Tuesday, December 8, 2009

American Quilts in a British Museum, New Book Shows Them to US!

Classic Quilts from The American Museum in Britain written by the curators of this wonderful museum in Bath England,  Laura Beresford and Katherine Hebert.

It was Katherine who contacted me earlier this summer, 2009, about the eagle quilt kit pictured in an article about eagle quilts that she had come across on my Antique Quilt Dating Guides website. I introduced her 9by email) to Madge Zeigler  owner of the kit, including the original packaging. The kit is by Paragon, titled American Eagle Quilt. It was first advertised in Woman's Day in the mid-1950s.

Katherine was about to put this book to bed when she saw this kit quilt and knew it looked like the one in Bath. The date-  '63 -is embroidered on the museum's quilt and due to the Federal period symbolism of the eagle in America, and the thirteen stars, swags and pots with flowers situated around its central placement. So they estimated it was likely made in 1763 or 1863, but frustratingly they couldn't say for certain. (How many of us have felt that feeling when it comes quilts we later find out were kits?)

She was thrilled to be able to validate that her quilt was indeed made with a Paragon Kit too, thanks to Madge's help of many pictures and the instructions.

In the book on pages 70-1 you will see stunning photography of the kit quilt and that the one in their collection was made in 1963. They write that this quilt pattern was based on a chintz version made in 1795. How fun is that!

Now I'll tell you a bit about the rest of the Classic Quilts book, but I know you will want it on your self if you love antique quilts.

There are very large detail photographs, including full page detail photos, as well as full views of the quilts. Quilting pattern and fabric prints are easily seen.

Sheila Betterton, formerly the textile and needlework specialist for the museum and largely responsible for getting this collection going at the America Museum, wrote the preface in 2008. Sadly, she passed away that same year. She began as a volunteer at the Museum in 1963. The book is dedicated to her.

BOOKcover02-v2 The book begins with the history of the Museum coming to be and who do you think influenced the founders Dr. Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn? None other than our own wonderwoman of quilts, Electra Havenmeyer Webb, who founded and filled The Shelburne Museum in Vermont. It's a small world. The chapter includes an overview of the development of textiles and quilts in America. From here to the end of the book, nearly every page has photographs.

The quilts shown include a wool whole cloth, wool applique, pieced chintz, appliqués of every type and era, Amish, BAQ (looks very much like on held in the Maryland Museum of Art's BAQ collection), signature quilts, presentation album quilt, a 1848 hexagon quilt with inked centers in the typical GFG rosette pattern, and many more truly gorgeous quilts totaling fifty-five.

Two of them may be expressing sentiments of the Temperance movement. One is a red and white Drunkard's Path which they titled as Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, made by a Congregational church in Oriskany Falls, NY. c. 1889. The other is the Tumbler pattern, appliqued in red on a white block on point set with alternate red blocks on point. It was made in Texas, c. 1860 at  Mimosa Hall Plantation in Marshall. They refer to it as The Chalice Quilt. The back is machine quilted and the quilting hand pattern is the fan or elbow stitch.  The size is 87"X75".

It is here that you may want to close your eyes as a brief rundown of the Underground Railroad quilt myth is described. They also mention the ongoing disagreement about the validity of the concept followed by this- "Although the decoration of this quilt does not conceal codes for the railroad's conductor's, it none the less contains a hidden message. The repeated motif of the chalice represents not only the bishop but also, more importantly, the freedom of a better world to come, after a life of blood and suffering." This was new to me. You?

The next page shows the Harrison log cabin and cider barrel toile that was used on the back of a chintz quilt. It is the biggest and best photograph of that monochrome I have ever seen in a book.

I highly recommend Classic Quilts from the American Museum in Britain The quilts chosen for the book clearly represent American styles and the true nature of our history of quilt making is evident. Many of the quilts are like those seen in our museums and books. It's really quite fun to read what they say. The pride they feel matches ours. It's all good.

Classic American Quilts will be on exhibit at the museum in Bath in 2010, 13 March – 31 October 2010


The American Museum in Britain
Claverton Manor
Bath.  BA2 7BD
Tel: 01225 460503 - Fax: 01225 469160

Reminder- this Thursday, Dec. 10, is my free telecasts on the Introduction to my workshop in January 2010 - 4 Ways to Access Your Guidance Within and the Bigger Vision for Your Life. Get call-in info here. 
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1 comment:

acornmoon said...

That is such a wonderful museum in an equally beautiful setting. I shall look out for the book, thanks.

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