The 50,000 objects in the textile collections fall into two main categories: raw fibers, yarns, and fabrics, and machines, tools, and other textile technology. Shawls, coverlets, samplers, laces, linens, synthetics, and other fabrics are part of the first group, along with the 400 quilts in the National Quilt Collection. Some of the Museum's most popular artifacts, such as the Star-Spangled Banner and the gowns of the first ladies, have an obvious textile connection.
The machinery and tools include spinning wheels, sewing machines, thimbles, needlework tools, looms, and an invention that changed the course of American agriculture and society. A model of Eli Whitney's cotton gin, made by the inventor in the early 1800s, shows the workings of a machine that helped make cotton plantations profitable in the South and encouraged the spread of slavery.
"Textiles - Overview" showing 1 items.
- Jessy Anderson made this white quilted and stuffed-work counterpane in New York, probably completing it in 1835. The free-form overall design incorporates eagles, cornucopias, flowers, leaves, fruits, and other motifs popular at the time. Acorn, oak leaves and thistles are repeated in the quilting in several places.
- The center panel, 43 x 39 inches, contains a basket of flowers surrounded by branching coral with a different spray of flowers in each corner. With a thin inner layer of cotton it is closely quilted at sixteen stitches per inch. A 24-inch border surrounds the center panel. It does not have an inner layer of cotton, but is quilted at 18 stitches per inch.
- Two eagle motifs are centered in the top and bottom borders. One eagle is perched on an arch that is inscribed in quilting “E Pluribus Unum.” The other eagle holds arrows and an olive branch under a ribbon also inscribed in quilting, “Pluribus Unum.” A cornucopia in the left border holds a “lemon,” the family term, on which is embroidered in backstitch “Jefsy Anderson New York 1835.”
- For seven generations the quilt was handed down to the first-born daughter before its donation to the Smithsonian in 1981. The donor remarked that “I am unable to give it the kind of preservative care it needs and deserves . . . . I am also anxious to share this remarkable piece of artistry with as many people as would be interested in it.” While it had been in the family for over 140 years, the decision was made by the donors that “the highest honor we could give to our talented ancestor would be to place the quilt in a museum for many to enjoy.” Jessy Anderson’s quilt documents the expression of skills and art that many women displayed with their needlework.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Anderson, Jessy
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center