October 1, 2015

American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) Seminar 2015: A Look at Indiana State Museum's Amish Crib Quilts

One of the tours offered this year at AQSG's Seminar in Indianapolis was a behind-the-scenes look at Amish crib quilts in the storage area of Indiana State Museum.

Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana.  Source of photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The Museum's Amish collections consist mainly of quilts, clothing, toys, dolls, and home furnishings collected by David Pottinger and purchased from him in 1988 as the Pottinger Amish Collection.  David Pottinger traveled frequently to northern Indiana for work purposes and in 1977 moved to Honeyville, Indiana, in the heart of Indiana's Amish settlement.
In her Keynote Address at Seminar, Janneken Smucker, Assistant Professor of History at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, described how Pottinger became integrated into the Amish community as a trusted neighbor and friend, developing an admiration and interest in the Amish members of his community and the household objects they made for daily use.  According to Smucker: "Pottinger's presence in this community shaped not only the market for Midwestern Amish quilts -which was virtually untapped prior to his attention- but the way many Amish began to think about their own quilts."
Pottinger purchased the quilts he collected directly from Amish families who wished to sell them.  His personal acquaintance with these families enabled him to meticulously document each quilt's history including who made it, for whom, when, and on what occasion.  The information he collected was recorded in ink on pieces of muslin which he basted to the back of each quilt.
Our access to the storage rooms where the Amish crib quilts were laid out for viewing began with a ride on a massive freight elevator used to move museum holdings from one floor to another.  Inside, you felt as if the ascent would take you to a large artist's loft and an array of massive canvases. Two locked doors led to the storage area where we were greeted by one of the Museum's curators who, with a helper, conducted the quilt turnings that followed.
Amish crib quilts laid out on a bed and two tables at the Indiana State Museum.
All photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Following is a sampling of the many crib quilts we saw, admired, and discussed during this rare behind-the-scenes opportunity.
The green quilt shown here on top of other quilts was made ca. 1880 by Suzanne (Mrs. Seth) Smucker of Nappanee, Indiana.  It measures 47" X 33".  Suzanne was born in 1844 and passed away in 1913.  Her children were born 1877-1892.  The quilt was passed down through the family to Suzanne's granddaughter, Mrs. Dan Yoder, who lives in Medford, Wisconsin.  The quilt fabrics are all cotton except for one blue wool or cotton/wool mixture.  The quilting displays nine stitches to the inch through a thin batt.  It is backed by a single piece of dark blue-green cotton.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.01.455.)
This Nine Patch crib quilt was made ca. 1890 by Catherine D. Hochstetler who married Aaron Beechy in 1877.  They lived in Emma, LeGrange County, Indiana. Catherine was born in 1868 and passed away in 1950.  The quilt was purchased from her grandson, Levi L. Yoder, and was acquired as part of the David Pottinger Collection of Amish Quilts.  The quilt measures 43" X 29" and is comprised of pieced Nine Patch wool blocks en pointe.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.01.441.)
This Sixteen Point Star crib quilt was made by Susie A. Schrock Miller (Mrs. Henry L. Miller) of Topeka, Indiana, ca. 1911-1927.  It measures 54" X 39".  The navy fabric is pieced in several places on all blocks to form the desired size.  It is quilted with navy thread nine stitches per inch and the back is comprised of five irregularly sized pieces of dark blue cotton.  The quilt displays an original Pottinger muslin label sewn to the back.  Susie was born December 13, 1888 and was known to be one of the area's best quilt makers.  She and her husband had eight children between 1911-1927.  The quilt was purchased from her granddaughter Mrs. Owen Hershberger. (Museum ID No. 71.989.001.0437.)
The black and yellow Concentric Rectangles quilt seen at the top of this photograph is unusual for an Indiana Amish Quilt.  This pattern is more typical of those used for Amish quilts in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  This medallion-style quilt was made by Mary Hostetler (Mrs. Daniel F.) Bontrager ca. 1915 in LeGrange, Indiana.  It measure 36 1/2" X 34".  The quilting stitches average seven per inch, applied through a thin batt that appears to be an older quilt.  The backing is the same golden yellow sateen used on the front  of the quilt.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.001.0439.)
The Flower Basket quilt in the foreground was made by Susanna (Mrs. John H.) Yoder in Topeka, Indiana between 1920 and 1930.  It measure 35" X 39" and is backed with burgundy fabric featuring a cream muslin provenance label in one corner.  Susanna was born in 1869 and died in April, 1943 in Topeka.  The quilt passed to her daughter's son, Levi Noah Eash, who sold it to David Pottinger.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.001.0430.)
This Amish Crazy Patch quilt was made by Susan (Mrs. Joseph C.) Smucker for her children who were born in Ohio.  It was purchased by David Pottinger in Goshen, Indiana, from her oldest daughter, Mary Ellen (Mrs. Menno D.) Hershberger, who may have brought it with her to Indiana from Ohio.  Her mother, Susan, married Joseph C. Smucker in Geauga County, Ohio, in 1916 and had eight children there between 1918 and 1931.  The quilt measure 40" X 34" and is comprised of cotton and wool pieces of varying shapes.  The patches are outlined in red feather stitching.  A provenance label is attached to the back.  (Museum ID No. 71.989.01.434.)
The following photographs are provided to illustrate the variety of crib quilts in the collection we were shown.  Although detailed descriptions were provided to us of all of the quilts we viewed, only the foregoing descriptions are presented here.  You may visit the web site of Indiana State Museum at www.indianamuseum.org/browse for more information about these quilts.
Our trip to the Indiana State Museum included, in addition to the viewing of the Pottinger Amish Collection of crib quilts, an exhibition of 20th and 21st century quilts honoring the statehood of Indiana.  This exhibition, titled Nineteen Stars for the Nineteenth State, will be the subject of our last post about Seminar in Indianapolis.
Many thanks to the knowledgeable and helpful staff of the Indiana State Museum for an enjoyable and informative visit!!
Description of the Keynote Address given by Janneken Smucker at the AQSG web site at www.americanquiltstudygroup.org/sem15events.asp.
Kathleen McLary.  Amish Style: Clothing, Home Furnishings, Toys, Dolls and Quilts.  Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Museum object records provided by Indiana State Museum.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.





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