Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

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Baltimore Album Quilts: Fountain Block

Debby Cooney a long time Baltimore Album Quilt researcher has correlated the Fountain block (follow link to see all the quilts) with the Temperance movement. It seems to have such a clear connection, but it made me wonder if it could be traced to a specific Temperance Society in Baltimore and/or members of a specific society. I began researching many of the different temperance societies and my working theory led me to the Washington Temperance Society which was created by 6 men who were artisans/laborers including a tailor who would become President at the Chase Tavern at 22 N Liberty Street in 1840. Membership topped 700 by the end of the year, and it had 5,000 members by 1842.

The Washington Temperance Society used the phrases “fountain of health, fountain of life” in their promotional materials. Additionally, the society commissioned and produced 3 medals to distribute which had Washington on the front of the coin, the abstinence phrase, and the back of one of the coins had a fountain similar to those in the quilts with the phrase “Temperance is the Fountain of Health.”

They had 8 auxiliary groups for women sometimes known as the Martha Washingtons. The members were also from the labor class and included dressmakers and seamstresses. Members were required to pay an initiation fee and regular monthly contributions. Additionally, they were to collect, make, and sell clothes for the families of the reformed drunks and indigents. It made me wonder if they also made quilt blocks. Mary Ann O’laughlen is one maker of the Fountain block, as well as other BAQ blocks in multiple quilts and was a member of a temperance society. She is presumed to have supported her family with sewing after the death of her husband (her daughter is listed as a seamstress in the Woods directory.)

Additional clues were provided by the different fountain blocks in the BAQs. The Pettecord Quilt contains a fountain with the inscriptions “Mrs. French”, “Fountain of Health.” It appears the block references Mrs. Rachael Deal French. Her relative Mrs. Mary Deal lives at 22 Liberty St, the same address as the tavern where the Society was formed. However, the Fountain blocks had different variations. Stayed tuned in our next blog to see the variations on the fountain block.