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.
- Achsah Goodwin Wilkins designed this appliquéd counterpane, which is similar to several that have been attributed to her skills. Written in ink in one corner of the lining is: “A. G. Wilkins 1820 / M. D. Davis 1890.” She gave many quilts and counterpanes to her daughters. These were later inherited by descendents. “M. D. Davis” is most likely Mary Dorsey Davis (1845-1939), daughter of Hester Ann Wilkins Davis, and granddaughter of Achsah Goodwin Wilkins.
- A bouquet of appliquéd water lilies and roses, cut from different chintz fabrics, is the focus of this counterpane. It is surrounded by two undulating wreaths. Eight floral sprays, cut from another chintz fabric, are between the two wreaths. The ground for the appliqué resembles quilting, but is a fancy weaving of a white cotton double cloth called Marseilles. A wide 7¾-inch roller-printed floral strip borders three sides of the counterpane. It is the only area that is lined.
- Achsah Goodwin, daughter of a wealthy merchant, William Goodwin of Lyde, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1775. Achsah became a member of the Methodist Church at eighteen, although it caused difficulties with her Episcopal family. On August 5, 1794, she married William Wilkins Jr. (1767-1832), also a Methodist. In addition to rearing a family, she was active in mission work and the establishment of a Methodist church in Baltimore. Achsah died in 1854.
- In William Rush Dunton’s Old Quilts, 1947, one of her granddaughters, Mary Dorsey Davis, provided notes from her mother, Hester Anne (Mrs. Allen Bowie Davis), detailing Achsah’s life. “My mother [Achsah] was a very superior woman, possessing strong sense, sound judgment, great dignity, remarkably self-possessed . . . . She suffered from cutaneous disease . . . most frequently [she] beguiled her weary hours of sickness by designing and laying out fancy spreads in which she displayed beautiful taste . . . . I, as well as many of her descendants, have choice specimens of her handiwork which we prize highly.” Achsah’s access to fine imported fabrics, attention to needlework details, and her design innovations are evident in this quilt, as well as others that are attributed to her. Her quilts are treasured additions to several quilt collections.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Wilkins, Achsah Goodwin
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center