December 10, 2012

Red and Green Evoke Thoughts of the Holidays

Most Americans today identify the colors red and green with the holiday season.  These colors bring to mind Christmas lights and decorated trees, mistletoe tied with red ribbon, holly berries, and festive wreaths.

From the 1830s through the end of the 19th century, however, Quaker and other quilt makers combined red and green with white to produce album quilts that had no holiday connotation.  Prior to this time, the fashion was to use realistic floral prints cut from expensive chintz fabrics to produce appliqued (often referred to as broderie perse) quilts in the album style.  The cost of these chintz fabrics generally limited this style to those women who had the means to purchase them.

The popularity of the red, green, and white album quilt was highest during the period of 1840-1860 after affordable, cotton fabrics of green and red became available.  Using these colors, so frequently found in nature, women began to fashion their own floral designs by cutting, overlaying, and appliqueing fabric to create wreaths, floral displays in vases or baskets, sprigs, and bouquets such as those seen in chintz prints.  This technique was widely used by middle-class women, both rural and urban, to make heirloom quilts for their families.  The production of these quilts declined after the Civil War perhaps, in part, because the synthetic dyes used after 1860 produced reds and greens that faded to beige or browns from washing and exposure to light.

Lynda, rummaging through her fabric "stash" earlier this year, came across a number of reproduction fabrics in green and "Turkey red" she had bought a few years ago with the idea of one day making a red, green, and white quilt.  She was inspired to do this, at last, by many of the Quaker quilts of this color scheme that she and Mary had seen in books, museums, and private collections.  Lynda particularly liked the album quilts that combined blocks of appliqued designs with pieced blocks and decided, using block patterns and designs seen in Quaker quilts, to make one of her own.

Quilt pieced and hand-appliqued by Lynda Salter Chenoweth, 2012.  Machine quilted by Maureen
Burns of Sonoma, California.  The irregular shape of the quilt results from the kindness of Lynda's
huband and neighbors who held it aloft for a full frontal photograph.  Lynda calls this quilt "A
Mid-Atlantic Quaker Memory".  Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Lynda gave a "nod" to the early cut-out chintz blocks by creating a wreath of roses, a cluster of roses, and a bird/floral applique to include among her blocks.
The three blocks using printed fabrics to create cut-out-chintz-style patterns. Photographs
by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Two other appliqued blocks are paper-cut patterns popular in the mid-Atlantic region of America during the middle of the 19th century.  One is a circular wreath and the other is one of Mary's favorite patterns, the fleur-de-lis medallion variation some now recognize as an "Apple Pie Ridge Star".
Wreath and "Apple Pie Ridge Star" blocks.  Photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The pieced blocks Lynda made for the quilt include: a Bear Paw, a Chimney Sweep (also called Christian Cross), a Nine Patch, and a replica of the blocks that appear in Philena Cooper Hambleton's 1853 quilt.
Bear Paw, Chimney Sweep, Nine Patch, and Philena quilt blocks.  Photographs
by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Lynda chose a bright yellow paisley for part of the border so the quilt would not be mistaken for a "Christmas quilt".  But it is, indeed, the holiday season so we present this quilt to thank you for visiting our blog and to wish you all
Brackman, Barbara.  Clues in the Calico, A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts.  McLean, VA: EPM Publications, Inc., 1989.
Hornback, Nancy and Terry Clothier Thompson.  Quilts in Red and Green and the Women Who Made Them.  Kansas City, MO: Kansas City Star Books, 2006.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.



November 27, 2012

Anne Parrish and the Aimwell School

Anne Parrish was born on October 17, 1760 in Philadelphia, the daughter of a prominent Quaker family.  Her upbringing included dedication to charitable works and, when her parents contracted yellow fever in an epidemic in 1793, she vowed to devote herself to a life of philanthropy should they be spared.  They survived and Anne's first philanthropic act was to create, along with twenty-three friends, a committee called the Friendly Circle.  This group was later known as The Female Society of  Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.  It was the first women's charitable organization established in America.

The Society opened The House of Industry in 1795, providing poor women with paid employment as spinners and weavers, and giving older women employment as "day care providers" for the children of the women working there.

A year later, Anne and some of her fellow-Quakers founded a school for needy girls later known as Aimwell School for the Free Instruction of Females.  The school was first conducted in Anne's home on North Second Street in Philadelphia.  As the number of students grew, the school was moved to other quarters on the north side of Cherry Street east of 10th Street.

Watercolor of the Aimwell School for the Free Instruction of Females.  The Historical
Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), David J. Kennedy watercolors, David J. Kennedy painter.
Courtesy of the Historical Society of Philadelphia.
The number of students attending Aimwell School varied over time from ten to fifty or more.  Eight Quaker women voluntarily shared the teaching duties, in turn, until the increasing number of students required the help of paid teachers.  The curriculum included reading, writing, arithmetic, and the development of sewing skills.  The Aimwell School survived in various forms and at a variety of locations until 1923.
As was the case in most private boarding and day schools for girls in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the young women at Aimwell learned sewing skills by completing samplers that required the mastery of a variety of stitches for marking domestic linens and that would eventually lead to proficiency in embroidery.  The sampler shown below was worked by Aimwell student Rebecca Bachellor and was completed in 1828.
Sampler worked by Rebecca Bachellor.  The sampler was in the collection of
Joseph and Ann Fassnacht of Canandaigua, New York, and then was  passed to their
daughter and son-in-law, Chris and Linda Montague.  Photograph courtesy of Ann Fassnacht.
Many early Quaker schools are known today for the samplers worked by their students and for the specific teachers who guided these artistic efforts and often determined the motifs representative of their schools.  Samplers were "show pieces" that families kept and passed on to the next generations.  Many of them have survived and, today, they have become collectors' items for both private citizens and museums.
Other sewing skills were also taught at Quaker schools to prepare young women for domestic life and to provide them with a modest means by which they could support themselves.  Two examples of these skills include a Quaker mending and darning sampler showing examples of the stitches used for these domestic tasks (refer to page 114 of Samplers and Samplermakers, An American Schoolgirl Art, 1700-1850 cited below) and a quilt in the collection of the Historical Society of Moorestown, New Jersey.
Quilt made by the students of Aimwell School in 1847 for their teacher, Sarah D. Powell. 
Collection of the Historical Society of Moorestown.  Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell,
President of the Historical Society of Moorestown.
This inscribed quilt measures 104 inches by 114 inches and is comprised of blocks known as both Chimney Sweep and Christian Cross in pattern.  Its quilting stitches are even and straight, and it is bound using a woven tape of beige, brown, and yellow.  Woven tape binding brings to mind past discussions of the beige and green "Trenton Tape" associated with quilts of New Jersey.  Once thought to be a local commercial product that suggested a firm New Jersey attribution for quilts bound with it, more recent observations are that woven tape was actually widely produced, even in homes.
Woven tape used to bind the quilt.  Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
The quilt blocks, including a dedicatory block, are inscribed in black ink.
Block presenting the quilt to Sarah D. Powell.  It reads: "Presented by the Pupils of
the Aimwell School to their Teacher, Sarah D. Powell, 1847."  Photograph courtesy
of Lisa Hammell.
As can be seen by the photographs below, some of the students decorated their name blocks with embellishments in ink.  Also note the clarity and beauty of some of the handwriting.
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
The workmanship displayed by this quilt, as well as the inscribed penmanship, indicate that the students of Aimwell School were receiving sound educations in sewing and writing.
We thank Lisa Hammell and the Historical Society of Moorestown for generously sharing this treasure so we could share it with you.
Bacon, Margaret Hope. Mothers of Feminism, The Story of Quaker Women in America.  Philadelphia: Friends General Conference, 1986.
Edmonds, Mary Jaene.  Samplers and Samplermakers, An American Schoolgirl Art, 1700-1850. New York: Rizzoli and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.



November 16, 2012

Quilts in the Baltimore Manner

As described in the immediately preceding post, "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" is a current exhibit at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fok Art Museum at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia.  The exhibit runs through May 11, 2014 and is beautifully curated by Linda Baumgarten and Kimberly Smith Ivey.

In mid-nineteenth century America, Album quilts were a popular form amongst Quakers, but they were hardly the only ones to make quilts in this style.
How did Quakers learn about the patterns and techniques used in Baltimore Album Quilts?  Friends could be disowned for (among many other things) marrying outside the faith but a disownment was not equivalent to, for example, an Amish shunning.  As painful as was the practice of disownment from the Religious Society of Friends, letters and diaries indicate disowned Friends -- some of whom were making quilts in the newest styles -- continued social relationships with memnbers of good standing.  Also, Quakers had regular contact with the society-at-large through business dealings.  Thus, despite the closed nature of their religion, they had opportunities to be exposed to new quilt trends, including Baltimore Album-style quilts. 
The images in this post show just some of the non-Quaker quilts on display in the exhibit, "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner".
Detail of foregoing quilt.
And, for those of you who are interested in chintz, here is a splendid example attributed to Achsah Goodwin Wilkins.
All photographs by Mary Holton Robare.  To learn more about a recent discovery of another Achsah Goodwin Wilkins-style quilt, visit
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.


November 11, 2012

A Quaker Quilt and "Apple Pie Ridge Stars" at Colonial Williamsburg

On November 9, 2012, Mary had the great pleasure and honor of presenting a lecture titled "Tracking the Apple Pie Ridge Star" as part of the conference "Influences on American Quilts: Baltimore to Bengal" at Colonial Williamsburg.  The conference included an incredible line-up of speakers and topics.  It coincided with a splendid exhibition of "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" that was co-curated by Linda Baumgarten and Kim Ivey. The exhibition runs through May 11, 2014.

The exhibitiion in the Foster and Muriel McCarl Gallery of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum "showcases 12 fine examples of the Baltimore Quilt tradition with a sampling of quilts made in nearby counties as well as in parts of Virginia."  It includes the c. 1850 Pidgeon Family Quilt inscribed primarily by Quaker members of Sandy Spring Meeting, Maryland, and Hopewell Meeting, Virginia, and compiled by Sarah Chandlee Pidgeon.
Exhibit gallery, "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" at Colonial Williamsburg.  Pidgeon
Family Quilt is seen at left.
After Mary's many years of research into the Pidgeon Family Quilt, and its appearance in several publications, it is a thrill to see the quilt so beautifully displayed, being enjoyed by so many.
Mary Holton Robare and the Pidgeon Family Quilt.
As explained in the museum's labels, lights are low and on timers, and quilts are hung behind protective glass to minimize stress and exposure to potentially harmful elements.  Remarkably, the textiles are highly visible even under low lights.  Below is a detail of one block of the Pidgeon Family Quilt.
The "Apple Pie Ridge Star" block pattern was previously addressed in this blog's posts of February 4th and 22nd, 2012.  Although this pattern appears on a cluster of five related mid-nineteenth century Quaker quilts, it is not exclusively Quaker.  It was favored by many groups, such as the Methodists who compiled one of the exhibited quilts for a traveling minister.  You can see its fleur-de-lis-style medallion ("Apple Pie Ridge Star") fourth from the left in the top row of this quil top.
"Album Quilt Top" probably assembled by Mrs. William George Eggleston, 1844-1847,
Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland.  Colonial
Williamsburg Museum purchase 1999.609.2.  

Versions of this pattern also appear on the following quilt.
Exhibited "Album Quilt", 1846, Baltimore, Maryland.  Maker unknown.
Colonial Williamsburg Museum purchase 2009.609.3.
Detail of the two "Apple Pie Ridge Star" blocks that appear in the quilt above.
All photographs by Mary Holton Robare.
You can download a brochure of the recent conference here:
And learn more about the current quilt exhibit here:
Learn more about the Pidgeon Family Quilt and the "Apple Pie Ridge Star" here:
Carter, Hazel. "Apple Pie Ridge Star Quilts." In Blanket Statements, 100.   Lincoln, NE: American Quilt Study Group, Summer, 2010.
Robare, Mary Holton.  "The Apple Pie Ridge Star." In Blanket Statements, 86, edited by Gaye Ingram.  Lincoln, NE: American Quilt Study Group, 2007.
_________________  Quilts and Quaker Heritage: Selections from an Exhibition, Virginia Quilt Museum May 3-September 22, 2008.  Winchester, VA: Hillside Studios,2008.
_________________  "Cheerful and Loving Persistence: Two Historical Quaker Quilts." In Uncoverings, 2007, edited by Joanna E. Evans.  Volume 28 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group.
_________________  "Quaker Networks Revealed in Quilts." In Proceedings of the Textile History Forum.  Cherry Valley, NY: Textile History Forum, 2007.
Virginia Consortium of Quilters.  Quilts of Virginia: The Birth of America Through the Eye of a Needle.  Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006.

(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.


October 30, 2012

The Sarah Wistar Quilt

One of the most striking Quaker quilts on exhibit at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln is an inscribed quilt made for Sarah Wistar and presented to her by her nephews Rd. Wistar Jr. and W. Lewis Wistar.  The inscribed presentation on the quilt is dated 1842 but some of the blocks in the quilt bear the date 1843.

The Sarah Wistar Quilt.  International Quilt Study Center and Museum,
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 2005.059.0001.  Photograph courtesy of the
International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
Close-up of the inscription presenting the quilt to Sarah Wistar by her nephews. 
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth of a photographic enlargement of the inscription
included in the exhibit.
The Sarah Wistar quilt is large, measuring 131.5 " X 131.5".  It is currently displayed folded in thirds to show only the center three columns of the quilt and their unique drawings and inscriptions.

The Sarah Wistar Quilt as currently exhibited.  Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The center column of the quilt contains not only the inked dedication to Sarah Wistar but also two ink drawings of note.  The first is a family tree meticulously drawn and labeled above an appliqued oval of flowers on a dark background.  The second, beneath the oval, is a drawing of a log cabin with the inscription:
"William Henry Harrison
 Born Feb. 9th 1771--Died April 4th 1841
 President of the United States March 4th, 1841
 Man proposes but God disposes."
Close-up of the family tree appearing on the Sarah Wistar Quilt.  International Quilt Study Center
and Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 2005.059.001.  Photograph courtesy of the
International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
Close-up of the inscription about William Henry Harrison. Sarah Wistar Quilt.  Photograph
by Lynda Salter Chenoweth of a photographic enlargement of the inscription included
in the exhibit.
Sarah Wistar was the great granddaughter of Casper Wistar who immigrated to Philadelphia from Germany in 1717.  In 1726, he married a local girl at Germantown Friends Meeting.  Caspar went on to become a prominent and wealthy Philadelphian who established a glass works in New Jersey and founded the town of Wistarburg.  Casper's grandson, also named Casper, became a noted Philadelphia physician, one of several respected Quakers in that city who practiced medicine.  The younger Casper's caring nature and respectful popularity as a doctor resulted in the flowering vine, wistaria, being named after him.
The Wistars, as wealthy Philadelphians, devoted themselves to many worthy and philanthropic causes.  Sarah Wistar never married but spent her life doing good works by serving several organizations in Philadelphia dedicated to helping the poor and educating women.  The blocks in her quilt were signed by family members and also by many people she had served or served with at the Widowhouse, the Deaf and Dumb Institution of Philadelphia, the Aimwell School, and The House of Industry.  The loving sentiments inscribed on her quilt, and the richness and beauty of its fine fabrics, are testimony to the esteem with which she was held by all who knew her.
Close-ups of some of the fabrics in Sarah Wistar's quilt.  Photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Ducey, Carolyn and Jonathan Gregory.  What's In a Name?  Lincoln, NE: International Quilt Study Center and Museum, 2012.
Wilson, Robert H.  Philadelphia Quakers 1681-1981.  Philadelphia: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends, 1981.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2012



October 13, 2012

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum

October 4th through 7th was a special time for all of us who attended the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) Seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The Seminar was well-attended by over 260 members of the AQSG who enjoyed study centers that covered a variety of quilt topics, roundtable discussions, poster board displays of research in progress, new research presentations, and ample time to meet and visit with fellow-attendees.  One of the highlights of the Seminar this year was a tour of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum--an extensive tour graciously conducted by Curators Marin Hanson and Carolyn Ducey, and Assistant Curator Jonathan Gregory, through current exhibitions and behind-the-scenes research and storage areas.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The International Quilt Study Center was founded in 1997 when Ardis and Robert James donated their remarkable collection of nearly 1,000  quilts to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  The current Center and Museum opened in 2008 in its modern facility funded by the University of Nebraska Foundation and the James family.  Its holdings now number more than 3,500 American and international quilts, and the facility boasts modern, state-of-the-art research and storage space.  The Center's research emphasis provides the public with on-line access to its collections and current exhibitions.  You can enjoy this access through
A dedicatory statement by Ardis and Robert James welcomes visitors at the Center's entrance.
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
AQSG Seminar attendees were able to view many quilts during their tour of the Center's storage, research, and exhibition facilities.  The exhibitions currently hanging for public viewing include: What's in a Name, Inscribed Quilts; SAQA Showcase: Studio Art Quilt Associates Invitational; and, Indigo Gives America the Blues.  This last exhibition presents a wide variety of quilts containing indigo fabrics, including a stunning, inscribed Quaker quilt.
Quaker Signature Album Quilt.  International Quilt Study Center, University 
of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1997.007.0560. Photograph courtesy of the International Quilt
 Study Center and Museum.
This quilt, dated 1856, was made in Duchess County, New York, and is part of the Ardis and Robert James Collection.  It measures 99" X 82".  The Center's description of this quilt is as follows:  "This signature quilt is composed of twenty snowflake blocks, eighteen of which are inscribed with names in ink or embroidery; one is dated 1856.  Seven of the inscribed blocks include town names, all located in Duchess County, New York, which borders the Hudson River.  According to genealogical research, most of the signed names represent young women whose families belonged to the Friends Meeting in the area.  Many of these Quaker women married around the same time the quilt was made, thus it is possible that the quilt was made by a group of church members for a young lady's marriage."
Close-up of one of the snowflake blocks.  The names on this quilt are inscribed in the vertical slit
at the center of the snowflakes.  Unfortunately, the author's only close-up photo appears to be lacking
an inscription!  Not so great photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The International Quilt Study Center and Museum is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska.  This Department has the only program in the world that offers a masters degree in Textile History with a quilt studies emphasis.  To learn more about the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, go to
Sources: (website for the International Quilt Study Center and Museum)
Personal notes while visiting the Center.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2012


September 26, 2012

Quaker Aesthetics and the Album Quilt Made by Charlotte Gillingham

"That does not look like a Quaker quilt!"  This is often heard when encountering quilts made by members of the Religious Society of Friends because there is an expectation that Quakers only made quilts that were plain, using the palette of dove-gray, black, and brown associated with their style of dress.

Detail of "Album Quilt, #1945-35-1".  Collection of the Philadelphia Museum
of Art.  Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
Many historical Quaker quilts are "plain", and this block of the "Album Quilt" attributed to Charlotte Gillingham does contain colors we expect to find in a Quaker quilt of the period 1842-1843.  However, the embellishments barely hint at the decorativeness of this quilt.
A visit to the Costume & Textile Study Room, Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Costume and Textiles, Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2011 was a wonderful experience.  Although the facility is not open to the general public, access is occasionally granted upon submission of a detailed application.  Accompanied by research assistant Barbara Garrett and researcher Wallace Fullerton, Mary's visit was conducted as part of an ongoing study project.  In addition to a few photographs we included in the immediately preceding post about initials, we wanted to share some further images from this special occasion.
Charlotte Gillingham's "Album Quilt" is one of the most spectacular historical Quaker quilts known to exist.  You can learn details about it by searching the "Collections" data base on the Philadephia Museum of Art's web site at You might also recognize the quilt as the Hancock Album Quilt, 1842-1843 or The Charlotte Gillingham Album Quilt.  (Nicoll, 20 and Fox, 45.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art's Le Vine Associate Curator, H. Kristina Haugland, and Mary
Holton Robare examine a portion of the "Album Quilt, #1945-35-1".  Collection of
the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Photograph from the collection of Mary Holton Robare.
Charlotte Gillingham was a Hicksite Quaker, as was her fiancee Samuel Padgett Hancock for whom she made the quilt.  According to the museum web site mentioned above:  "The theological turmoil of the Hicksite-Orthodox separation of 1827 had lessened the asesthetic simplicity or 'plainness' that had been somewhat characteristic of Quaker decorative arts in the eighteenth century."  The Hicksite community involved in making and inscribing the blocks of Charlotte's quilt were probably not as strict about plainness as they had been in the past.  We must also consider the prevailing tastes of these city-dwellers compared with their rural counterparts.
"Album Quilt, #1945-35-1", detail.  Collection of the Philadelphia Museum
of Art.  Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
The Friends who were involved with the "Album Quilt" were wealthy.  Many came from merchant families.  They had the means and the ability to acquire the finest materials.  They also had the leisure time to use these materials at the highest levels of technical accomplishment, creating quilt blocks by piecing, the use of applique and chintz-work, and with lots of embroidery as seen in the following images.
"Album Quilt, #1945-35-1", details.  Collection of the Philadephia Museum of Art.
Photographs by Mary Holton Robare.
We are grateful to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for allowing us to share some highlights of Mary's visit in 2011.
Fox, Sandi.  For Purpose and Pleasure: Quilting Together in Nineteenth Century America.  Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1995.
Nicoll, Jessica F.  Quilted for Friends: Delaware Valley Signature Quilts, 1840-1855.  Winterthur, DE: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1986.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2012