Briscoe Center Begins Research on Presidential Quilt
Quilt Uncovered During the Briscoe–Garner Museum Renovation
February 25, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — The Briscoe Center has begun research to learn more about Texas Star, a politically themed quilt in its collections.
“It was a gift to U.S. Vice President-elect John Nance Garner in 1932, and our preliminary research has uncovered numerous features of historical interest,” said Kate Adams, quilt curator at the Briscoe Center.
The quilt was inherited by the Briscoe–Garner Museum in Uvalde, Texas. Dedicated to the lives of Garner and Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe, the museum reopened in December after extensive renovations. During the renovation work, the museum’s collections were audited and Texas Star was brought to the Briscoe Center’s Research and Collections Division for academic study.
Texas Star was machine pieced but hand quilted by Mrs. Minnie Weeden Rucker of Franklin, Texas, in 1932. According to contemporary reports in The Franklin Texan, Rucker received a thank-you note from Garner’s wife Ettie: “This gift will be one of the historical treasures of our family, and, I hope, handed down from generation to generation long after we have passed away.”
Garner was a famously independent vice president who strengthened the power of the office in ways that continue today. Tensions between Garner and President Franklin D. Roosevelt grew during their second term, culminating in Garner’s entry into the presidential primaries of 1940. After a series of defeats he retired from political life and returned to Texas.
“Below the star, the order of the candidates’ names (with Garner’s coming before Roosevelt’s) and party affiliation leave no doubt about the quiltmaker’s political loyalties and affection for Garner,” said Adams.
The outlined-letter embroidery above the star reads,”The Eyes of Texas are Upon You,” taken from the University of Texas at Austin’s spirit song. Garner had a documented fondness for UT Austin. Upon receiving an honorary Ph.D. in 1935, Garner said the university was destined to become, “one of the greatest educational institutions in this republic . . . because it seems to me to typify the spirit of Texas as well as the democracy of the nation.”
“Texas Star is classically patriotic in color, style, and embroidered content,” said Adams. “The quilt’s large red, white, and blue rows are arranged in a way that makes them radiate from its center.”
The quilt is part of the center’s Winedale Quilt Collection, a scholarly resource that supports the study of American quilts and their history.