National Quilt Collection
"Quilt": A cover or garment made by putting wool, cotton or other substance between two cloths and sewing them together. An American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, LL.D., New York 1828.
The National Quilt Collection incorporates quilts from various ethnic groups and social classes, for quilts are not the domain of a specific race or class, but can be a part of anyone’s heritage and treasured as such. Whether of rich or humble fabrics, large in size or small, expertly crafted or not, well-worn or pristine, quilts in the National Quilt Collection provide a textile narrative that contributes to America’s complex and diverse history. The variety and scope of the collection provides a rich resource for researchers, artists, quilt-makers and others.
Part of the Division of Home and Community Life textiles collection, the National Quilt Collection had its beginnings in the 1890s. Three quilts were included in a larger collection of 18th- and 19th-century household and costume items donated by John Brenton Copp of Stonington, Connecticut. From this early beginning, the collection has grown to more than 500 quilts and quilt-related items, mainly of American origin, with examples from many states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Most of the contributions have come to the Museum as gifts, and many of those are from the quilt-makers’ families. The collection illustrates needlework techniques, materials, fabric designs and processes, styles and patterns used for quilt-making in the past 250 years. The collection also documents the work of specific quilt-makers and commemorates events in American history.
Learn more about the quilt collection and step behind the scenes with a video tour.
"National Quilt Collection - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- Jessy Anderson made this white quilted and stuffed-work counterpane in New York, probably completing it in 1835. The free-form overall design incorporates eagles, cornucopias, flowers, leaves, fruits, and other motifs popular at the time. Acorn, oak leaves and thistles are repeated in the quilting in several places.
- The center panel, 43 x 39 inches, contains a basket of flowers surrounded by branching coral with a different spray of flowers in each corner. With a thin inner layer of cotton it is closely quilted at sixteen stitches per inch. A 24-inch border surrounds the center panel. It does not have an inner layer of cotton, but is quilted at 18 stitches per inch.
- Two eagle motifs are centered in the top and bottom borders. One eagle is perched on an arch that is inscribed in quilting “E Pluribus Unum.” The other eagle holds arrows and an olive branch under a ribbon also inscribed in quilting, “Pluribus Unum.” A cornucopia in the left border holds a “lemon,” the family term, on which is embroidered in backstitch “Jefsy Anderson New York 1835.”
- For seven generations the quilt was handed down to the first-born daughter before its donation to the Smithsonian in 1981. The donor remarked that “I am unable to give it the kind of preservative care it needs and deserves . . . . I am also anxious to share this remarkable piece of artistry with as many people as would be interested in it.” While it had been in the family for over 140 years, the decision was made by the donors that “the highest honor we could give to our talented ancestor would be to place the quilt in a museum for many to enjoy.” Jessy Anderson’s quilt documents the expression of skills and art that many women displayed with their needlework.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Anderson, Jessy
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center