Printer Friendly

Vase-pattern wholecloth quilts in the eighteenth-century Quaker community.


Although quilts of the eighteenth century were handmade, the designs were not necessarily unique to each quilter. Regional styles developed, especially in close-knit communities brought together by shared religion, ethnicity, schooling, or the influence of a talented quilter or designer. This study considers a group of wholecloth bed quilts and petticoats with distinctive designs centered on the use of two-handled vases sprouting with flowers (fig. 1).

The research makes use of drawings to capture quilting patterns and isolate design details that may go unnoticed in photographs or even firsthand examination. A high-resolution photograph of a quilt is brought directly into a CAD program loaded onto a tablet computer. One can zoom in close on the photograph and trace the quilting stitches on the screen using a stylus. Because the photograph is on one layer and the drawing on another layer, the photograph can later be dropped out or hidden, leaving a line drawing of the quilting design. If a high-resolution overall photograph is not available or if the piece is three-dimensional, such as a petticoat, sections of the quilting can be drawn from detail photographs and joined together into one CAD file for a more complete picture of the design. (1) The background quilting stitches, such as crosshatching or parallel lines, can be drawn on a separate layer and hidden, as desired, to better focus on the primary design motifs. In this study, background quilting stitches are not shown.

The first vase-pattern quilted artifact to come to the attention of the author was a woman's eighteenth-century blue-green silk quilted petticoat, acquired by Colonial Williamsburg in 2005, with a history of descent in the Beverley family of Virginia. (2) The distinctive pattern featured a bold vase with a pair of thick S-shaped handles. The vase, perched on a mound, sprouted with sunflowers and tulips at the ends of arching stems. Research to find related examples led to the discovery of eleven wholecloth objects with designs so similar to the original petticoat that they must have been drawn by the same individual. Subsequent research and analysis of quilting patterns revealed five additional vase-pattern wholecloth artifacts that were related to the larger group, but the vases were less boldly drawn and the handles were thinner. For the purposes of this study, the larger group of eleven will be called Group A and the smaller group of five will be called Group B. (3) The key motif found in quilts from both groups is a bulbous vase with two S-shaped handles and symmetrically placed long-stemmed flowers that arch gracefully from the vase.

Group A Quilts and Petticoats

The petticoat that first began the author's research into this group of designs is a fascinating combination of a bed quilt and petticoat in one artifact (fig. 2). The computer-assisted-design drawing of the quilting pattern, along with physical examination, revealed that the petticoat was actually made from one end of a cut-up bed quilt that originally had borders on at least three sides. The unknown seamstress constructing the petticoat joined the left and right outer edges of the bed quilt to form a center-back seam in the garment. Although the resulting petticoat included the areas where the quilt's border turned the corners, this design anomaly would have been worn at the back, hidden by a gown's skirt, which typically covered the sides and back of a petticoat and left the border design visible only at the center front. The pattern has a round vase with two heavy S-curved handles, the whole perched on a mound. Sunflowers and tulips grow from symmetrically arching stems. The petticoat is made of light greenish-blue silk satin, backed with darker blue glazed worsted. The filling, or batting, is wool fibers, and the stitching is done with silk running stitches at eleven to twelve stitches per inch (all fibers confirmed microscopically). (4) The circumference measures 97 1/4 inches (247 cm).

At the time of the petticoat's acquisition, the curator postulated that the original quilt may have been imported from England about the middle of the eighteenth century and then made into a petticoat in the colonies after some damage had occurred to the other end. Perhaps the alteration occurred during the 1760s to 1780s when politics and war had disrupted imported supplies to the Americas, forcing colonists to remake and recycle some of their clothing and textiles. The owners from whom Colonial Williamsburg acquired the quilt-petticoat believed it was from their Virginia Beverley family ancestors.

Especially important to this comparative study is a bed quilt in the collections of the Winterthur Museum, which appeared in Linda Eaton's catalog, Quilts in a Material World and was shown in traveling exhibits throughout the country (fig. 3). (5) The quilt is associated with the Mifflin family, prominent Philadelphia Quakers, and is believed to date in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. In addition to the borders with two-handle vases and sunflowers, the center design of Winterthur's quilt features symmetrical fan-like shapes arranged in an even-arm cross. Although the vases in the two objects are closely related, the Winterthur vases have an added flare at the top opening, and they are sitting on half-circle mounds. Nevertheless, the sunflowers, pomegranate-type flowers, undulating leafy inner borders, and curved peaks or scallops in the outer borders were certainly drawn by the same hand.

Was it possible that both objects were imported, and the Mifflin family got their quilt from the same source as the Colonial Williamsburg quilt-petticoat? Evidence on the Mifflin quilt strongly suggests home production, rather than an import, because its top is pieced out with a panel of slightly different yellow silk. A professionally made imported quilt would not typically combine two different fabrics on the front face of an object intended for sale. The Winterthur Mifflin quilt is backed with a small-scale sprig and lozenge block-printed cotton, unlike the Colonial Williamsburg quilt-petticoat, which has blue wool backing. The quilting of the Winterthur Mifflin quilt is worked with blue silk running stitches of ten to fourteen per inch, and the quilt measures 97 1/2 by 97 3/4 inches (about 248 cm).

Winterthur's Mifflin quilt serves as an important benchmark for attributing the quilt-petticoat at Colonial Williamsburg: both have round two-handled vases, sunflowers, serpentine running vines, and peaked scallops in the borders. With the possibility of a Philadelphia origin in mind, the curator contacted the last owner of Colonial Williamsburg's quilt-petticoat. The family member revealed that, in addition to the Virginia Beverleys, her family could also be traced back to Justinian Fox, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker, and the curator reattributed the petticoat to Philadelphia. The original owner of the quilt may have been Philadelphian Elizabeth Mickle, who married Justinian's son, Joseph Fox, in 1746. (6)

Additional bed quilts added to Group A feature closely related designs having bold two-handled vases sprouting with sunflowers, pomegranates, and other foliage, undulating leafy inner borders, and peaked scallops in the outer borders. A greenish silk bed quilt in the collections of James Logan's Stenton is believed to have been made by Mary (Polly) Norris (1740-1803), a Quaker who grew up at Stenton and who married John Dickinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence (fig. 4). (7) The design of Polly Norris's quilt includes two-handled vases sprouting symmetrical sunflowers. The vases are sitting on an undulating mound, more like the Colonial Williamsburg quilt-petticoat than the Winterthur example. In the middle of the quilt is an even-arm cross design fanning out at the ends. This quilt has straight-sided vases at the inner corners. The quilt is blue-green silk satin, backed with blue-and-white block-printed cotton, similar in concept to the backing on the Winterthur Mifflin quilt. The Polly Norris quilt at Stenton is stitched with thirteen to eighteen silk running stitches per inch, and the quilt itself measures 100 inches (254 cm) square.

Another example is at the Ryerss Museum in Philadelphia, home of the Quaker Waln family, although it is not known which family member originally owned it (fig. 5). (8) The design includes vases of sunflowers standing on mounds, bordering a fan-like cross in the center field. The bed quilt has a pale blue silk satin face and greenish-brown glazed worsted backing and is trimmed with silk fringe. The quilting is worked with pale green-blue running stitches at twelve to sixteen stitches per inch. The quilt measures 102by 100 1/2 inches (259 by 255 cm).

Although the previous bed quilts have silk tops backed with printed cotton or glazed worsted, a quilt in the collections of Elfreth's Alley Museum in Philadelphia is made entirely of wool, used for the front, back, and filling (fig. 6). Despite the differences in materials, the design is a very close match to the others, with its strong center cross shape and the vases in the borders. Like the Winterthur quilt, the vases have flared openings at the top and are perched on semi-circular mounds filled with cross-hatching. An inscription written on a fabric label sewn to the corner attributes the quilt to Hannah Trotter (d. 1791), a Quaker who married Jeremiah Elfreth in 1752. Family history suggests that Hannah made the quilt for their wedding. (9) The quilt is indigo plain-woven worsted on the front and twill-woven worsted on the back, quilted with pale blue silk in several different dye lots at nine to eleven stitches per inch. It measures 103 1/2 by 99 1/2 inches (263 by 253 cm).

Another piece associated with a 1752 wedding is a petticoat in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. According to the descendant who donated it to the museum, Quaker Hannah Cooper wore the petticoat on the day of her marriage to Charles West in 1752 (fig. 7). (10) Bulbous vases, each perched on a half-circle mound decorated with tightly coiled spirals, alternate with straight-sided vases and leaves. The petticoat is made of pale green ribbed silk with blue glazed worsted backing, quilted with greenish-white silk running stitches spaced at twelve to thirteen stitches per inch. The circumference is 104 inches (264 cm).

The vase pattern appears to have been especially fashionable for women's petticoats in the Quaker community during the eighteenth century. According to family history, Jane Richardson wore a similar petticoat (fig. 8). Reared in a Quaker family in Wilmington, Delaware, located close to Philadelphia, Jane Richardson married John McKinly in 1761, and her husband became the first president of Delaware. (11) It is not known at what stage of her life she wore the petticoat--before, after, or on the occasion of her marriage. The face of the petticoat is a pale greenish-blue ribbed textile woven with a silk warp and worsted weft. The backing is darker blue plain-woven glazed worsted and the batting is natural-colored wool (all fibers confirmed by microscope). The quilting is worked with pale green silk running stitches at twelve to thirteen stitches per inch. The petticoat has been altered at some time in the past and several motifs have been cut down the middle where a section was removed; the circumference now measures 89 inches (226 cm).

A similar petticoat was cut down and fashioned into a crib-size quilt in the nineteenth century. Found in the collections at Wyck, the ancestral home of the Quaker Wistar-Haines families of Germantown, the original maker or owner is not known (fig. 9). (12) The small rectangular quilt is made from two fragments of a pale blue-green silk satin petticoat, spliced together and backed with later cotton (fibers confirmed by microscope). The original petticoat's backing of dark blue worsted is barely visible through small holes in the new backing. A centered two-handled vase sits on an undulating mound, flanked by two straight-sided vases. Quilted with thirteen to seventeen silk running stitches per inch, the small quilt now measures only 29 3/4 by 54 1/2 inches (76 by 183 cm).

Another petticoat in the collections of the Chester County Historical Society is attributed to Philadelphia Quaker schoolteacher Ann Marsh (1717-1797, fig. 10). (13) Ann's petticoat has all the familiar elements seen in objects from Group A: two-handled round vases sitting on half-circle mounds, straight-sided vases, sunflowers, pomegranates, tulips, and peaked scallops as a border around the hem. This garment is made of pale green-blue ribbed silk, beautifully quilted with about seventeen to nineteen darker green-blue silk running stitches per inch--appropriately fine for a woman who taught needlework for a living. The backing is dark blue glazed worsted, and the circumference measures 118 % inches (302 cm) around.

Two quilts with similar quilted designs survived with traditions that appeared to suggest dates in the later eighteenth or nineteenth century. A quilt at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, is associated with a woman named Ann Skyrin (fig. 11). Given the close relationship of this quilt to others in Group A, the owner might have been Ann "Nancy" Drinker Skyrin (1764-1830), the daughter of Philadelphia Quaker Elizabeth Drinker (1735-1807), whose diary has been published in three volumes. The daughter Ann Drinker married John Skyrin in 1791, and they moved to Ohio in the late 1820s. (14) If Ann Drinker Skyrin did make the quilt herself, it would have dated outside the presumed 1750 to 1775 range of the other Group A Quaker quilts. Most likely, Ann inherited it or received it as a gift from an older family member. Certainly, every feature of the quilt seems to place it with the other eighteenth-century Group A Quaker quilts: the design includes two-handled vases perching on mounds and sprouting with sunflowers and round multi-petal flowers. Like numerous other quilts in the group, the round vases are flanked by two straight-sided vases, and the quilt has the characteristic cross at the center. The use of highly glazed worsted as the backing is typical of many other silk-faced quilts and petticoats made in the eighteenth century. (15) The front of the quilt is pale greenish-blue silk backed with rich blue glazed worsted fabric; the batting is woolen fibers (confirmed by microscope). The quilting is worked with dark blue-green silk running stitches at an average of fifteen to seventeen per inch, and the quilt measures 97 1/2 by 94 1/2 inches (248 by 240 cm).

A bed quilt formerly in the collection of Patricia and Donald Herr has a later paper document attached to the quilt indicating that it was a "Gift from English Friends [that is, Quakers] to Sarah Emlen while on a Religious visit to England and Ireland in 1849. Loaned by Sarah Emlen Moore" (fig. 12). There were a number of Sarah Emlens in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Perhaps the best known was Sarah Foulke Farquhar Emlen (1787-1849), a teacher and Quaker minister who travelled to England to preach in the nineteenth century. A much more likely possibility is that the quilt was owned by one of the eighteenth-century women named Sarah Emlen. For example, Philadelphia Quaker minister Samuel Emlen (1730-1799), who travelled from Philadelphia to Britain to preach in the middle years of the eighteenth century, married a woman named Sarah Mott in 1770. (16) It seems possible that the modern writer of the note was wrong about the history of the quilt, especially in light of its strong resemblance to other quilts, almost certainly dating to the third quarter of the eighteenth century. The quilt has a ribbed silk face and blue glazed worsted backing. The quilting is done with two different shades or dye lots of blue-green silk at sixteen to seventeen running stitches per inch. The quilt measures 102 1/2 by 99 1/2 inches (260 by 253 cm).

Group B Quilts and Petticoats

The research focusing on two-handled vase designs within the Quaker community brought to light five additional quilted artifacts--four bed quilts and one petticoat--that appear to be related to Group A, although the S-curved vase handles are thinner and the quilted motifs less coherent as a grouping. This smaller group will be described as Group B.

A bed quilt in Colonial Williamsburg's collection may represent one of the earliest of the surviving vase-pattern Quaker quilts (figs. 13 A-B, color plate 1). According to the family in which the quilt descended, Ann Jones made this quilt in 1736 or 1737, within the year she married Enoch Flower at Philadelphia Monthly Meeting on December 24, 1736. (17) It is not known whether she made the quilt in anticipation of her marriage or after. The overall quilted design features a center roundel with symmetrically placed pomegranates and tulips at the ends of long stems. Especially notable are the gadrooned vases with thin double handles sprouting stiffly drawn pomegranates. In the borders, repeated inward-curving C-scroll leafy vines, or fronds, curve around to enclose individual flower heads. The narrow inner border is a line of gadrooning, and the background quilting consists of precise cross-hatching, creating diamonds about three-quarters of an inch across. The ribbed silk face is quilted to cotton, block-printed in madder reds and black with penciled blue (fig. 14, color plate 2). The printed design on the backing consists of oval medallions made of twining floral and lacy motifs that enclose a well and reclining deer; a crane stands in a pond at the base of each oval. The batting is woolen fibers, and silk is used for the quilting with running stitches that average ten to twelve stitches per inch. All of the fibers have been confirmed by microscopic analysis. The quilt measures 103 1/2 by 95 inches (263 by 241 cm).

A petticoat at the Philadelphia Museum of Art shares motifs very similar to those in Ann Jones Flower's quilt (fig. 15). The petticoat descended in the Roberts family, Quakers who lived just west of Philadelphia. (18) A round vase with thin S-shaped handles sprouts a central pomegranate and pairs of leaves curling at the tips, along with tulips and seven-petal flowers at the ends of curving stems that are covered with bud-like nubs. Flanking the vase are C-scroll leafy fronds that curve around to enclose flower heads. Precisely drawn gadrooning edges the hem and visually relates to the gadrooned inner border on Ann Jones Flower's quilt. The background quilting consists of closely spaced slanted lines in the border and cross-hatching in the upper portion above the border. The petticoat is made of plain-woven pale green silk backed with dark blue worsted, quilted with pale green silk running stitches. The quilting in the grid areas at the top of the petticoat is worked with seven stitches per inch, though the more intricate pattern areas are quilted with nine to eleven stitches per inch. The circumference around the hem of the petticoat measures about 134 inches (340 cm). The voluminous skirt suggests a date from the late 1730s to the 1740s, a period when women's skirts were extremely full and wide. (19)

A bed quilt also at the Philadelphia Museum of Art features similar C-scroll fronds in the outer wide border. It belonged to Philadelphia Quaker, Elizabeth Coates Paschall (1702-1767), who married Joseph Paschall in 1721 at the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (fig. 16). (20) The circular center medallion and inside corners are filled with two-handled vases that sprout tulips. Like the Ann Jones Flower quilt, the background quilting consists of cross-hatching, or diamonds. The pale blue-green silk face is backed with block-printed cotton in a floral and scroll design, somewhat crudely printed in red, brown, and overprinted green. The running stitch quilting is worked with pale blue silk at an average of ten to twelve stitches per inch. The quilt measures 102 by 101 1/2 inches (259 by 258 cm).

Another quilt in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art has a history of being a wedding gift from Quaker Jonathan Mifflin to his daughter Sarah (1729-1769), on the occasion of her marriage to John Jones of Philadelphia in 1746 (fig. 17). (21) The center roundel is extended by points directed toward the corners to create a four-pointed star. Double-handled vases of pomegranates and tulips fill the spaces between star points and embellish the wide outer borders. Especially prominent are the coiled spirals spaced along the flower stems. Background quilting consists of diagonal parallel lines that change angles, depending on the space being filled. The quilt is constructed of a bright yellow ribbed textile, probably all silk, and backed with yellow plain-woven glazed worsted, polished or glazed to a high shine. As with other glazed worsteds used as quilt backings, the glazing is done using heat and pressure during the textile's manufacture; it is not part of the quilting process. The bedcover is quilted with yellow silk running stitches at nine per inch and measures 109 by 90 inches (277 by 229 cm).

The last quilt in Group B is at Stenton, James Logan's home in the Germantown area of Philadelphia (fig. 18). The quilt of yellow reversing to blue is said to be associated with the Logan ladies, probably one of the Sarah Logans. (22) This could refer to Sarah Read, who married James Logan in 1714. A "yellow silk quilt" was listed on a bedstead hung with yellow worsted damask curtains in Sarah Read Logan's estate inventory taken at the time of her death in 1754, although it is not certain that this entry refers to the vase-pattern quilt. (23) The quilt's owner might also have been James and Sarah's daughter, Sarah Logan (1715-1744), who married Isaac Norris II in 1739. A less likely candidate is James and Sarah's granddaughter Sarah (1751-1798), the child of William Logan and his wife Hannah Emlen. (24) Given the close design relationship with the 1730s quilt by Ann Jones Flower at Colonial Williamsburg, it is tempting to associate this Stenton example with the 1739 wedding of Sarah Logan to Isaac Norris II. The bedcover is the only example in either group that is reversible, with silk on both back and front, yet its pattern of vases sprouting pomegranates and flowers, along with C-scroll fronds terminating in flower heads, is closely related to the other quilts in Group B. The background quilting in most areas of the quilt consists of parallel lines spaced at 1/4 inch or less, but the outside corners are quilted in parallel lines that create curving fan shapes. The blue satin side of the quilt reverses to ribbed weave pale yellow silk and the two are quilted with blue silk in two different dye lots at nine to eleven stitches per inch. The quilt measures 94 inches (239 cm) square.

Analysis of Designs: Groups A and B Compared

The designs in Group A are boldly drawn and remarkably consistent from one quilt to the other (fig. 19). The vases in this group have substantial double S-curving handles that nearly dwarf the vases themselves. In every one of the eleven quilts, large sunflowers grow from the vases, which always perch atop mounds. Sometimes the mounds are simple half circles, and at other times they are undulating hills embellished with buds or spirals. The quilts also typically include tulips, lilies, pomegranates, flowers with radiating petals, and large leaves curved at the tips. Nubby buds are repeated along the stems. Several of the quilts include smaller straight-sided vases, also sprouting leaves or flowers. In the corners of most of the Group A quilts, paired veined leaves end in spirals at their tips. The centers of the bed quilts have large fanlike designs that form a cross. Narrow inner borders feature a continuously undulating leafy vine, and the outermost borders are edged with a single row of repeated U-shapes, or peaked scallops. A number of quilted petticoats also echo the same vase, flower, and border motifs alternating in a band around the bottom of the garment. In all Group A quilts, the background quilting consists of diagonal parallel lines spaced an average of 3/8 inch apart. The lines change direction at a major motif, such as a centrally placed vase or at the center point of the quilt.

The five pieces identified as Group B appear rather diverse until the individual motifs are carefully compared. All five pieces in this group have round or slightly flattened two-handled vases that are positioned symmetrically in the quarter rounds or wide outer borders of the quilts and standing close to the hem of the petticoat (see figs. 13 and 15-18). Many of the stems emanating from the vases have short rounded nubs or buds repeated along their length and end in tulips, rosette flowers, lilies, leaves curved at the tips, or pointed oval fruit probably representing stylized pomegranates. In the borders of four examples, individual C-scroll leafy fronds or "feathers" curve sharply around to enclose individual flower heads. Two quilts include repeated spirals spaced along the lengths of flower stems. Narrow borders feature triangles, scallops, or guilloche designs. Each of the four quilts in the group is organized around a circular medallion in the center of an otherwise rectangular framework and quarter-round motifs that fill the inside corners of the central rectangle.

At first glance, the two groupings appear rather different. Nevertheless, the vases in both groups have double handles and most are filled in with gadrooning radiating from the bottom and scallops in the upper half of the vase. Large leaves with curling or spiral tips appear in both groups. Tulips and pomegranates consistently appear. (Although tulips and pomegranates were not unique to Philadelphia quilts, the combination of these elements with the previous similarities is noteworthy.) All the quilts in both groups have a central focus--either even-armed crosses fanning out at the ends in Group A or circular medallions in Group B--and are symmetrical in the vertical and horizontal planes.


Although none of the quilts or petticoats in either group is dated in the quilting, several can be dated through family tradition or associations. Most of the quilted objects in Group A appear to date about 1750 to 1775, judging by the presumed owners or makers, and two--a petticoat and a bed quilt--were associated with weddings in 1752 (see figs. 6 and 7). Two quilts have family histories that at first suggested dates in the late eighteenth or nineteenth century, although those dates do not hold up to the scrutiny of research (see figs. 11 and 12).

The five quilts in Group B appear to be earlier in date than those in Group A. Group B quilts can be placed between about 1736 and 1746, based on two dates associated with weddings (figs. 13-14 and 17). The early styling of the petticoat (fig. 15) also suggests an early date for the group.

A Professional Designer

What conclusions can be drawn from these quilts and petticoats? The items in both groups were not likely professionally quilted imports. Although Philadelphia merchants advertised the importation of bed quilts from London and India, as well as some described as "Dutch," as early as the 1730s, and an imported quilt may have influenced the design and choice of materials, the variety of textiles and the variations in stitching quality found in these quilted objects suggest amateur hands at work in the home. (25) The stitching variations also appear to rule out production by a professional quilter in Philadelphia. Further, all these quilts have Quaker histories. Had they been an imported product or professionally made locally, similar quilts would almost certainly have been purchased by non-Quakers as well. (26)

Given the consistency of designs on quilts and petticoats, they must have been drawn by one (or possibly two) individuals for the Quaker women to then quilt themselves. This process would explain the uniformity of the designs in each group while also accounting for the differences in materials, workmanship, and finished product. The drawings do not suggest the use of templates but rather a practiced hand able to make variations to fit the space while keeping within the general repertoire.

The use of professional designers was common in London about the same time. Robert Campbell's 1747 London Tradesman stated that embroiderers and quilters in London workshops relied on professional designers called "Pattern-Drawers" to create the outlines for their work. Campbell writes that the Pattern-Drawers were "employed in drawing Patterns for the Callico-Printers, for Embroiderers, Lace-workers, Quilters, and several little Branches belonging to Women's Apparel. They draw Patterns upon Paper, which they sell to Workmen that want them..." (27) Several talented individuals in the Philadelphia Quaker community are known to have drawn patterns for their friends and neighbors to stitch. Elizabeth Drinker drew embroidery designs for several friends in 1758 and 1760, and Sarah Smith Pemberton drew designs for quilts and silk embroidery in the 1750s and 1760s. (28)

Schoolteachers also drew designs for their students to work. The talent and longevity of the mother-daughter team of Elizabeth and Ann Marsh were unparalleled in influencing the needlework of their female Quaker students. (29) In fact, the Marshes may have been at the very center of the two-handled vase quilting style. Elizabeth Marsh (1683-ca. 1741) and her daughter Ann Marsh (1717-1797) came to Philadelphia from England. Elizabeth was born in Worcester County, England, where her father, Joseph Allibone, had twice been sent to prison for practicing his Quaker faith. Elizabeth must have been trained as a needleworker or needlework teacher in England prior to her marriage to Joseph Marsh at the relatively late age of twenty-seven. Daughter Ann was the second of four children born to Elizabeth between the years 1714 and 1723. The family appears to have arrived in Philadelphia by spring or summer of 1723, and Elizabeth soon began her American teaching career, tutoring the girls of prominent Philadelphia Quakers. Elizabeth also taught her equally talented daughter Ann, who gained exceptional proficiency in the needle arts. Ann remained an unmarried, successful schoolteacher until at least 1792, after which she retired to Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she lived in the home of her widowed niece.

Elizabeth and Ann Marsh not only taught needlework stitching techniques, but also displayed considerable skill in designing samplers and silk embroidered pictures for their students. Judging from Robert Campbell's description of professional pattern drawers in London, people with skill in drawing for embroidery typically worked in other textile media, including quilting patterns. It is not difficult to envision Elizabeth and Ann designing quilts, as well as pictures and samplers. Ann Marsh's own silk sconce, embroidered when she was a young teenager under her mother's direction, depicts a beautifully worked two-handled vase of flowers perched atop a mound or hill, suggestive of the vases on the quilts. In 1738, Margaret Wistar embroidered a nearly identical design under either Elizabeth or Ann Marsh's tutelage. (30) Although neither Ann nor Elizabeth placed advertisements in local newspapers, nor do all of their teaching records survive, extant accounts reveal that their students included girls from prominent Quaker families, the same community that owned the vase-design quilts. For example, Elizabeth Marsh taught Sarah (Sally) Logan (1715-1744), who may be associated with one of the Group B quilts (fig. 18). (31)

The quilted petticoat made and worn by Ann Marsh further supports the thesis that the Marshes were involved in designing the quilts (see fig. 10). Although more firmly representative of Group A designs, Marsh's own petticoat incorporates design elements from both groups: heavy two-handled vases sprouting with sunflowers and pomegranates from Group A, combined with C-shaped coiling stems nestling individual tulips, large multiveined leaves ending in a curl at each tip, and tight spirals at the base of one of the vases, seen in the earlier Group B.

Judging from the evidence of her needlework, her students' projects, her long career as a Quaker teaching and living in Philadelphia, and her own petticoat, Ann Marsh may well have drawn all the quilts herself to be stitched by her students and neighbors. This would explain the uniformity of designs within a diversity of materials and family ownership. It is also possible that Ann's mother, Elizabeth, had a hand in drawing some of the earlier quilts, although she died by the early 1740s, and could not have designed quilts dating after that time. Possibly, Elizabeth drew some of the earlier examples from Group B and Ann the later examples and all those in Group A. Without documentary evidence, the Marsh attribution for the group remains conjecture, of course, yet the designs themselves form a strong argument in the Marshes' favor.

The author hopes that publishing these designs will allow other researchers to locate related examples that may shed more light on the origin and authorship of these two wholecloth groupings.


The author is grateful to the many people who assisted with this research. John Watson initially developed the technique of drawing from photographs brought into a CAD program. Craig McDougal took several of the high-resolution photographs used to make the drawings, and Angelika Kuettner scheduled photography and scanned transparencies for the drawing work. Lynne Bassett, editor of Uncoverings, offered valuable encouragement and excellent suggestions. Sincere thanks go to other colleagues who allowed me to study objects in their collections, shared research, helped with editing, and provided photographs and cataloging information: Cheryl DeJong, Amy Mars Delaney, Dena Ferrara Driscoll, Carolyn Ducey, Linda Eaton, Ellen Endslow, Kristen Froeluch, Jennifer Graham, Kristina Haugland, Trish and Donald Herr, Ann Horsey, Christine Humphrey, Kim Ivey, Laura Keim, Claudia Kidwell, Carol Krelogh, Martha Moffat, Susan Newton, Theresa Stuhlman, and Amy Watson.

End Notes

(1.) The author thanks Lynne Z. Bassett for sharing her research methods when they were both starting to study wholecloth quilts in the late 1990s. The project to record the quilts and quilted petticoats at Colonial Williamsburg was begun by Linda Baumgarten and John Watson with the assistance of Florine Carr, and the results first published in Costume Close-up, Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790 (New York: Quite Specific Media Group, Inc. and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1999). John Watson was the first to develop the technique of drawing directly into a CAD program by tracing high-resolution photographs of wholecloth quilts. The author uses a program called DesignCAD, though any CAD program with a layers feature and ability to place a photograph on one layer can be used for drawing from photographs. Although the stylus input speeds the tracing process, those who prefer a regular computer with a mouse can do a drawing using that equipment. The resulting drawing can be saved to a PDF file format for ease of sharing and publishing.

(2.) Object file 2005-299, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA. The petticoat was a partial gift of Jean H. Case, Sarah H. Nietsch, and Lucia B. Lefferts.

(3.) In addition to the quilted examples illustrated here, three petticoats have designs that can be loosely related to Group A; all can be associated with Quakers: Pennock Family, possibly Mary Franklin Wistar, Colonial Williamsburg (2009-43, 1); Rebecca Mifflin, Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA, 1943.17.1); and Mary Stabler/Taliaferro family, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (251939.1). The Mary Stabler petticoat is made of blue satin backed with dark blue wool similar to that in Colonial Williamsburg's example, although the vase design is less closely related.

(4.) Because they were in a variety of collections and locations, it was not possible to do microscopic analysis of all the quilts, and fibers were identified visually. When microscopic analysis was done, that fact is noted in the text.

(5.) Winterthur Museum acc. no. 1960.0787, published in Linda Eaton, Quilts in a Material World, Selections from the Winterthur Collection (New York: Harry N. Abrams), 72-73.

(6.) The history of the Quaker branch of the family comes from the following sources: Jean H. Case and author (Baumgarten), telephone conversation, April 26, 2011; William Wade Hinshaw and Thomas Worth Marshall, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy (Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers, 1938), 2: 364, 527, 596; and The Elaine Forman Crane, ed., Diary of Elizabeth Drinker (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 3: 2150-2151.

(7.) Object file 1969.3.1, James Logan's Stenton, Philadelphia, PA; Diary of Elizabeth Drinker 3: 2135, 2192.

(8.) Object file 27-007-01 (1063), Ryerss Museum, Philadelphia, PA. The author believes the original owners may have been Robert and Rebecca Coffin Waln, who married in 1746; genealogical family chart from Ryerss Museum object file. See also Diary of Elizabeth Drinker 3: 2225.

(9.) Object file 1980.11, Elfreth's Alley Museum, Philadelphia, PA. The note written on cotton stitched to the quilt reads, "This quilt was presented to [Jo?] Roberts Elfreth by his Aunt Sarah Elfreth [5]th Mo. 1885. It was made by his Great, Great Grand-mother Hannah Trotter who was married to Jeremiah Elfreth in Philadelphia 8th Month 27th 1752."

(10.) Object file P1947-8-1, Philadelphia Museum of Art. See also Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, 2:434.

(11.) Object file 1964.74, State of Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Jane Richardson may have attended school in Philadelphia. See also Dumas Malone, ed. Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933), 12:109, entry for John McKinly.

(12.) Object file 1988.662, Wyck, Philadelphia, PA.

(13.) Object file 1992.644, Chester County Historical Society.

(14.) Object file 2006.056.0017, International Quilt Study Center and Museum, Lincoln, NE (IQSCM). For Elizabeth Drinker and Ann Drinker Skyrin's dates, see The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, 3: 2138, 2212.

(15.) For a discussion of eighteenth-century quilted petticoats and their materials, see Linda Baumgarten, "The Layered Look, Design in Eighteenth-Century Quilted Petticoats," Dress 34 (2007): 7-31.

(16.) For information about Sarah Foulke Farquhar Emlen, see Journal of the Friends Historical Society 13, no. 4: 141, accessible online at google books. books?id=kSg2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA141&lpg=PA141&dq=westtown+school+sarah+ emlen+teacher&source=bl&ots=DO8THg01Jl&sig=qbi2wd2GLQrJkX25BEln1-u5l8w&hl =en&sa=X&ei=W2wXU9rUNeTw2gXc6YFI&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage &q= westtown%20school%20sarah%20emlen%20teacher&f=false

A woman named Sarah Emlen Moore, presumably the person who wrote the note, was a member of the Committee on Historical Research for the Friends Historical Society in 1905. The Westonian: A Monthly Magazine for Friends 11: 53, accessible online at google books. %22sarah+emlen+moore%22&source=bl&ots=ml5gDeRU65&sig=LoinVVYPXofsfNRH 0KbFz2Ic54w&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6XkXU-HpNMWY2QXL0IHoAQ&ved=0CDAQ6AE wAg#v=onepage&q=%22sarah%20emlen%20moore%22&f=false For Samuel and Sarah Emlen, see The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker 3: 2144, 2190.

(17.) Object file 1976-59, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. A fabric label sewn to the quilt reads, "Ann Flower formally [sic] Jones quilted in 1736 or 37 from her [indecipherable] it decended to her daughter Ann Wheeler, then became the property of her daughter E. F. Paul and presented by her to her daughter Mary P. Lownes in 1922." The quilt descended in the female line to Ann Wheeler from her mother, Ann Jones Flower, and then to E. F. Paul, Mary P Lownes, Sallie W. Morris, Mary Paul Morris, and lastly Patricia Paul Brown Mills. See also Hinshaw and Marshall, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy 2: 362, 567.

(18.) Object file 1900-49, Philadelphia Museum of Art. See also Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976, reprinted 1990), 21.

(19.) For eighteenth-century gown styles, see Linda Baumgarten, What Clothes Reveal, The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, The Colonial Williamsburg Collection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), esp. 224-228.

(20.) Object file for 32-45-124, Philadelphia Museum of Art; see also Lloyd Manuscripts, Genealogies of the Families of Awbrey-Vaughan, Blunston, Burbeck, Garrett, Gibbons, Heacock, Hodge, Houlston, Howard, Hunt, Jarman, Jenkin-Griffith, Jones, Knight, Knowles, Lloyd, Newman, Paschall, Paul, Pearson, Pennell, Pott, Pyle, Reed, Sellers, Smith, Thomas, Till, Williams, Wood, Welsh Records From the Collection of the Late Howard Williams Lloyd (Lancaster, PA: Press of the New Era Printing Company, 1912), 228, also available online on Google books.

(21.) Object file for 1952-75-1, Philadelphia Museum of Art. For Jones-Mifflin marriage, see also Hinshaw and Marshall, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, 2: 568.

(22.) Object file 1975-3-8, James Logan's Stenton.

(23.) "Inventory of the Household Furniture of Sarah Logan, Deceased. Taken June 4, 1754," typescript in the collections at Stenton from the original in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Manuscript Department, Smith Manuscripts, Volume 4, page 182. For the Logan biography and dates, see Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650-1850 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993) 2:331.

(24.) Genealogical information from object file, James Logan's Stenton; see also Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 2: 331; and The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, 3: 2192.

(25.) For merchant advertisements, see, for example: Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), December 15, 1737, January 18, 1743, September 26, 1745, September 15, 1748, October 19, 1749, December 24, 1751, March 11, 1755, and October 12, 1758. It is unclear whether the descriptive term "Dutch" refers to the origin of the quilt or to a style of quilting. If quilts of this design were ever made in Great Britain, they are as yet unlocated. It is possible that the Sarah Logan quilt at Stenton (1975.3.8, fig. 18) is an imported example that influenced the early group known here as Group B. Although the vases are very much like the other quilts in the group, the Logan quilt is silk on both sides, and the background is worked in more closely spaced rows similar in appearance to cord quilting, unlike the other quilts. The use of satin on one side and ribbed silk, or taffeta, on the other, accords with the materials used for quilts imported from India. For a discussion of Indian quilts, see Linda Baumgarten and Kimberly Smith Ivey, Four Centuries of Quilts: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection (New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2014), chapter 1.

(26.) A quilt in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1999.352) may represent an anomaly in the pattern of Quaker ownership. The quilt has the C-scroll leafy vines that enclose an individual flower head, similar to those in the Group B, and a meandering narrow border like that in Group A, but the vase is not articulated in the same way as those in the Philadelphia groups. The museum attributes the quilt to an English professional quilter. It was given to Ann (Nancy) Maverick and Nathaniel Phillips for their 1747 wedding in Boston. Research is still ongoing regarding any Quaker connections in the Phillips or Maverick families. See Amelia Peck, American Quilts and Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, new ed. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art and MQ Publications USA, 2007), 122-125.

(27.) R. Campbell, The London Tradesman, (London, 1747, reprinted New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969), 213, 115.

(28.) Amanda Isaac, "Ann Flower's Sketchbook: Drawing, Needlework, and Women's Artistry in Colonial Philadelphia," Winterthur Portfolio 41, nos. 2/3 (Summer/Autumn 2007): 144, 148, 150.

(29.) Betty Ring was the first to document the history of Elizabeth and Ann Marsh and their careers. The genealogical information here is taken from Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650-1850 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf: 1993), 2:287, 330-343, 361. Quaker schoolteacher Anthony Benezet also taught many Philadelphia girls and may have had sufficient drawing skill to design quilts. Benezet was born in France in 1713, converted to Quakerism, and moved to Philadelphia in 1731, where he set up school in 1739; he died in 1784. His students included Ann Emlen, Sally Wister, Deborah Norris, Rebecca Jones, and the Logan children. However, Betty Ring suggested that Benezet specialized in academic subjects while Ann Marsh taught needlework at his school. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. "Benezet, Anthony;" and Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 2: 287.

(30.) Ann Marsh's embroidery is in a private collection; Margaret Wistar's sconce is at Wyck House in Germantown, Philadelphia. See Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 2:355.

(31.) Betty Ring points out that James Logan's Ledger lists expenses paid to Elizabeth Marsh for schooling his daughters Sally and Hanah in the 1720s. Sally's 1725 sampler survives at Fairmount Park Commission, Loudoun Mansion, Philadelphia. Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 2: 331-333.


Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
COPYRIGHT 2015 American Quilt Study Group
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Baumgarten, Linda
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Previous Article:Foreword.
Next Article:The Elizabeth Stanton inscribed Quaker quilt.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |