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.
 
 
Sources:
 
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
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

3 comments:

  1. Wasn't it wonderful to see this one in the cloth, as well as the indigo. What a beautiful museum. Thanks for sharing this.
    P.s. Good to see at seminar

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  2. Thanks for the wonderful photos. An amazing quilt - the fabrics are glorious aren't they? Wish I could see it close up.
    Every Stitch

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