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.
- The large central square contains the inscription: “Presented to Mrs. Mary B. Hill as an expression of esteem by the Ladies of Maltaville.” Mary B. Hill was the wife of Reverend William Hill (1814-1851) of the Presbyterian-Congregational Church of Maltaville, New York. She was born November 13, 1816, to Benton (1786-?) and Elizabeth Barnard in Litchfield, Connecticut. She married on July 13, 1836 and they had one son, Roland. Mary died May 5, 1862, in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1847, women in the church made, joined, lined, and quilted sixty blocks, in addition to the dedicatory center block, to create this example of an album quilt.
- Album quilt blocks often contain name, date, or place, and sometimes a poem or verse of special meaning. Almira E. Olmstead added this to her block:
- The Tulip and the Butterfly
- Appear in gayer coats than I
- Let me be dressed fine as I will
- Flies, worms, and flowers, exceed me still.
- The lines are from “Against Pride in Clothes,” published in 1720 by Isaac Watts (1674–1748), a well-known English hymn writer whose verse is often found on quilts of the period.
- The appliquéd blocks are embellished with embroidered details in addition to the inked inscriptions. Flowers, leaves, hearts, stars, crescents, double ovals around the signatures, and other motifs are found in the quilting. As a token of appreciation, this quilt displays the fine quilting skills of the “Ladies of Maltaville.”
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Ladies of the Presbyterian Church
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center