National Quilt CollectionVideos
The National Quilt Collection, part of the Division of Home and Community Life's Textile Collection at the National Museum of American History, had its beginnings in the 1890s. Three quilts were included in a larger collection of 18th- and 19th- century household and costume items from one Stonington, Connecticut family. From this early beginning, the Collection has grown to more than 400 quilts and quilt-related items, mainly of American origin. Most of the contributions have come to the Museum as gifts, many from the quilt-makers' families. The quilts are part of a lasting material record of the American experience, and are preserved in perpetuity for all Americans. As few of the quilts are on exhibition at any given time, this film provides an overview, in quilt storage, of the behind-the-scenes activities of the staff and volunteers as they work with this rich and interesting collection.
Quilts were made primarily by women, and have played a large part in revealing evidence of the circumstances of their lives: economic levels, the goods available to them and their increasing consumerism, their thrift and extravagance, the opportunity for self-expression in an acceptable activity, their schooling and family education and instruction, their group activities, personal identity and reward, and skills.
Some of the quilts reflect very personal interests and concerns; others express political and societal concerns such as patriotism, anti-slavery sentiments, war and peace. Many quilts in the collection have inscriptions that leave us a textile record expressing the interests and feelings of the makers. Others provided the makers an opportunity for artistic expression in a practical endeavor.
Altogether, the collection shows the progression and notable phases in American quilt-making; provides a history of materials available to the quilt makers and of the techniques practiced; illustrates many social, cultural, technological, and economic influences affecting quilts made and used in America; and contributes to the illumination of American life, family, community, and country.
The Division of Home and Community Life continues its long term mission to maintain and develop research-based collections that document and preserve American stories through family, community, biographical/individual oral histories and other materials. The quilt collection, for the most part, represents the middle class and affluent of the eastern half of the country, rather than a potpourri of the widely diverse population of the nation. We should like to encourage viewers to come forward with quilts and other needlework, to donate or to be recorded, with histories that contribute to our awareness of the rich diversity of the people who came to live here, the traditions they brought and carry on, and the ways in which they adopted the endeavors already here. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This virtual tour was made possible by a grant from Patty Stonesifer and Michael Kinsley through The Seattle Foundation.
The gift was made in honor of Mrs. Frances Quigley.
Smithsonian National Quilt Collection: An Overview
Smithsonian National Quilt Collection: Quilt Scene Investigation
In the Textile Analysis Lab, Kathy Dirks demonstrates how technical analyses of quilts with scientific equipment is used for identification and verification
Smithsonian National Quilt Collection: Quilt Care
Kathy Dirks shows the quilt storage room, and the cabinets and materials used in housing the collection.
Smithsonian National Quilt Collection: Machine Quilting
Barbara Janssen shows the patent model of a Grover & Baker sewing machine and explains how the stitch it produced helped to determine the probable date of a quilt in the collection.
Smithsonian National Quilt Collection: Civil War Sunday School Quilt
Virginia Eisemon discusses the history of a quilt made by a Maine Sunday school class for the benefit of hospitalized Union soldiers
Smithsonian National Quilt Collection: Lydia Finnell's Star Quilt
Sheryl DeJong identifies the techniques and stitches in a late 19th-century crazypatch quilt and discusses the availability of materials, patterns, and instructions at the time.
"National Quilt Collection - Videos" showing 1 items.
- Eve Van Cortlandt's fine white linen quilted counterpane is one of the earliest dated American quilts in existence. The date, "1760" and her initials, "E V C," are embroidered in blue silk cross-stitch on the quilt lining. Quilted with white linen thread, a delicate pattern of flowers, feathery stems, and low open baskets surround a central quatrefoil medallion. The design is set off by a background of quilted parallel lines just one-eighth inch apart.
- Eve was born on May 22, 1736, to Frederick Van Cortlandt and Francena Jay each from families of wealthy and prominent New York landowners. She made her quilt for her dower chest while living in the family home. In 1761, Eve married the Honorable Henry White, a businessman and a member of the King’s Council of the Royal Colony of New York. He became president of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1772 and remained loyal to the King of England during the Revolution.
- When the British evacuated New York in 1783, Henry moved his family to England. Henry White died in London in 1786, and Eve returned to America as a widow, most likely to be near two of her children who lived in New York. Of their five children, two sons were in the British service and remained in London, as did one daughter. Eve died in 1836 at the age of one hundred, having witnessed a century of historic events. Since 1897, the family home in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx has been a museum.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Van Cortlandt, Eve
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center