Common People in Uncommon Times: The Civil War Experience in Tennessee on view through May 17, 2014

Geographically centered between the Grain Belt of the Midwest and the Cotton Belt of the Deep South, Tennessee was destined to be a major battlefield, supply center, transportation hub and invasion route for both the Union and Confederate armies. Unavoidably, Tennessee became a focal point of the Civil War. The state generated large quantities of supplies for a fighting force including wheat, corn, hay, beef, and bacon. Tennessee’s overall location made it a political hotbed, particularly in East Tennessee, which voted to remain with the Union, while the rest of the state chose to join the new Confederate States of America. Armies specifically targeted the city of Chattanooga because of its location as the “Gateway to the South.” Chattanooga was the railroad center of the Western Theater with trains reaching every part of the United States. The Union Army considered Chattanooga the last stronghold of the south, protecting the jewel city, Atlanta. Once Chattanooga fell, General Sherman marched toward Atlanta launching his renowned “march to the sea” and destroying any southern chance of winning.

The war disrupted and impacted the people of Tennessee in ways that are almost unimaginable. This traveling exhibition researched and developed by the Tennessee State Museum focuses on individual Tennesseans and will highlight the personal stories of common people surviving in the most trying and sometimes most jubilant of times. Most Civil War stories speak of the life of soldiers and conflicts that surrounded them. Meanwhile on the Tennessee home front, civilian life, especially in the rural areas, suffered immensely. Crops and farms were destroyed and livestock confiscated. Towns and cities faced the uneasy and unfamiliar aspect of occupation by Union or Confederate armies. Common People in Uncommon Times highlight the men and women on the home front, in battle, and in the political arena through photographs and archival materials from this pivotal point in American history.  The lives of John fielder, a store keeper; Cate Carney, a defiant secessionist; and C.A. Haun a potter are just a few that will be explored during this traveling exhibition. 

Common People in Uncommon Times: The Civil War Experience in Tennessee is sponsored by Cooke's Food Stores and Pharmacy in conjunction with the Tennessee State Museum as part of the the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War in Tennessee. 

Stitches In Time: Hand Quilting on view through March 1, 2014

The process of quilting can be traced to ancient Egypt and China. The concept is simple: to provide warmth. An inner layer of fabric provides warmth, the outer layers provide stability, and the quilting or stitching through the layers is necessary to prevent the shifting and clumping of the layers. In colder climes, such as England, quilting can be traced to the 11th century with the help of wills and diaries. Settling in the newly founded colonies, the first quilts were undoubtable English in style; however, no examples survive. Records from household inventories, bills of lading, letters and diaries from America’s colonial women indicate that blankets were standard and quilts were a luxury item. Not until the 19th century was the practice of quilting widespread. With the Industrial Revolution, the act of spinning and weaving threads individually became obsolete and purchasing bolts of cloth was commonplace. The development of thousands of patterns allowed quilting to become the American pastime for women as they met in social circles for quilting bees and participated in church quilting groups. It is these few years that hand quilting flourished in America with examples still surviving. Shortly after the Industrial Revolution, the sewing machine became the popular and easy way to quilt while hand quilting became a skill of the past, quickly falling victim to progress.

Stiches in Time: Hand Quilting will display these hand quilting creations as pieces of history and pieces of art. The show will feature historic examples of hand quilting pre-dating the 1950s. In addition, contemporary hand quilted pieces will explore techniques and patterns from this disappearing art. One piece on display will be a “whitework quilt” - considered the epitome of a quilter’s skill as it shows every nuance of stitch and technique.

Stitches in Time: Hand Quilting will be judged by National Quilting Association Inc. certified judge Madeline Hawley. Certified since 1984, Hawley has worked locally, regionally, and nationally, judging over 30 shows throughout the country. With a background in traditional quilting, she has expanded her interest to include innovative and art quilts. In addition, she has published various articles and reviews about quilting and has since published a book. Hawley will be judging our show in various categories including: Best of Show Small and Large, Best of Show Duet and Group, Color and Design.

The exhibition will open on Thursday, January 23 at 6:00 p.m. for our members-only opening reception. In addition, quilt show submitters will be on hand to discuss their quilts and experiences. The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, January 24 and will run through March 1, 2014. 

Stitches in Time: Hand Quilting is sponsored by First Tennessee.

Building Cleveland Up on view through Jan 4, 2014

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On December 31, 1879, at the stroke of midnight Cleveland ceased to exist. No longer recognized by the Tennessee State Legislature as a separate town on the map, Cleveland re-incorporated into Bradley County and disappeared from the record books. A hotly contested mayoral race did what even the American Civil War just a few years earlier could not - destroy an entire town. 

The race between Mayor F.E. Hardwick and incumbent J.C. Tipton organized the town along strict party lines. Tipton, the staunch republican, won the election by a margin of only 38 votes. The townspeople revolted. Robert McNelley, editor of The Banner and a resolute democrat characterized the race as: “One of considerable excitement. One with lying and flowing whiskey… with drunk white men and Negros seen in every direction… to sum up the election it was a disgraceful farce.”

Fighting broke out all over town, in the streets, courthouse, restaurants and offices. Within a week, citizens circulated a petition calling for the abolishment of the corporation of Cleveland. After riotous debate, the bill passed the required 3rd reading on March 17, 1879. The abolishment of the city would take place on December 31, 1879 and all debts would be paid in full, successfully closing down the town. 

Life went on. Former Cleveland citizens still rushed to their jobs on January 1, 1880 just like any other day. Craigmiles Opera House continued to show new acts and banks still operated their normal schedules. It took concerned citizens two years to draft a new charter for the town. The charter passed on May 20, 1882 with a vote of 225 to 4. Newly elected officials made their first order of business to license three new saloons in town. 

Business and culture flourished following the resurrection of the newly minted City of Cleveland. City officials took on the challenge of bringing electricity and water to their constituency with the opening of Waterworks in 1892 and Cleveland Electric Light Company opening in 1895. These two advancements opened the door for downtown business to boom.

With every business boom comes a cultural revolution and Cleveland is no exception. Along with Craigmiles Opera House, three theaters opened in the early 1900s. The Moneta, Bohemia and Princess showed movies, plays and more while benefiting from the close proximity to Knoxville and Chattanooga for acts to make a quick stop in Cleveland. Social clubs popped up, including the Cleveland Dramatic Company, Music Club, Embroidery Club, Kiwanis and more. Each spoke to a new, ever changing demographic of Cleveland citizens, encouraging them to be a part of the community. Horse racing, roller skating and baseball became must-see outdoor entertainment. 

Citizens advanced Cleveland from a town that ceased to exist to a city that rivaled the growth of Chattanooga and Knoxville in both business and entertainment. The infrastructure built by town officials allowed not a town, but an actual city to build up. 

Building Cleveland Up features artifacts that tell the story of our re-birth from the businesses and cultural institutions that arose after arose after 1882. Join us for our member’s only opening on October 24th at 6:00 p.m. to explore this crucial period of growing business, culture, and infrastructure.

Building Cleveland Up is sponsored by: Landmark Insurance Group and Bank of Cleveland


Cleveland Works on view through October 12, 2013

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Industries are the working heart of any growing city and Cleveland is no exception. Hardwick Woolen Mills and Stove Company, Dixie Foundry, Brown Stove Works – all of these early industries developed, adapted and became the heart of Cleveland at the turn of the century. The Great Depression that followed was a fire that tempered the industries that survived. After the economic upheaval, there was a sudden surge of production. This brought jobs to its citizens during the booming World War II era; when the US War Board drafted numerous industries in the area to help manufacture items for our troops.

In Cleveland Works you’ll find several artifacts from these industries alongside objects used in smaller operations. The Model 31 Linotype is a two-ton typesetting machine commonly used to set type for newspapers. A linotype creates a “line of type” used to create plates for printing presses. These plates are then used to print the same text many times over. Before the invention of the Linotype by Ottmar Merganthaler in 1884, no newspaper in the world had more than eight pages due to the labor involved in setting type.

Another unique artifact on display is the Hardwick Woolen Mill whistle. A former steamboat whistle, it was brought to Cleveland by employees of the mill as a show of pride, dedication and strength of the Hardwick employees. A variety of stoves from the three major foundries will be on display as well.

Cleveland Works is sponsored by Bank of Cleveland.