June 15, 2015

A Memento of Our Old Matron: The House of Industry Signature Quilt (Part 1)

The Spring 2014 issue of Blanket Statements,  published by the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG), features an article we wrote about The House of Industry Signature Quilt that belongs to the Arch Street Meeting House of the Religious Society of Friends in Philadelphia.  The House of Industry Signature Quilt is a magnificent example of a mid-nineteenth century Quaker friendship quilt which we would like to share with those of you who might not have seen our article in Blanket Statements.

We are excited about sharing several photographs that we were not able to include in the article due to space limitations.  Joseph Coscia, Jr., who is a photographer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photographed the quilt.  Special permission was granted by the Arch Street Meeting to use Coscia's wonderful photographs on this blog.  (All Rights Reserved.  Please note that, due to file-size limitations, the photos are low-resolution versions.)  These photographs will be presented as additions to the text of our original article, which will be divided into three parts, starting with today's.

We wish to thank the following for their kind assistance in developing the original article:  members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, especially Lynn Calamia, Tricia and Joseph Coscia, Jr., Helen File, Nancy Gibbs, and Sandra Sudofsky; Carolyn Ducey, Curator of Collections at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska; and, Ann W. Upton, Special Collections Librarian & Quaker Bibliographer, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania.


The House of Industry Signature Quilt.  Photograph by Joseph Coscia, Jr. Courtesy of the Arch
Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
An album quilt dedicated to Ann Burns is displayed at the Religious Society of Friends' Meeting House at Fourth and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. (Endnote 1)  Referred to variously as the "House of Industry Signature Quilt," a "Quaker Quilt," and the "Ann Burns Quilt", it was presented to the Meeting House in 1977 by the Female Society of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.  This Society was known, in the nineteenth century, as the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.
Patricia T. Herr wrote an article in 1988 about Quaker quilts that included "Ann Burns' quilt." (Endnote 2) The information she provided about the quilt focused on the founding and operations of the House of Industry and on identifying references to House quilting activity that spanned 130 years.  This paper provides a reexamination of the quilt with a closer look at the life of Ann Oliver Burns and the quilt itself.  Our research coincided, serendipitously, with the aid and availability of new, professional photographs of the quilt and its blocks.
The House of Industry Signature Quilt measures approximately 108 X 108 inches.  It is comprised of seventy-six blocks measuring 8 1/2 X 8 1/2 inches arranged around a central chintz panel with appliqued corner motifs.  The panel and blocks are separated by 2 1/2 inch sashing that displays two color-ways of the same design in alternating rows of blue and brown.
Detail of The House of Industry Signature Quilt showing the blue and
brown sashing.  Photograph by Joseph Coscia, Jr.  Courtesy of the Arch
Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The blocks include nine appliqued floral chintz blocks, eight of which surround the central chintz panel.  The rest of the blocks are pieced.  Thirty-five of the pieced blocks are varieties of "Square Within a Square" patterns with the inner square set en pointe.  The predominantly brown, blue, red, and multi-colored cotton fabrics are of the highest quality, as are the appliqued chintzes. 
The quilt is displayed in a glass cabinet so the backing is not visible.  Clearly visible, however, is a wide, floral -printed cotton border on two sides.  The entire quilt is quilted in curved lines and is finished with a knife-edge.  All of the blocks contain names inscribed in ink.  Some of the blocks also display locales, drawings, and the dates 1843, 1844, or 1847.
The House of Industry Signature Quilt.  Detail of central chintz panel.  Photograph by Joseph Coscia, Jr.
Courtesy of the Arch Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The quilt's central, chintz panel displays two exotic birds perched on floral branches and surrounded by a wreath of wheat, ribbon, and flowers.  (Merikay Waldvogel has identified an identical chintz panel as one that may have been manufactured in the United States during the period 1830-1845.)  (Endnote 3)  The quilt's lengthy dedication to Ann Burns is inscribed within the wreath in two parts, above and below the birds.  Above:  "We whose names are recorded here have passed many pleasant hours, may we humbly look forward with an eye of faith, to the reunion of those blessed abodes where praise and thanksgiving are the sweet strains of the Redeemed of the Lord."  Below:  "Ann Burns will please accept this Block, as a small token of regard, from her sincere friend S. Wistar, who is sensible of her valuable services bestow'd at the House of Industry.  May the sweet reward of peace be abundantly shed abroad in her heart.  The approbation of a clear conscience is more desirable than gold, that perisheth.  Mayest thou when retiring from thy useful labours reflect with satisfaction on the time devoted to this useful Institution.  4th mo 20th 1844."
To be continued.
(1) The Arch Street Meeting House is a National Historic Landmark, open to the public.  For hours and information see www.pym.org/arch-street-meeting-house/.
(2) Patricia T. Herr,"  Quaker Quilts and Their Makers," in Jeannette Lasansky, Pieced by Mother, Symposium Papers (Lewisburg, PA: The Oral Traditions Project of the Union County Historical Society, 1988), 13.
(3) Merikay Waldvogel, "Printed Panels for Chintz Quilts: Their Origin and Use," in Uncoverings 2013, Volume 34 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group, 120, and Panel 11, 124.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.

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