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
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

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 www.quiltstudy.org.
 
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 www.quiltstudy.org.
 
Sources: 
 
 http://www.quiltstudy.org (website for the International Quilt Study Center and Museum)
 
Personal notes while visiting the Center.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2012