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.
- Emily Holbert put not only her name, date, and location on this quilt, but also two maxims that held significance for her. Boldly and precisely appliquéd in the border: “INDUSTRY, AND PROPER IMPROVEMENT OF TIME 1847 VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. EMILY HOLBERT’S QUILT; WORKED JANUARY, A.D. 1847. CHESTER, ORANGE COUNTY, NEW YORK.” “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” is from Ecclesiastes I:2. “Industry, and proper improvement of time are the duties of the young” was an expression that could be found in mid-nineteenth-century school books. Similar religious and moralistic sayings are found on samplers, embroidered pictures, and other needlework items, that were made by young women in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.
- This quilt consists of twenty 14-inch blocks, each appliquéd with a medallion surrounded by three-lobed leaves, iris, and tulip motifs. The blocks are set with a 2-inch printed green sashing. The 9¾-inch-wide border contains the appliquéd inscriptions on all four sides of the quilt, sandwiched between a band of appliquéd leaf, tulip, and cherry motifs and a pieced sawtooth edge. Roller-printed fabrics are used for the appliqué work; the lining is white cotton with a cotton filling. All the appliquéd motifs, letters, and numbers are outline-quilted, and the leaves have quilted veins. Open spaces are filled with quilted motifs of scrolls, botehs, oak leaves, and hearts; 8 stitches per inch.
- Emily Holbert, born October 15, 1820, was the daughter of James Holbert (1788-1871) and Susan Drake Holbert (1791-1851 or 1854). Emily was born and lived in Chester, Orange County, New York. On October 30, 1851 she married Theodore Finch, son of John and Catherine Anne Woodward Finch. Theodore was born about 1827 and died in January 1852 at the age of 24, a few months after his marriage to Emily.
- There is no record that Emily remarried, and she died in 1858, only six years after Theodore. In 1988, the quilt she so proudly put her name to was donated to the Smithsonian by Mr. and Mrs. John Beard Ecker. Emily Holbert was Mrs. Theodora Ecker’s great-aunt. At the same time another quilt from the same family, Susan Holbert’s “Little Sister’s" quilt, was also presented to the Museum.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Holbert, Emily
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center