Category Archives: Tilden

Family Quilts

As the end of the month of March nears it also marks the end of National Quilt Month. I photographed the quilt that Alexa’s Great Grandmother, Lily Von Schmidt Mitchell Tilden, made a few years before her wedding. She and her friend Tillie Eggers made it in 1883 while living in San Francisco. Whoever married first got to keep it. Lily married Harrison W. Mitchell in 1885. She had two young daughters, Alexine (1886) and Marion (1888), when Harry died of Bright’s disease in 1890. She was not a single mother for long, marrying Charles Lee Tilden in 1892. The Tildens had one more child, a son, Charles Lee Tilden Jr. 

This pattern is called ‘crazy quilt’ as it uses a wide variety of fabrics and stitches in random patterns. This quilt was all done by hand and is in remarkable shape for being 133 years old. Lily's Quilt

I’m spending the day packing for my next quilt retreat, my fourth one. They remind me of the long history of sewing and quilting that exists in so many cultures around the world. We are all bound together by common threads; the camaraderie and friendship that grows strong among women (and sometimes men) who sit together and sew. At last August’s quilt retreat I learned how to make the Annie Arrowhead block and finished the quilt this spring. The fabric was designed and made by Aborigine fabric artists in Australia. The next retreat promises the beginning of a new quilt as well as the renewal of friendships from the past retreats. Women have been doing this for centuries.Aussie Quilt

Very few quilts still exist from World War I; most were made in 1917 and 1918 and were used in fundraising events for the Red Cross. Most of the ones that do exist are commemorative quilts honoring the soldiers killed in the war.

A book worth reading is  Ruth McHaney Danner’s book: Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time: Inspiring Stories about Quilters and How They Have Touched Lives. (New World Library, 2015).

Three + Two = Lantern slides

It took nearly fifty years, the invention of the Internet and social media plus three Alex’s and two librarians for the most surprising event to occur.

As a result, I am in the possession of hundreds of lantern slides along with the projector that belonged to my great grandmother Lily Von Schmidt Mitchell Tilden.

It is a complicated story and we are just now filling in the blanks. It started shortly after we rebooted this blog. I got a note through the contact form that said:

I believe my boyfriend and I have a journal written by your grandmother, Alexine Michell, during World War I with a set of glass lantern slides from the same time. There are also glass slides from a trip around the world that Alexine took, perhaps in the early 1920’s. We’d love to share these items with you.

This is the kind of serendipity genealogists and social historians dream of.

Jackie, who wrote this note, is a librarian. Vicki, my partner in crime, is a retired librarian. Thus the two librarians.

Jackie’s boyfriend is named Alex. I am Alexa and my grandmother was Alexine. Thus the three Alex’s.

Norma, Alex’s mother, bought these slides at auction in the sixties. Alex enjoyed looking at them growing up. Fifteen or twenty years ago they showed them to Jackie. She kept them in mind, determined to help the collection find their way back to the family of origin. Then on Sunday, two weeks ago, Jackie searches again for Alexine Mitchell and finds this site.

Norma writes:

Alex told you about my finding the slides/journal at an auction preview. I was struck with the conviction that I had to have the lot. We bid on it and since there were very few [none?] other bids, we won the lot. I did not know anything about the contents or the names or why this happened to me. This must have been @50 years ago. I have never understood what this matter was about.

Over the years my husband and I talked about donating everything to a local museum or historical society but I could never decide to actually do it. Just had to keep all. This has never happened to me before and has never happened since.

Now the mystery is resolved and I have closure and a peace about it. Alexine and Marion and the family are going home. I am sooo happy that you want them.

When my great-aunt Marion died in 1966, she left me the family photo albums and diaries. Apparently, some of the household items were auctioned off when the Tilden family home was sold.

It has taken nearly 50 years but the lantern slides, some from the Great War, and others from round the world trips taken by the family in the 1920s are back with the rest of the family archive.

The projector works. The slides need to be catalogued and digitized. It will take some time. As we make discoveries we will share them here.

Next year, as we build interest in Marion’s book, we hope to do slide shows using the old projector and the original lantern slides.

As I told Alex when he gave me the slides, I feel like I have found lost family. We will be forever grateful to Norma, her husband Leonard Gilbert, MD, Anthony, Alex and Jackie for their tenacity, perseverance, and generosity. Thank you!