Records, RG 3803-06, ASCUNL.

(24) Wilder wrote a history on the Capron Missionary in Madura, India, titled A Century in the Madura Mission, South India, 1834-1934 (New York: Vantage Press, 1961). After locating a copy of this book from an antique dealer in Australia, it was exceptionally exciting to find that the book included an inscription reading: "To Nell, with Love, Harriet Wilder." Wilder's signature changed over the course of 60 years.

(25) "Society," Nebraska State Journal/Lincoln State Journal, March 11, 1923.

(26) "Weddings and Announcements," Nebraska State Journal/Lincoln State Journal, October 29, 1922.

(27) "Society," Nebraska State Journal/Lincoln State Journal, March 11, 1923.

(28) "Marriage Licenses," Lincoln Star, June 5, 1922.

(29) "This Week's Festivities," Nebraska State Journal/Lincoln State Journal, July 30, 1922.

(30) "Miss McKenney Bride of Claire F. Bowman," Lincoln Star, August 21, 1923.

(31) "People You Know," Nebraska State Journal/Lincoln State Journal, September 6, 1922.

(32) "University Notes," Lincoln Star, September 23, 1923.

(33) "People You Know," Evening State Journal & Lincoln Daily News, December 28, 1922.

(34) "Resigns From Y. W.," Lincoln Sunday Star, December 31, 1922.

(35) "People You Know," Evening State Journal & Lincoln Daily News, November 14, 1922.

(36) "People You Know," Evening State Journal & Lincoln Daily News, April 26, 1923.

(37) Letter from T. F. A. Williams to Mrs. Glen Talbot Babson, November 15, 1919. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(38) For more information on the topic, see: Dorothy Cozart, "A Century of Fundraising Quilts: 1860-1960," in Uncoverings 1984, ed. Sally Garoutte (Mill Valley, CA: American Quilt Study Group, 1985), 41-49.

(39) Letter from Lawrence Fossler, H. W. Caldwell, T. F. A. Williams, H. C. Filley, Edna Bullock, C. M. Skiles, and A. C. R. Swenson, January 1920. Harry Kirke Wolfe Papers, RG 12-17-10, ASCUNL. This letter served as a fundraising letter, signed by multiple supporters that provided biographical details on Wolfe's life.

(40) Office of University Information, University of Nebraska Press Release, July 8, 1976. Harry Kirke Wolfe Papers, RG 12-17-10, ASCUNL.

(41) "Records of the Proceedings of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, Vol. 3, (June 1890 to May 1897), 281-282. Board of Regents Records, RG 01-01-01, ASCUNL.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Ibid., 285.

(44) Ibid.

(45) "Dr. Wolfe is Removed," The Hesperian (Lincoln, NE), April 30, 1897. Student Life Records, RG 38-01-02, ASCUNL.

(46) "Dr. Wolfe is Removed," The Hesperian, May 7, 1897. Student Life Records, RG38-01-02, ASCUNL. One university historian noted that contrary to the administration's statement that politics were not involved, newspaper editors "charged that the dismissal of Professor H. K. Wolfe from the faculty came as a result of his father's election to a state office on the Populist ticket." See: Robert N. Manley, Centennial History of the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1969), 119.

(47) University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Regents Record, Vol. 5 (July 1902-- May 1906), 268. Board of Regents, Records, RG 01-01-01, ASCUNL.

(48) Record of Proceedings of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska and Standing Committee Proceedings, Vol. 6 (June 1906--December 1912), 252. Board of Regents, Records, RG 01-01-01, ASCUNL.

(49) Transcripts. Registration and Records, RG 27-04-01, ASCUNL. Used with permission.

(50) "All Will Support the War," Nebraska State Journal, April 10, 1917.

(51) University of Nebraska Board of Regents, General Records, Vol. 7 (January 1913--April 1918), 398. Board of Regents, Records, RG 01-01-01, ASCUNL.

(52) Robert N. Manley, Centennial History of the University of Nebraska, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1969), 214.

(53) Samuel Avery, "Should Stay United In War," The Daily Nebraskan, April 16, 1917.

(54) "Dean Puts an End to Withdrawals," The Daily Nebraskan, May 25, 1917.

(55) "New Name Added to Regents's List," Evening State Journal & Lincoln Daily News, May 29, 1918.

(56) University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Regents Record, Vol. 8 (1918-- 1921), 17-19. Board of Regents Records, RG 01-01-02, ASCUNL.

(57) Robert Knoll, Prairie University A History of the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 66.

(58) "Dr. H. K. Wolff Dies at Wheatland, Wyo.," Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV), August 1, 1918.

(59) "People You Know," Evening State Journal & Lincoln Daily News, August 2, 1918.

(60) PLS Minutes, December 9, 1918.

(61) PLS Minutes, October 6, 1919.

(62) PLS Minutes, October 10, 1919.

(63) Letter from T. F. A. Williams to H. C. Filley, June 3, 1919. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(64) PLS Resolution, 1919. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(65) Letter from Amy Armstrong, Alumni Association Committee, et al. to unknown recipients, June 1920. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(66) Letter from Hartley Burr Alexander to T. F. A. Williams, July 5, 1919. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(67) PLS, "The Stylus," May 21, 1921. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(68) Letter from T. F. A. Williams to "Fellow Pal," January 24, 1920. PLS Records, RG38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(69) Letter from Lawrence Fossler, H. W. Caldwell, T. F. A. Williams, H. C. Filley, Edna Bullock, C. M. Skiles, A. C. R. Swenson, January 1920. Harry Kirke Wolfe Papers, RG 12-17-10, ASCUNL.

(70) Letter from T. F. A. Williams to "Fellow Pal," January 24, 1920. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(71) Letter from T. A. Hutton to T. F. A. Williams, October 7, 1921. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(72) Letter from Carrie E. Hesseltine to H. W. Caldwell, August 20, 1921. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(73) PLS, "The Stylus," May 21, 1921. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL. Each year the Pals had a picnic at Crete, Nebraska, which included an overnight stay and boating on the Blue River at Horkey's Park.

(74) PLS Minutes, May 9, 1921.

(75) PLS Minutes, April 18, 1921.

(76) PLS, Program, "Aunt Martha's Wards," May 26, 1921. PLS Records, RG 3803-06, ASCUNL.

(77) PLS Minutes, June 1, 1920.

(78) Laurence Fossler, "Presentation Address," October 15, 1921. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(79) Letter from T. F. A. Williams to Catherine Wolfe, January 20, 1930. PLS Records, RG 38-03-06, ASCUNL.

(80) "G. Stanley Hall Series & Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture," The Society for the Teaching of Psychology,; accessed March 4, 2012.

(81) Office of University Information, University of Nebraska Press Release, July 8, 1976. Harry Kirke Wolfe Papers, RG 12-17-10, ASCUNL.

(82) The family members were, however, a valuable resource of information on Harriet's life and that of her husband and other family members.

(83) A search on the The Quilt Index ( provides no additional quilts created by a student organization associated with a university. Lynne Shultis' redwork quilt analysis focuses on a quilt associated with a music teacher and her students and does not relate to a university student organization. See Lynne Shultis, "Analysis of a Late Nineteenth-Century Redwork Quilt Top," in Uncoverings 2007, ed. Joanna E. Evans (Lincoln, NE: American Quilt Study Group), 97-128.
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