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Harris Gallery

Quilts have been used in America since the 17th century, but the earliest examples were imported from India rather than produced domestically. By the 18th century, American women were making their own quilts, but these were initially an expensive commodity due to the limited availability and high cost of fabric. Eventually, domestic production of fabric became a reality, and a wide range of affordable textiles became available. In 1846, the first mechanized sewing machine was patented, forever changing the lives of quilt makers. Sewing machines made the process of quilt production less time consuming and required no formal education.

Pieces from the Past features historic quilts from Rosenberg Library's permanent museum collection.
The exhibit is located in the 4th floor Harris Gallery and will be on view through December 31, 2017.
American girls were taught sewing and needlework from a young age both at home and later at school. The first published quilt pattern in the U.S. appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1835; most of the earliest patterns were copied from British magazines. However, the designs and fabrics developed by the British — mosaic styles using silk — were not favored by American quilters who preferred block styles pieced with calico. American quilts were often made with fabric scraps, as newly purchased fabrics were expensive and unavailable in many parts of the country.

Specific names for designs became important during the 19th century in order to distinguish the growing number of individual patterns. Regional patterns also developed in different parts of the nation which reflected the traditions of various geographic areas.

Pineapple Quilt, 1843 & 1920
A Pineapple quilt pattern is a type of Log Cabin quilt in which
the ends of the fabric strips are cut at angles rather than left straight.
This quilt was pieced in 1843 by Sarah Avery Thomas
in Connecticut when she was just six years old.
In 1920 — nearly eight decades later — it was finally lined and
quilted by her daughter-in-law, Jean Scrimgeour Morgan, in Galveston.
Gift of Mrs. George D. Morgan (Jean Scrimgeour Morgan), 75.057
Firms such as Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck, & Company sold quilt frames, fabric, and batting through their mail-order departments. Patterns were available through suppliers like the Ladies Art Company which produced catalogs featuring hundreds of designs. By the 1930s, several major newspapers featured special columns by quilting experts, some of who designed their own original patterns for publishing. During World War II, these once-popular newspaper features began to disappear, and between 1940 and 1970, few new patterns were introduced.

By the late 1950s, the popularity of quilts had declined; these domestic textiles were considered outdated elements of home décor. However, the 1976 American Bicentennial brought about a renewed interest in American folk art, including quilts.

Crazy Quilt, 1884
Crazy quilts are composed of a variety of fabrics,
colors, and embroidery pieced together in a random fashion.
Some women created crazy quilts as a way to demonstrate their needlework skills
and their affinity for fine fabrics, as is the case with this example.
Other women, however, made crazy quilts out of necessity.
Gift of Catherine Davis Gauss, 81.016
Today, 16 million Americans enjoy quilting as a hobby and spend more than $3 billion annually on fabric, pattern books, sewing machines, and other tools of the trade.

Log Cabin Quilt, 19th century
There are several variations of the Log Cabin design,
depending upon the way the individual blocks are set together.
Blocks are often divided diagonally in half, with one light side and one dark side.
The contrast of light and dark fabric in this example creates an eye-catching optical illusion.
Gift of Mrs. George D. Morgan (Jean Scrimgeour Morgan), 75.061
Pieces from the Past is located in the Harris Gallery on the Library’s 4th Floor. Rosenberg Library Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission to the museum galleries is always free.

History of the Harris Gallery

Harris Gallery 2011

The Harris Gallery came into existence with the addition of the Moody Wing of the library in the early 1970s. After Hurricane Ike in late 2008, restoration of the library included new lighting and flooring in the Harris Gallery. This gallery is utilized to exhibit thematic collections from amongst the Museum's thousands of carefully preserved and stored paintings, illustrations, and photography.

John Woods Harris III (1893 - 1999) became a trustee of the Rosenberg Library in 1934 and served on the board for nearly four decades. As board president during the planning and construction of the building’s Moody Memorial Wing, Harris was one of the primary fundraisers for the monumental project. In 1971, the Harris Gallery was dedicated in honor of the Harris family for their generous gifts to the library.

John W. Harris III was the son of John Woods Harris, Jr. and Minnie Knox (Hutchings) Harris. After serving as a naval pilot during World War I, he graduated from the University of Virginia in 1920 with a degree in law. Harris returned to Galveston and began his career as an attorney.

Harris Gallery 2010

Mr. Harris was on the board of directors of the Hutchings-Sealy National Bank from 1930 until his retirement in 1974. He also served as director of the Sealy and Smith Foundation for the John Sealy Hospital. Harris was on the board of the Galveston Orphans Home for many years and was a trustee of the Galveston Independent School District.

He worked with many local organizations, including the International Oleander Society, the William Temple Foundation, the First Church of Christian Science, the Galveston Garden Club, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Boys Club of Galveston, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, and the Galveston Historical Foundation. Mr. Harris was a member of the American Judicature Society, Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Texas Navy, the American Legion, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Galveston Artillery Club, and the Galveston Yacht Club.

Harris Gallery 2008

In 1973, he and his wife, Eugenia Davis Harris, formed Galveston Foundation, Inc., an organization dedicated to the beautification of the city, in an endeavor to make Galveston “the Garden of the Gulf.” Galveston Foundation has donated funds for the planting of flowers and shrubs along Broadway and has made numerous grants for the landscaping of schools and parks. The dolphin sculpture on the Seawall and the restoration of the Rosenberg Fountain on 23rd Street are also gifts of the Galveston Foundation.

In 1968, John W. Harris was honored as a Community Leader of America, and in 1976, the Galveston City Council proclaimed October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th as John Harris Days in the City of Galveston. Harris was named Man of the Year by the Galveston Boys Club in 1980 and was named the Rabbi Henry Cohen Humanitarian of the Year in 1981. He died in Galveston in 1999 at the age of 105 years.