Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday at the Quilt Museum - 19th Century Medallion Quilts - Part 2

Three weeks ago we took a look at 19th century English medallion quilts.  Today we'll look at some made in America during the same period.  It's such an education in the evolution of the quilting art as I look at these magnificent creations.  There are many, many out there!  I've chosen 6 that have particularly caught my eye.  They each have different elements that give us a glimpse into the craft during the 1800's.

First of all, the most common element during this period is chintz.  It appears in most medallion quilts of the period.  Sometimes a lot.  Sometimes just a bit.  It was used in borders, in panels, and was cut up and appliqued onto a neutral background using the Broderie Perse method.

Chintz was inspired by the painted and printed fabrics of India which fairly throbbed with vibrant color.  It was exclusively printed by British manufacturers until the 1830's when American mills then became a player in the industry.

There is a good article on Chintz applique at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Newsroom website. In 2008, they held an exhibition of Chintz Applique at the International Quilt Study and Museum.  Fascinating stuff.

These are presented in historical chronological order.

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Tree of Life Quilt
Mary Johnston
97 3/4" x 96"

This first one is what was known as a Tree of Life Quilt.  There are many documented.  This was made by Mary Johnston in 1793.  I don't know this for sure, but my assumption is that the center is a printed panel, while the birds and flowers in the on-point square-looking sections are chintz applique.

The border around the center panel is so beautiful and the remaining borders do a beautiful job of framing the piece.  The flying geese, set to fly away from a center square, balance the outer border nicely.  This woman had an eye for design, in my opinion.  She embroidered her name and date at the bottom of the center panel.

The skirt is beautifully embellished with ribbons and flowers.  It must have adorned a bed in a very feminine room.

It is part of the Winterthur Museum Collection, where you can read more about it.

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John Hewson Center Block Quilt
Unknown Artist
1790 - 1810

There is very little information I could find about this one.  The quiltmaker is unknown, as is the place of origin.  It is dated between 1790 and 1810.  The center block was printed by John Hewson, who is best known for his block printed designs of vases and flowers surrounded by birds and butterflies.

What caught my eye is the artistic display of pieced blocks surrounding the center panel, as well as the use of printed cotton in some squares in the borders.  The serpentine outer border nicely finishes the piece.

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Eagle Medallion
Unknown Artist

This Eagle Medallion has a lot of our history wrapped up in it.  It is dated 1814, and the eagle motif with the 17 stars over it was the great seal of the Untied States, used from the 1780's until the induction of Louisiana as the 18th state in 1812.  The eagle's wings are chintz.  There is an inscribed motto underneath the eagle which reads:

"Strong in thy strength we bend no Knee
to Monarcks or to Tyranny
But borne upon thy ample opinion
We ride to freedom and dominion

The borders are amazingly done.  There are pieced stars and hexagon groupings.  The outer border is a pillar print with amazing detail.

You can read more about it and see more pictures here:
1812 War & Piecing

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Ann Dagg.S Quilt
Ann Dagg
84" x 80 1/2"

I fell in love with this one the moment I saw it.  It is so graceful in all its elements.  What a beautiful piece of art!

It was made by Ann Dagg in 1818.  The inscription reads thus:

Done BY Ann . Dagg - S
The .1. Of May  .  1818

The Smithsonian description tells us that it is hand-printed, indigo resist, white cottons and linen.
It measures 84" x 80 1/2"

The best thing to do is to go the Smithsonian American Art Museum website and get a good look up-close of the beautiful work.  Click on the picture and it will give you a larger version to observe.

There are also more pictures at 1812 War & Piecing.

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Tree Of Life
Mary Minor Simms Lester
1800 - 1849
86" x 90"

Another Tree of Life quilt, this one made by Mary Minor Simms Lester sometime between 1800 and 1849.  Unlike the first one we saw, it appears that this could be Broderie Perse in the center, instead of a printed panel.  It is surrounded by hand applique semi-circles cut from two different fabrics.  It is then bordered by LeMoyne stars, sashing, and a striped border print. It is a treasure trove of fabrics! It measures 86" x 90".

If you go to the Quilt Index, you can zoom in and see the fabrics up close, as well as read more about Mary Lester.

Here is a larger picture.
Here is where you can zoom in and read more.

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Broderie Perse Medallion
Sophia Meyers Pearce
1830 - 1840
112" x 110"

And last we have a quilt by Sophia Meyers Pearce using prints from Bannister Hall Printworks, Baltimore Maryland.  It was made sometime between 1830 and 1840.  As you can see, it is done in Broderie Perse, using a border print for framing as well as dog-tooth borders of varying sizes.  As most of these are, it's large. 112" x 110".

This one caught my eye because it's brighter than some of the previous ones.  The blue is rather striking, don't you think?

It also resides at the Witnerthur Museum where you can read more about it.

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Well, that was fun!  Thanks for joining us on our museum tour today!

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Di's Ford's fabulous book, Primarily Quilts is loaded with amazing designs in the nineteenth century English styles that we've just seen.

She does a stunning job of creating interesting frames/borders which make her quilts beautifully timeless.

She combines piecing, applique, broderie perse and English paper piecing, just as we have observed in the above quilts.

The color photography is absolutely gorgeous, and the instructions are presented in both English and French.  And, wonderfully, the patterns are all full-sized!

We are delighted to have several copies in stock again!

Buy Primarily Quilts Button

Happy Quilting!!

- I am not a quilt historian.  I simply enjoy finding interesting quilts and sharing them with you!
- The quilt images on this post were sourced from Pinterest unless otherwise noted, and are linked to their origin whenever possible.


  1. These are just amazing!

    1. I know, right?! And they had no tools outside of scissors, pins, needles, thread and paper! I have great respect for our quilting foremothers. ☺

  2. I love these quilts! Ann Dagg's beautiful quilt seemed to strike a chord with me and made my heart sing. But the colors of Sophia Meyers Pearce's quilt were stunning. So vivid! Thanks for sharing

  3. Ann Dagg's speaks to me too, Christy.

    You're welcome!