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.
- Eliza Jane Baile lovingly stitched and inscribed this cotton album quilt top, finishing a few weeks after her marriage to Levi Manahan in 1851. Original patterns of wreaths of strawberries and flowers are framed by a strawberry vine along the quilt border. Three blocks incorporate inked inscriptions within scrolls. On one corner, one may read “E J Baile. Commenced June 1850” and on the opposite corner, “Finished October 30 185l.” A third scroll has the following sentiment carefully penned:
- “Sweett flowers bright as Indian Sky
- Yet mild as Beauty’s soft blue eye;
- Thy charms tho’ unassuming shed /
- A modest splendoure o’er the mead.”
- Great attention was given to the completion of this quilt. The sawteeth of the border are individually appliquéd and the strawberries stuffed. All of the motifs have outline quilting, with closely quilted background lines, 10 stitches to the inch. The overall design is further enhanced with embroidery and small details drawn in ink or watercolor.
- Eliza Jane Baile, the daughter of Abner Baile (1807-1894) and Frances Pole Baile (1813-1893) was born February 13, 1832, in Maryland. According to Eliza’s obituary, her mother was a descendent of Edward III, King of England. At age nineteen, Eliza married Levi Manahan ((1824-1893) on October 11, 1851. They reared eight children on a farm near Westminster, Carroll County, Maryland.
- Eliza was not only an accomplished quilter, she was also known as a folk artist. One of her oil paintings, Stone Chapel of the Methodist Church is at the Historical Society of Carroll County. Other paintings are owned and treasured by her descendents. An active member of the Stone Chapel United Methodist Church, Eliza also founded a Ladies Mite Society and served as president for 50 years. Mite Societies were voluntary organizations that were established in the nineteenth century to raise monies for mission work.
- Eliza died June 25, 1923, age 91, at her home in Westminster and is buried at the Stone Chapel Cemetery. As her obituary in the Daily News, Frederick, Maryland, notes, “Her Christian character endeared her to many friends. She was well known as an artist.” In 1954, Eliza’s youngest daughter, Addie, donated her mother’s quilt to the Smithsonian. Eliza's artistic abilities are well represented in the “Bride’s Quilt” she designed and made for her marriage.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Baile, Eliza Jane
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- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center