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.
- Eliza Jane Baile lovingly stitched and inscribed this cotton album quilt top, finishing a few weeks after her marriage to Levi Manahan in 1851. Original patterns of wreaths of strawberries and flowers are framed by a strawberry vine along the quilt border. Three blocks incorporate inked inscriptions within scrolls. On one corner, one may read “E J Baile. Commenced June 1850” and on the opposite corner, “Finished October 30 185l.” A third scroll has the following sentiment carefully penned:
- “Sweett flowers bright as Indian Sky
- Yet mild as Beauty’s soft blue eye;
- Thy charms tho’ unassuming shed /
- A modest splendoure o’er the mead.”
- Great attention was given to the completion of this quilt. The sawteeth of the border are individually appliquéd and the strawberries stuffed. All of the motifs have outline quilting, with closely quilted background lines, 10 stitches to the inch. The overall design is further enhanced with embroidery and small details drawn in ink or watercolor.
- Eliza Jane Baile, the daughter of Abner Baile (1807-1894) and Frances Pole Baile (1813-1893) was born February 13, 1832, in Maryland. According to Eliza’s obituary, her mother was a descendent of Edward III, King of England. At age nineteen, Eliza married Levi Manahan ((1824-1893) on October 11, 1851. They reared eight children on a farm near Westminster, Carroll County, Maryland.
- Eliza was not only an accomplished quilter, she was also known as a folk artist. One of her oil paintings, Stone Chapel of the Methodist Church is at the Historical Society of Carroll County. Other paintings are owned and treasured by her descendents. An active member of the Stone Chapel United Methodist Church, Eliza also founded a Ladies Mite Society and served as president for 50 years. Mite Societies were voluntary organizations that were established in the nineteenth century to raise monies for mission work.
- Eliza died June 25, 1923, age 91, at her home in Westminster and is buried at the Stone Chapel Cemetery. As her obituary in the Daily News, Frederick, Maryland, notes, “Her Christian character endeared her to many friends. She was well known as an artist.” In 1954, Eliza’s youngest daughter, Addie, donated her mother’s quilt to the Smithsonian. Eliza's artistic abilities are well represented in the “Bride’s Quilt” she designed and made for her marriage.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Baile, Eliza Jane
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center