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.
- This is one of two matching appliqued pillowcases and a bedcover that were made in China in the 1920s. Rev. Alexander Cunningham, a Presbyterian minister in China at the time, sent them to the United States on the birth of his nephew, James Cunningham, in 1926. Both pillowcases are white with a single blue square at each end. On either side of each blue square is a figure of a boy with a ball, a bird, a cat, and a dog; all are made of overlapping blue circles.
- Alexander Cunningham was born March 13, 1861, in Murrayville, Illinois. He graduated from Illinois State Normal University in 1887 and McCormick Theological Seminary in 1890. In that same year he married Mary E. Neely, and they left for China to become missionaries. Assigned to the Presbyterian North China Mission, they were active missionaries in China from 1890 to 1933, and after retirement continued to live in China until 1940. After fifty years as missionaries, they returned to California on the eve of World War II. Alexander Cunningham died in Los Angeles, California, on September 20, 1943. This appliquéd pillowcase with the matching bedcover may be the product of a mission where Rev. Alexander Cunningham served.
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center